The December Norfolk Storm Surge

Storm damage to the dune complex at Wells beach from the sea surge in Norfolk, December 2013
Storm damage to the dune complex at Wells beach from the sea surge in Norfolk, December 2013
Storm damage from the sea surge in Norfolk, December 2013

December 2013 brought unusally mild winter weather to the UK in terms of temperature, but instead the jet stream lashed us with a dangerous and violently destructive combination of high tides, and strong storm force winds that caused a sea surge on the North Norfolk Coast that was more severe than the infamous North Sea Flood of 1953. Thankfully in the intervening years sea defences were improved and held well. This time though the flood water was higher we had good warning that saved many lives despite wreaking havoc at many of the beaches and coastal reserves. The storm event has dramatically re-shaped the coastal environment, permanently changing the profile of the East Anglian coastline.

A visit to Wells beach about a week after the incident brought home to me the full force and elemental power of nature that had been unleashed. The sheer strength of the  sea surge breached the two landmark giant dunes as well as sections of the previously dune-sheltered tidal lagoon channel towards Holkham beach, ripping out the wind smoothed sand hills, and the dune grasses that held their forms in place and ploughing thousands of tonnes of sand across the beach plain towards the beach huts and smashing a new vertical sand cliff when it reached the edge of the Corsican pine plantation.

Here is a small gallery from my visit showing the damage and changed profile of the beach

A Rude Awakening

common seal engulfed by white break on rising tide

As winter descends, many of our native wildlife species are busy mating and having young, not least our grey seals that are resident all around the British Isles’ coastline and have some large colonies on the East cost of England. When I walked out to one such colony a little before the busy grey seal mating and pupping season I came across a lone juvenile common seal. Common seals unlike the greys give birth in summer. The seal was asleep on the beach both aware of and totally unconcerned about my quiet presence. The high autumnal winds were blowing sand across the beach and the breakers were high – it was a bright breezy day. What he didn’t notice in his state of utter relaxation was the tide had turned and was now rising and was close to encroaching onto the sand shelf he’d been resting on. I was fortunate enough to capture the moment when the first wave washed over his head, which must have been quite a shock even with his insulating layers. He opened his eyes, then flopped his way up the beach closer to me then resumed his peaceful napping. common seal engulfed by white break on rising tide