Literary Norfolk Header and Logo

Sea Palling

Sea Palling lies on the Norfolk coast between Waxham and Eccles. It consists of an odd assortment of bungalows, caravans, cottages, amusement arcades and chalets which all crouch behind the line of the dunes. It is still a popular resort with holiday-makers, locals and jet-skiers.

Rocks at Sea Palling

Sea Defences at Sea Palling

On the night of the 31st January, 1953 the North Sea broke through the dunes here and the incursion killed 7 people, destroyed many homes and ruined thousands of acres of farmland; it was the worst flood in living memory. The following year saw the construction of the sea wall.

The 1953 Floods at Sea Palling (Photo © Eastern Daily Press)

This stretch of the Norfolk coast has always been particularly vulnerable to flooding - which is reflected by the following macabre rhyme:

When the sea comes in at Horsey Gap
Without any previous warning,
A swan shall build its rushy nest
On the roof of the Swan at Horning.
And a bald headed crow, contented and merry,
Shall feast on the corpses that float by the ferry.

The land behind the dunes - which includes Hickling Broad and Horsey Meer - is very low lying and could easily be reclaimed by the sea. In the event of such a disaster, towns like Stalham, Potter Heigham and Martham could all become coastal resorts. The cost of maintaining sea defences is high and, even today, Natural England are ambivalent about fighting the fight. However, in recent years the defences at Sea Palling have been strengthened by importing rocks from Norway which now provide an additional barrier to the waves. Behind them have formed lagoons which have proved popular with visitors to the beach.

Nevertheless, some coastal erosion experts believe that ultimately this stretch of coastline cannot be protected and that the sea will break through again - a chain of thought which I pursued in the following poem:

Sea Palling

The sea will always triumph
Tomorrow or today
Despite Norwegian rocks here
Will always find a way

For the sea knows no time
Only deepness and cold
No clocks or watches
For the sea is very old

And the walls you build
In time will crack
For the sea is always moving
And never turns its back

And that cliff house
That stands so proud and tall
Will someday lose its footing
And fall

For the sea cares nothing
For human things
Of misery and sorrow
Is what it sings

And your wooden breakwaters
Will not last long
And if you think they will
Then you are wrong

For the waves will warp
And weather and bend and shake
Till the metal bolts all rust
And finally break

And although on summer days
It lulls with tiny waves
Beware - for in the end
It always misbehaves

Always out there waiting
A surging realm of cold
Always working
To get back the land we hold

So do what you will
Build your defences here
But know that in the end
They will be stripped clear

For the sea is no respecter
And will never sleep
A surging realm of darkness
So cold and black and deep

On a lighter note Sidney Grapes, writing as The Boy John, mentions Sea Palling in one of Aunt Agatha's wonderful postscripts: 'P.S. - Aunt Agatha, she say "Mirages dew still happen," for she was a-picken a' oranges on Porlin beach a Christmas mornin!' The oranges in question were part of the cargo of 'The Bosphorus' which foundered on Haisborough Sands in Decemeber 1948. For Norfolk people used to wartime rationing - this was a particularly welcome event.


More photographs of Sea Palling





Supported by Norfolk County Council logoSupported by Norfolk Tourism


Home | About Us | Advertise on Literary Norfolk

©Cameron Self 2007-2014                                                                                                                Hosted by UK Web.Solutions Direct