Investigation of Sheringham
Sheringham is a seaside town, situated on the North Norfolk Coast,
approximately 44 kilometres north of the historic city and capital of
Norfolk, Norwich. Sheringham is a middle sized coastal town and lies
to the west of Cromer; near to the village of Blakeney; the small town
of Holt is to the south-west (see figure 1.0).
Sheringham is a popular tourist resort, thousands of visitors arriving
every summer. It is famous for it's long and wide sandy beaches and
pleasant summer weather.
Figure 1.0: The town of Sheringham and its surroundings
In the past, Sheringham was a traditional fishing village in Norfolk.
The main industry of the town was fishing and crabbing, fishermen went
out to sea in wooden boats to then sell their catch to mainly local
residents. Sheringham never became a major trading port. A possible
reason for this might have been the absence of a large town nearby to
export the products or the lack of a sheltered harbour.
However, soon Sheringham became a popular holiday resort, now tourists
could travel easier through a new railway link to the town. Now,
tourism has become the main industry of Sheringham, and employs most
residents of the town. The rest of the population are commuters, who
travel to work by car, train or other means. Sheringham might have
attracted them because of it's geographical position.
The northern side of the town faces the North Sea
, therefore the
climate is cool, especially in autumn and winter months harsh storms
can attack this coastal town. The main fetch for waves comprises quite
a large distance; the winds blow the waves from a north-north-east
direction. This is the direction of the cold northern seas and oceans,
e.g. the Norwegian Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
Such strong waves carry large amounts
of energy, and easily erode away
the soft boulder clays of the coastline. Here is a list of all
processes of erosion that affect the coastlines of Sheringham:
¨ Corrasion is caused by large waves hurling beach material such as
boulders and stones against a cliff. Sheringham is particularly
affected by this during autumn and winter storms, when large waves
with a great amount of energy transport big loads.
¨ Attrition is a process occurring on beaches, and therefore not as
critical as corrasion, which erodes away large amounts of land. During
attrition, waves cause rocks and boulders on the beach to collide with
each other and to break up in to smaller pieces. Through this process
pebbles are eroded over a long period of time to be made into sand.
Sheringham's beaches vary from gently sloping sandy beaches, shingle
beaches and pebble beaches.
¨ Corrosion occurs when salts, minerals and other acids in seawater
slowly dissolve a cliff. This process also isn't very critical, but
constant. It does not erode as much material as corrasion.
¨ Hydraulic pressure is the force of the waves compressing air in
cracks in a cliff. Porous rocks are mostly affected by this. This
process can become quite critical since it may erode away large
amounts of a cliff in a small amount of time.
The weathering processes are biological, chemical and physical, and
can also erode large amounts of land. However, this is not caused
directly by waves or the sea, so the processes of protection are
The cliffs of Sheringham are made of soft sandy material deposited
during the Ice Age, and therefore are particularly vulnerable to sea
erosion. Most cliff faces are quite high, but erosion happens at water
levels. This means that waves erode away the bottom of the cliff; it
is undercut by waves, forming a wave-cut notch (see figure 1.1). As
this becomes bigger and bigger, the cliff becomes more unstable,
finally collapsing into the sea. The cliff face retreats, and the
process starts all over again. Meanwhile, material is deposited just
underneath the cliff face, on the wave-cut platform. As this material
is built up, a beach may be formed.
Figure 1.1: Formation of wave-cut notch and platform
Only the sheer force of the waves hurling boulders against cliffs
(abrasion) causes massive damage. So how to protect the town
population, the tourists and the housing from this rapid loss of land?
Sheringham annually spends thousands of pounds to protect itself from
the erosion of the coastline, which would not only bring destruction
of housing, shops etc; but also exterminate valuable land and beaches,
which play a large financial role for Sheringham.
Later on in the project I shall in detail describe all coastal
defences to be found on the coast and their functions. I shall also be
looking at the way these are built, what factors would determine the
location and the quality of a defence, why are particular defences
built in certain places? This will then help me see what exactly
Sheringham does to protect its tourists, and how Sheringham performs
in its role as a tourist town.
Figure 1.2: Location of Sheringham on a map of the United Kingdom
Sheringham's beaches not only suffer from coastal erosion and
different types of weathering, but also have to be protected from long
shore drift. This is a natural process which occurs on most coastlines
with prevailing winds.
Figure 1.3: Longshore Drift
Longshore drift is a process that moves a beach up the coastline, and
occurs when the swash (constructive waves carrying material onto the
beach), moves up the beach and deposits its load. The swash is at an
angle to the beach, which depends on the direction of the prevailing
winds. The load is the pulled back down into the sea by the backwash
at an angle of 90º (the direct pull of gravity). The dominant wind
always moves the material in one direction, explaining the way long
shore drift transports beaches along the coastline. (See figure 1.3).
It would be rather financially unattractive for Sheringham to lose
it's beaches in this way, seeing as it would lead to the loss of many
tourists. The beaches are protected with groynes, which are long
wooden walls, which simply hold back the load. Material builds up at
the sides of the groynes, and is sometimes manually put back into
place in its own segment. Groynes are very effective, and quite cheap,
and are therefore very popular in all seaside resorts.
Coastal flooding and erosion are serious problems. Erosion can remove
beaches, wear away cliffs and cause the permanent loss of land and
buildings to the sea, while flooding can damage property and make
farmland obsolete for many years. The prevention of erosion and
flooding are very expensive, difficult processes, and may cause worse
problems in other locations. But protecting coastlines can also cause
environmental damage such as the loss of habitat for certain wildlife;
some tourists also find protection schemes unattractive, and in their
opinion, unnecessary. Sea defence schemes include:
¨ Sea wall
¨ Beach rebuilding
¨ Offshore breakwater
I will mainly be studying the beaches of Sheringham to look at the
causes of erosion and the way the coast is protected. The beaches lie
on the northern side of the town, where it faces the Northern Sea.
However, I will also visit the CBD (Central Business District) to
locate the most important buildings and to ask local residents and
tourists their opinions on the town. This will help me to answer my
The first half-day in Sheringham we shall be spending on the beach,
working in groups to examine the beach surface, investigating the
cliffs behind the beach and studying the action of the sea. This will
help me to examine the geological and natural aspects of the town.
The second half of the day we shall divide into smaller groups and
make our way into the centre of the town. This will help me to inspect
the social, financial and environmental aspects of Sheringham.