We used to go to Walcott and Bacton quite a lot when I was a kid, it’s was and is all concrete, groynes and flat inland space, with the rising glacial moraines starting just to the North towards Trimingham. You can see the past up on the cliffs to the North the rise of the land against the sweep of flatness, the golf ball like radar station at Trimingham just visible. Nearby is Bacton gas site, not romantic at all, all pylons and vents against the sky again visible in the background in these shots, a cold war target still ringed in chainlink and barbed wire against the remorseless imagined attacks of enemies threatening our now dwindling supply of North Sea Gas.
It’s flatness is a clue, sitting on the edges of the Estuaries that were formed here in Roman and Anglo-Saxon times, clays and peats laying over each other marking the time, filled and emptied by the passing phases of the climate raising and lowering the sea level. It would have been considerably further inland back then, not a string of buildings along a ribbon of tarmac and a wall for storm watching over the container ships far out on the horizon. And further back, we have again the hand axes, not Palaeolithic, but later, Neolithic signs of clearance, the removal of woodland, settlement, farming.
An unusual place name too in Norfolk, it’s could possibly be a Celtic survival, I’m not sure of the provenance of this but I think it refers to forest or wood. I’m more inclined to think it’s probably Saxon and refers to a “cott” as in house, “Wales” or “Weahls” meaning people, or occasionally foreigner or incomer etc, same possibly as North Walsham. Anyway I digress off into the cortex library of half remembered things.
And for me, memories; chips, ice cream, the concrete sloping wall, driving the five miles along the B1159 to get here with my mum and dad to go shrimping and play swimming in a sea where you were warned to keep you mouth shut; motherly fears of bacteria from the effluent poured into the water. Later, in the 1980s, I cycled here for chips and kisses, tanned shoulders, sun and sand and ice cream. The turds had vanished with the last of the 1970s.
I must admit all that aside, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it look quite as nice as it did the night I took these few photos. I’m glad I bothered. Then of course the surge happened in December 2013 and the Norfolk coast lurched again, things step-changed, unlike 1953 nobody died in these low patches of land away from the cliffs that protect in their collapse. But it didn’t stop lives being changed, caravan lives flooded chalets washed with brine.
I only took a couple of pictures. It didn’t seem right, other people’s lives turned upside down, uncomfortable voyeurism. We turned back and went to Happisburgh quite upset by the mess. We spoke to a young woman who couldn’t bear to go and look at her aunt’s chalet. Another woman talked of the silent rise of the water until it poured over the seawall insistently opening doors, pushing the contents of her house through and out into the fields a tideline of life. Not a place to hang around unless you’ve got something positive to offer. We had nothing other than an ear and a few words.