Year 5 Residential Trip to North Norfolk: Report

Posted on 24th May 2023

Our Year 5 students report back on their trip to North Norfolk in assembly.

A couple of weeks ago, you may have noticed it was a bit quiet in Stafford House. Well, that’s because while Year 6 were away in Yorkshire, we were also away on our residential in North Norfolk. We had an amazing time, and so we thought we would share this with you and show you what we got up to!

Picture the scene – it’s breaktime on a Wednesday morning and there’s a buzz of anticipation in the air, as Upper 2 eagerly await the arrival of the minibuses to transport us 45 minutes down the road, to Aylmerton – our base for the next few days. We spent a bit of time getting prepared, making sure we had everything we needed, before setting off. There was, of course, just enough time for a quick photo opportunity!

After a short journey with Miss Holloway, Mr Billman and Mr Wistow, the three minibuses arrived at Aylmerton and we were greeted by Mrs Sims. We wasted no time getting the luggage (and ourselves) off and getting settled in our dorms. We needed to make our own beds – so parents – now that we know how to do this, you’ll never need to do it for us again!

A quick pit stop in the sun for lunch and we were ready to head off on our first expedition of our residential – Happisburgh.

We’d been learning about Happisburgh in our topic lessons, and by now we had a good understanding of what was happening there, but there’s nothing quite like getting out in the open, getting hands on and seeing things with your very own eyes…. And what we saw was shocking.

The sea is literally eating away at the land. This is called erosion, and is a real problem for the people living in Happisburgh. We’d already learnt about a lady whose land was slowly being swallowed up by the sea, and as time went by, she was forced to leave her home as it was by now too dangerous to continue living in. She loved Happisburgh, so continued to live there, moving to another house slightly further back from the cliff edge. We passed this house as we walked down Beach Road.

As we carried on down Beach Road however, we came to this…. A dead end. It was shocking to see that the sea was eroding the road, bit by bit, working its way down, swallowing the homes and land of those living there as it went. But how quickly is this happening, you might be wondering? Well, the answer to that is shocking. Happisburgh is the worst affected stretch of coastline, losing on average, 1 metre of land to the sea each year, though of course, this can be much more in stormy conditions.

We saw that in the past, the government has tried to stop this, with sea defences such as revetments, groynes and large rock armour, known as riprap. However, the sea is an incredible force and large storms in 1990, in 1996 and 2013 have meant that nearly all the revetments have now been destroyed, meaning that erosion has sped up as a result. Despite the rock armour providing some protection through absorbing wave energy, the cliffs are made from soft, sandy soil and so they are damaged incredibly easily.

The cost of putting these defences in place is mammoth, and so this raises the vital question – is it worth it? Well, for the residents that live there, of course, but others might argue differently. And so, as it stands, Happisburgh is falling victim to the sea, including its many beautiful listed buildings such as the church and its iconic lighthouse.

With this thought in mind, we then left Happisburgh and headed to our next stop – Sea Palling. Of course, no trip to the beach would be complete without an ice cream, and as our tongues lapped frantically round our Mr Whippies, our instructor, Woody, got us up to speed with the history of this destination.

Sea Palling is fortunate enough to be protected by another sea defence – a sea wall. From standing at the top of it, we could see that the land actually sits lower than sea level, so this huge, concrete structure is vital for keeping the sea at bay. However, in 1953, a storm surge caused the sea level to rise so much that it came over the sea wall, flooding the land for miles around. We learnt of the heartbreaking stories of people trapped in their attics, breaking through the tiles of the roof, desperately trying to escape the floods.

We then headed down to the beach to look at the effectiveness of the sea wall, along with other defences such as the flood gate and the rock reefs, which have been installed to help create more beach here – the opposite to what is happening at Happisburgh. But what makes Sea Palling worthy of these defences, while Happisburgh is just left to erode?

There are many answers to this question, but one main one is this. We learnt that if Sea Palling were to flood, this would have a catastrophic impact on one of Norfolk’s most important tourist attractions – The Norfolk Broads – our very own national park and an area of outstanding natural beauty. If sea water contaminated the fresh water of the broads, this could destroy them, killing much of the creatures that live within it.

Of course, by this point, we were itching to have a play on the beach, so we were treated to a bit of free time – playing, digging, exploring and shell collecting, to name but a few things.

After this, we headed back to Aylmerton for dinner.

You might say that we timed this perfectly well, because as we sat munching our delicious dinner of pasta bolognese, a massive rainstorm hit!

We were due to go out that evening on a twilight safari around Felbrigg Hall, but needless to say, we needed a Plan B! Keeping our spirits up, we enjoyed an exciting quiz instead, hosted by Quizmaster Tinkerbell, another of our instructors. By this time, we enjoyed a hot chocolate and were ready to get some sleep, in preparation for our next busy day ahead.

After a hearty breakfast and our morning briefing, we were ready to find out what Day 2 had in store for us. We got on the coach and headed to Morston, before boarding a boat that would take us across the water to the end of Blakeney Point for a spot of seal-spotting.

We were lucky to catch a collection of them lounging on the shore, basking in the sun, occasionally popping their heads up to see us. Apparently, if you take the same trip around Christmas time, the scene is quite different! Blakeney Point is home to England’s largest grey seal colony with over 4,000 pups born here each winter.

This secluded area of the coast, largely cut off from anything else and undisturbed by humans, makes it a perfect habitat for them.

From April to August, Blakeney Point is also an important nesting site for four species of tern: little, common, Arctic and Sandwich terns. For two of these species, Blakeney Point is particularly important. We were lucky enough to spot plenty of them as we made our way back to shore!

From here, we headed to Cley for the next part of our exploration of this area of our coastline.

We walked along the shingle spit from Cley towards the watch house at Blakeney, examining some of the semi-precious stones and shells along the way. Quartz, Red Jasper and the odd bit of sea glass! We learnt how Jet is actually part of fossilised monkey puzzle and that Amber is formed from fossilised tree sap! Amelia even found a fossil too!

One of the most extraordinary experiences of the day came next. As we lay amongst the shingle and dune habitats, we did nothing but close our eyes and listen. This made us really appreciate our surroundings and realise how lucky we are to live in such a wonderful county.

No sirens, no cars, no buses – just the sounds of nature. The waves, the breeze, the birds, the insects. It was so peaceful and calming.

This prepared us well for what came next. To get back to Blakeney was a long walk back along the shingle ridge, but at low tide, there is another, more exciting and adventurous route… through the mudflats! We took off our shoes, rolled up our trousers and got ready for an experience like no other.
Squelching and sloshing our way across the mud, we were guided safely across the delta, with the occasional slip and slide along the way. This is not something you should attempt by yourself, as it could be dangerous, but we were lucky enough to be led by experts who know the river incredibly well.
Arriving excitedly back to Blakeney, we cleaned ourselves up as best as we could and boarded the coach to take us back to Aylmerton.

In our topic lessons in school, we have also been looking at rivers and their journey from the source (the start of a river), to the mouth (the end where it meets the sea). Our last day of the residential focused on exploring the River Glaven and to prepare us for the next day, we had a demonstration of how a river is formed, using a large sand structure and a hosepipe. It was a great way of seeing how this happens and how the river changes shape over time.
We then tucked into a delicious fish and chip supper, before enjoying a bit of time with our dorm buddies, where we got ourselves ready for the evening ahead.

Of course, our final night had to be something special, and it was… a disco! In our best party outfits, and laden with tuckshop treats, we headed to the pavilion.

With DJ David on the decks, blasting out some classics, we danced and partied the night away. The Macarena. Cha Cha Slide. Even a conga! We enjoyed some games of Musical Bumps and Statues and there was even a teacher dance off! After a busy day and exciting evening, we headed off to bed, ready for our final day.

The next morning, after another delicious breakfast, we packed up our stuff and cleaned our dorms, before heading to Baconsthorpe. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t too great, but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. Our mission was to get as close to the source of the River Glaven as possible.
When we arrived, we did some tests to see what it was like at the source, including measuring the depth at both edges and the middle, the width, the speed it was flowing, as well as looking at the shape of the rocks we found there.

From here, we headed to Selbrigg, on the river further down its course. It was in a beautiful setting, and we were able to walk down the river in our wellies, exploring the meanders caused by the erosion of the banks, the tributaries feeding into it and the woodland surroundings.

We did the same tests here and were then able to compare what the river was like here with what it was like at the source. We had already been at the mouth of the river in Blakeney the previous day, so were able to see how different the river was at the different points along its course.

Our final stop was Holt Country Park, where we enjoyed a delicious packed lunch before we set off back to Norwich.