Norfolk Chalk Reef 11th-13th September 2020

This was the club’s third visit to the Norfolk chalk reef.

The reef itself is 30 miles long, with an average depth of 11 metres. It is a mixture of bright white chalk, flint and sandstone, boulders cobbles, pebbles and coarse sand. Erosion has left pockets, holes and tubes in a variety of shapes across the reef. As a protected marine habitat, it is a veritable nursery for a variety of marine life.

Phil prepped the boat on the Tuesday evening then did the final check on Thursday. The journey to Cromer was busy but interesting as the hills of Derbyshire gave way to the fields of Nottinghamshire and ultimately to the small villages and agricultural landscape of Norfolk. Our accommodation was a beautiful old farmhouse in Banningham. We arrived with enough time to check out a new launch site at Trimingham and to double check the sand at East Runton.

Saturday:  We launched from East Runton—a breath holding experience, given the steep decent onto soft sand, pebbles and then hard sand into the sea. Everything went smoothly to the relief of everyone. We dived as two buddy pairs and a three.

The first dive was during slack water, the second a drift dive at Sheringham. Viz was 4/5m and the water temperature a comfortable 16C. Lobster, squat lobster, edible crab, velvet swimmers, sponge crabs and prawns were in every crevice. Many of the larger lobsters were out walking across the cobbles. Light from our torches caused dragonets and blennies to dart from one place to another and the tiny long-clawed squat lobsters to scuttle for cover. Sponges, dahlia anemones, sea squirts and short red seaweed provided an array of colour. Small shoals of juvenile wrasse darted across the chalk reef.

In the past recovering Top Cat has been a serious, time consuming problem-solving activity. This time it had been meticulously thought through and was incident free. Phil and Tim used 2 vehicles and a variety of heavy-duty strops to take the trailer and Top Cat out of the water and up the slip to the car park.

In the evening we had a first-class meal at the local pub where the steak and kidney puddings were the local speciality.

Sunday:  We launched at Trimingham without incident and dived a new site to the south of Cromer pier.

We had 4/5m viz and an abundance of life including Cat Shark.

Top Cat’s recovery was more of a challenge owing to a sharply shelving water’s edge and an area of soft dry sand immediately before a bend in the slip. Once again using 2, 4×4’s and a variety of strops worked successfully however we can see why the local BSAC club usually shore dive and the local fishing boats have a dumper truck and /or tractor for launch and recovery.

Another enjoyable weekend diving on the Norfolk chalk reef with calm seas and sunshine, a bonus. Thanks to buddies Mark & Anna, Helen, Rosie & Tim.

Video courtesy of Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Photos courtesy of Helen Hamer