When you’re on holiday in North Norfolk you have to explore our Deep History Coast!

23rd February 2017

Even if you’re about to take your first holiday in North Norfolk you won’t be surprised to learn that you’re not going to be the first tourists to come here. Of course not. It’s a hugely popular place. But can you guess just how long ago the very first visitors came to North Norfolk?

Give up? Well, footprints found at Happisburgh, show that humans were here 850,000 years ago! Those footprints are massively significant. Right here, in North Norfolk, they are the oldest evidence we have of humans anywhere, outside of The Great Rift Valley in Africa.

Old Hunstanton cliffs

Amazingly we know quite a lot about these people. Specialist 3D photography was used and revealed the prints of their heels and toes, in soft mud, where they’d paused for a while.  There were five of them – adults and children – and the tallest was about 5 feet 9 inches. Seems they were a family. Just like you!

They were almost certainly nomadic people who were hunting deer, bison, rhino and mammoths.

Now, we’re not suggesting that you wander so much you become nomads, nor that you spend your holiday time hunting such beasts – but you can get to see a mammoth. Because, apart from those all important footprints we also found, here in North Norfolk, at West Runton, a mammoth skeleton. It’s the largest nearly complete one known, and it’s the oldest one found in the uk – ever.

The mammoth’s pelvic bone turned up first, discovered by a West Runton couple after a terrible storm one night in 1990. More bones came to light a year later and then, in 1992 there was an exploratory dig.  By 1995, a more thorough excavation revealed the virtually complete skeleton of a Steppe Mammoth. There’s only about 15% of it missing, and they were the bits nibbled away by hungry hyaenas. (We thought we’d share that with you because, admit it – it’s the gory stuff that gets the kids fascinated!)

You can see parts of the great mammoth, including the huge skull and tusks, in The Norfolk Collections Centre at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. Other parts are on display in nearby Cromer Museum, as well as Norwich Castle Museum.

In fact, the North Norfolk coast is so important to our understanding of history that its been called ‘The Cradle of Civilisation’. It’s known as ‘The Deep History Coast’ because it’s seen as earth’s equivalent of deep space.  You’ll understand why when you realise that this beautiful area of coast and countryside includes the most important archaeological site in Western Europe, as well as the best preserved Neanderthal site in the uk. And, Norfolk is  the only county where evidence of four species of human have been found. (That doesn’t include holidaymakers!)

Well within reach of Woodland Holiday Park, Norfolk’s ‘Deep History Coast’ is somewhere not just to walk, but to tread in the footsteps of history, and maybe even make discoveries yourselves.

In truth it’s difficult to overestimate the importance of this part of Norfolk when it comes to world class archaeology. Exploring it turns a stroll into an adventure. You’ll be living history.

Across the 16 miles or so of coast there are over 20,000 fossils found every year. You might not turn up a 500,000 year old axe head (although one has been found) nor indeed a mammoth, but you’ll be walking across land that was once joined to Europe. It was a huge, sweeping plain roamed by wild animals and those early hunters.

Not that you’ll be far from creature comforts. There’s no need to go hunting for your food and drink when you’re visiting North Norfolk. There are lots of cafes, pubs and restaurants to sustain you when you’re out for the day, and of course you won’t be far from your expedition base camp when you’re staying Woodland Holiday Park – where we’ll make sure you won’t go hungry. Although of course you may want to relax in your hot tub before barbecuing your own meal.

Happisburgh lighthouse on the North Norfolk coast, built in 1790, is the only independently operated lighthouse in Great Britain.
Happisburgh lighthouse on the North Norfolk coast, built in 1790, is the only independently operated lighthouse in Great Britain.

Our Deep History Coast is a really exciting place to visit. For the younger ones there’s always something to be looking out for, at every step of your wandering. There are lots of attractions and places to visit too.  Weybourne, Cromer and Happisburgh are all within reach. It’s a world of beaches, countryside, lighthouses and long, long walks. Family friendly, dog friendly and full of things to do this ancient land is the perfect holiday spot for today.

Come and explore North Norfolk’s ‘Deep History Coast’. It’s always changing and evolving, and always a delight to walk. You can tread in history’s footsteps – right on the doorstep of Woodland Holiday Park!