Happisburgh - pronounced Haze-bruh - is a small village on the Norfolk coast, which, over the centuries and like Dunwich further south, has lost much land and many properties to erosion and the sea. On January 31st 1953 a north-west wind of over 110 miles an hour whipped up an exceptionally high evening tide which surged down the coast, smashing sea defences and flooding low-lying areas; a bungalow at Happisburgh which, at teatime that day had been 15ft from the cliff, was hanging over the cliff edge by the following morning. In 1958/9 steel and timber sea defences were built but in spite of those several high tides over the years since then have claimed more land and properties, in fact I've seen for myself the amount of land that's been lost since I first went there in the mid 1990s. In the last couple of years though new defences consisting of large boulders have been put in place, which will hopefully lessen the effect of high tides and slow down the rate of erosion.
The present-day village itself is quite an attractive little place and is home to the oldest working lighthouse in East Anglia, which is also the only independently run lighthouse in Great Britain. Built in 1790 the tower is 85ft tall and painted white with three red bands; the lantern is 134ft above sea level and gives out three white flashes repeated every 30 seconds, with a range of 18 miles. Saved as a working light by the local community, it is maintained and operated entirely by voluntary contributions, and is open to visitors on a certain number of days each year.
Also in the village is the 15th century St. Mary's church with its landmark tower which is 110ft high and 180ft above sea level. Open on regular days throughout the year, access to the top is by a steep and narrow 95-step spiral stone staircase which goes about two thirds of the way up, followed by a 38-step metal spiral. From the roof on a clear day it's possible to see 30 churches, 2 lighthouses, 7 water towers, 5 corn mills, 5 drainage mills, 2 wind farms, RAF radar station at Trimingham, Bacton gas terminal, the reefs at Sea Palling and the spire of Norwich Cathedral over 16 miles away. The climb up the tower is certainly a good test of heart and lung capacity but the views from the top are definitely worth it!