Happisburgh, Has It Gone For Good?

Happisburgh Beach in Norfolk shot back in 2005 at Dawn

Happisburgh has long been one of my favourite locations on the Norfolk Coast and over the last few years has attracted a real following from photographers, with many travelling across the country to photograph the place. The derelict sea defences and the large waves always make for dramatic pictures, but unfortunately earlier this year it was revealed that the location was to receive a complete makeover with a new car park & facilities. Part of this makeover also included knocking down a few of the houses on the cliff edge and removing the old derelict sea defences and other debris from the beach.  Obviously this was devastating news for the photographer, but it also dawned on me that I hadn’t really shot that many pictures at Happisburgh myself for around five years or so. Happisburgh is a location I often take my workshop participants to and I usually find myself there about twice a week, over the years I have seen so many wonderful shots achieved by participants, particularly late in the day when the sun is behind you and it’s possible to capture the rainbow spectrum in the spray caused by the large waves crashing over the defences. I never shoot on the workshops myself so I always assumed I would just come back another day in the future to get all the shots I had in my head.

Luckily the original work which was due to start earlier in the year was delayed, we then had a few really high spring tides and high winds which gave the area a real battering.  It was then announced that work was due to start at the end of June. Throughout June I made it my mission to wake up early and go out and shoot the place on any days that I had free. I’m sure most photographers will agree June with its extremely early starts is not the best month for sunrise photography.

Happisburgh At Sunrise

Fortunately we had a few nice mornings and I was able to get some of the shots I wanted just in time. The work then began at the beginning of July and now the old derelict sea defences have been removed the beach.

Happisburgh At Dawn Captured June 2011

So is Happisburgh still a good location for Photography?

In short yes, obviously the Lighthouse  is still a fantastic location to shoot and for anyone who is interested the crop in the field this year is sugar beet which is starting to look at its best now. In my opinion one of the best areas of the beach for shooting the derelict sea defences is the area in front of the steps and these have not been removed, as far as I know I think these are going to remain. The defences here are already failing and the waves seem to crash up really high over these anyway making for some fantastic pictures, over the last year or two this has been one of my favourite spots to shoot the defences from.

Happisburgh lighthouse on a stormy afternoon

I was at Happisburgh two days ago on a one to one workshop and with a rough sea and some nice light the participant was able to capture some absolutely stunning pictures of the waves crashing over these defences. I certainly don’t think we have seen the last of Happisburgh as a fantastic photography location, I just think we have lost a small chunk and pretty soon all the iconic images of Happisburgh beach will just be captured a few yards further down the beach to where they were shot a few months back.
The Sea Defences in this image still remain on Happisburgh beach


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