Living and Working on the Norfolk Coast
The interaction of people with their environment over thousands of years, resulting in living and working landscapes that respond to environmental, social and economic changes, has made the area what it is today.
This section of the website represents the Living section of the Area Management Plan, looking at the interaction of people with the natural beauty of the area.
In order to conserve these qualities that we value, we need to ensure that viable businesses are possible at the same time as managing the area and using what the environment provides in a way that is sustainable and which conserves the landscape and seascape qualities, habitats and species which contribute so much to the area’s unique character.
Farming, Forestry and Fishing
This section deals with the key human activities that depend on, manage and use the natural environment.
Our landscapes and wildlife heritage have been shaped by the decisions of land managers over thousands of years. The management of farmland and woodland for food and other products has been, and still is, the key human influence on the landscape of most of Britain, including most of the Norfolk Coast AONB; approximately half of the designated area is farmland, mainly arable, with about a further 17% woodland or parkland. Agricultural and parkland landscapes, with field boundaries, hedgerow trees, and belts and blocks of woodland, are an important part of the area’s character, contrasting with the relative wildness of coastal landscapes. Parkland and wood pasture includes rare and valuable habitat including occasional veteran trees.
The economic health of farming and woodland management, and the ability of these land uses in the future to deliver environmental benefits at the same time, are vital for the maintenance of a landscape worthy of the AONB designation. The decisions that farmers and land managers take, often influenced by EU and Government policy, determine to a great extent whether society’s ambitions for water, wildlife, healthy soil and production of food and other goods can be achieved.
The farmed landscape
Historically the farmed landscape has reflected the economic and social needs of the time. The area has played an important role in the history of agricultural innovation, for example by ‘Coke of Norfolk’ in the 17th century. Arable farming has been a major land use since designation, and although profitability has varied over the last decade high quality malting barley is a notable local crop favoured by the soils and climate of north Norfolk.
When arable margins are high compared to livestock enterprises, the availability of suitable grazing livestock has made it harder to manage valued conservation habitats such as heathland, downland and grazing marshes. There has been a consequent decline in the quality and quantity of some habitats over many years. However, agri-environmental schemes have contributed to conservation and enhancement of landscape, biodiversity and the historic environment and there may be opportunities for new approaches to habitat creation and management, and linking isolated habitats, using socio-economic drivers.
Woodland, copses and even individual trees make an important contribution to the area’s landscape character, although it is not rich in woodland generally, particularly ancient woodland. The economic viability of woodland for timber products is relatively low at present but woodland can provide recreational and wildlife benefits as well as supporting income from shooting or other activities. There is also scope for more woodland in appropriate locations, as well as for improved management for a range of uses.
Like agriculture, fishing still has a key role to play in the area’s natural beauty. Now based mainly on shellfish and much reduced in economic importance, local fishing activity has shaped the character of coastal settlements. It still contributes to that character in many cases, through activity at harbours and beaches, and through quays, boat and building styles. The area is widely recognised for the quality of its local seafood.
Norfolk Coast Parishes
There are 68 parishes whose boundaries lie partly or wholly within the Area. It is the diverse character of our small towns and villages which helps to make parts of the area so distinctive – the variety of vernacular architecture, individual buildings, settlement patterns and how these relate to the wider landscape. Their communities are also distinctive, with their own local traditions, customs and festivals.
Parishes have either Town/Parish Council or Parish Meetings with a clerk to the council, some larger councils having their own office that is open to the public. Many parishes or groups of parishes have excellent newsletters and an increasing number have their own websites, providing useful information about their local settlements and communities. Parish councils increasingly have their own or a page on village websites enabling parishioners and the general public to view council agendas and minutes, and who the councillors are and their role.
Sustainable communities deals with the interaction of communities in the area with the local environment.