Strands of grass from the dunes at titchwell beach, with the beach and sea in the background

Titchwell Marsh Archaeology and History

The rusted remains of a tank submerged in sand at RSPB Titchwell

World War 2

Down on the beach at Titchwell at low tide, it is possible to see the remains of two old Covenanter cruiser tanks that are now rusting away. How much is visible is dependent on the recent weather conditions and how the tides have covered their remains with sand. The tanks are a remnant of World War 2 as during the war Titchwell Marsh was used by the Royal Tank Regiment as a tank firing range. It is thought that the tanks may even have been targets themselves. The tank regiment used a concrete road that is still part of the reserve today and forms part of the Fen Trail.

Rusted remains of a WW2 tank submerged in the sand at RSPB Titchwell

After the war the Royal Air Force continued to use Titchwell Marsh as a firing range using pop-up targets. Winches were housed in two buildings which are now in ruins and these can be seen in the Volunteer Marsh close to the West Bank path. Down at the end of the West Bank path looking out onto the beach are the remains of an old control tower that the RAF built during the 1950s for their aircraft firing range. Another military control tower can be seen down at Thornham Point.

Fishing crate and seaweed on the sand, surrounded by peat deposits

Petrified Forest

At low tide on the beach the remains of a petrified forest can be seen. Thousands of years ago Britain was joined to the continent. The area between Britain and the continent was known as ‘Doggerland’. Here, the area was so vast that hunter-gatherers could walk across to Germany across this land mass. During the final post-glacial period at around 5000BC, sea-levels rose rapidly flooding the area between Britain and the continent.  Britain became an island with the sea flooding the forests under the sand for the next 7000 years. 

Peat deposits among the sand at titchwell beach

Gradually over time the sea has encroached some of the land revealing the buried forests. In December 2013 a storm surge occurred along the eastern coastline of Britain causing much coastal erosion. Further storms in January and February 2014 also had an impact on the coastline here. Accumulations of sand were removed from the inter-tidal range on the beach and sediments were removed by the tide and storm action. This exposed features previously sealed beneath the overlying peat that had been formerly protected. A variable mix of tree stumps, fallen tree trunks and peat sediments can be now seen at low tide. Oak, Hazel and Alder trees have been identified by scientists. Some tree stumps have petrified and one has been dated to over 900,000 years ago.