North Norfolk Beaches.

A Selina Wilkins report

Holkham I have shelled extensively at Wells, Holkham, Brancaster and Titchwell beaches in the last 5 years. They are on the North Norfolk coast, a superb stretch of golden sand heading towards the Wash at Hunstanton. The shell species they support varies due to their habitat. In this article I'll describe each beach in turn, and the list summarises the shells and locations. Car parks are £2.50 to £3 per day in the summer, many are free in winter and off season.

Wells beach has many amenities; car park, toilets, mini/crazy golf, trampolines, boats/canoes, bouncy castles, and a little train to take you to Wells harbour for great fish and chips.

The beach itself is the start of the great golden sand running West to the Wash. It has sand dunes, and a forest trail which leads to Holkham. Holkham beach has a car park, no toilets but similar shells.


Prolific on Wells are the bivalves, in particular Cerastoderma edule, Mya arenaria, Chlamys varia, Ensis americanus, Scrobicularia plana. If there has been a high tide and a storm you will find Mactra corallina, Ensis siliqua, Buccinum undatum, Colus gracilis, Venerupis pullastra. On a windy day I have found Tellina tenuis, Tellina (Fabulina) fabulina, Scrobicularia plana being swept up away from the water line.

Best shelling at Wells is west of the Sand dune. At Holkham again head out west beyond the mudflat and sand dune. Though its shells often get covered by shifting sand as it is a more exposed beach. Hiding under Ensis americanus I have found Calliostoma zizyphinum.

 mya arenaria

Brancaster beach has a car park, toilets, small gift/ice-cream shop. Car park is always flooded during the high water of high tides. What makes Brancaster interesting is that it has more gastropods than the other beaches because it has a wreck offshore. Walk east along the beach, and opposite the beach huts there is often a drift of shells. After a high tide and storm shells can be littered from the beach entrance and eastwards. It is here I have found better examples (but not a great as Cornwall or Cumbria) of the genus Littorina, and Lunatia. I have found good beached specimens of Trivia arctica, Nassarius reticulatus, Calliostoma zizyphinum. I have also found banded Nucella lapillus.

Titchwell is a RSPB reserve, so is free to members. It has a car park, toilets, gift shop with refreshments, bird hides if you are interested and a board walk leading down to the beach. Be careful when you shell - when the tide comes in the birds are driven closer to the shoreline, and that is when the birdwatchers like to watch the waders. Once the tide is fully in the birds fly further down the coast or onto the scraps. If the tide is out, the birds are further away so less interesting.

barnea Titchwell

Titchwell beach although part of the same golden sand has an area with a different composition which supports burrowing bi-valves. Walk directly from the boardwalk, onto the beach and slightly east and here you will find Petricola pholadiformis, Barnea candida with both parts of the bi-valve. I have also found multiple Zirfaea crispata, but not with both valves intact. I have also found Ensis americanus littered across the entire beach, and swathes of Mytilis edulis with other small gastropods and Tellina tenuis hiding amongst them.

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In the following list, W=Wells and Holkham, B=Brancaster, and T=Titchwell.

Littorina saxatilis (Olivi, 1792)	B
Littorina littorea (Linnaeus, 1758)	B
Scrobicularia plana (da Costa, 1778)	W
Crepidula fornicata (Linnaeus, 1758)	B
Petricola pholadiformis (Lamarck, 1818)	T
Barnea candida (Linnaeus, 1758)		T
Calliostoma zizyphinum (Linnaeus, 1758)	B
Mya arenaria (Linnaeus, 1758)		W
Lutraria lutraria (Linnaeus, 1758)	W
Trivia arctica (Pulteney, 1799)		B
Littorina obtusata (Linnaeus, 1758)	B
Cerastoderma edule (Linnaeus, 1758)	W B T
Modiolus modiolus (Linnaeus, 1758)	W
Mytilus edulis (Linnaeus, 1758)		T
Aequipecten opercularis (Linnaeus, 1758)	B W
Gibbula cineraria (Linnaeus, 1758)	W T
Tellina fabula (Gmelin, 1791)		W
Tellina tenuis (da Costa, 1778)		W
Macoma balthica (Linnaeus, 1758)		W
Chlamys varia (Linnaeus, 1758)		W B
Zirfaea crispata (Linnaeus, 1776)	T
Buccinum undatum (Linnaeus, 1758)	W
Mactra corallina (Linnaeus, 1758)	W
Ensis siliqua (Linnaeus, 1758)		W
Ensis americanus (Binney, 1870)		W T
Lacuna crassior (Montagu,1803)		B
Nassarius reticulatus (Linnaeus, 1758)	W B
Ocenebra erinacea (Linnaeus, 1758)	W B
Spisula solida (Linnaeus, 1758)		W B T
Lunatia catena (da Costa, 1778)		W B 
Venerupis corrugata (Gmelin, 1791)	B W T
Ostrea edulis (Linnaeus, 1758)		B W T
Nucella lapillus (Linnaeus, 1758)	B
Mya truncata (Linnaeus, 1758)		W B T
Ostrea edulis (Linnaeus, 1758)		W
Lunatia alderi (Forbes, 1838)		B
Colus gracilis (da Costa, 1770)		W

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