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About Wells Harbour

Wells-next-the-Sea on the North Norfolk coast has been a port and a largely natural safe-haven for ships and boats for at least 600 years. Protected by rare salt marshes behind a sand bar, the Port of Wells was one of England's major harbours in Tudor times and a thriving, busy centre for shipping and maritime industry in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when its stone quay was constructed, along with many of the large buildings and tiny yards and houses that still dominate the look and feel of the town.

Commercial shipping in Wells suffered with the coming of the railway in 1857 but the harbour continued to be busy up to the first world war. There was something of a revival in the 1970s and 80s with ships of up to 300 tons regularly unloading on the quay. Indeed, commercial carrying arguably ended only in the late 1990s with cargoes of grain brought from Europe by the Dutch sailing ketch Albatros, said at the time to be the last commercial trading vessel under sail in Europe.

However, Wells retains a small fishing fleet, with hard-working boats slipping out on one tide and returning on the next. They are joined by other visiting commercial and fishing vessels and the harbour has become busy in recent years with vessels engaged in survey, crew transfer and safety boat operations. Wells is now a base for the Sheringham Shoal offshore windfarm, with the provision of an Outer Harbour for personnel transfer vessels behind the lifeboat house and dredging the harbour entrance channel to increase access times to the harbour for these vessels to come and go as necessary.

Wells Harbour also caters for a growing leisure trade, both for locally-owned boats and, increasingly, as a popular destination for visiting vessels. The historic Albatros is currently resident on the quay, providing a venue for a variety of functions and entertainment. All day and one-tide sea angling trips are available on boats such as Whitby Crest and Sapphire.

The harbour is also used for sailing, wind-surfing, water ski-ing and just pottering about on anything from canoes and kayaks to blue-water yachts and large motor cruisers (jetski-type craft and hovercraft are not permitted). The town has a thriving sailing club and a water ski club.

Situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Wells plays host to thousands of holiday-makers and visitors almost all year round, making for a unique mix of people and activities. The long tradition of gillying (fishing for shore crabs) from the quayside is as popular as ever and Wells' expansive beach with its oft-illustrated colourful beach-huts means that there are always people on, in or near the water. It may not be the noisy maelstrom of 100 or 150 years ago but the quayside remains a busy, active place where it's fun to get involved or just to sit and watch all that's going on.

Wells quay December 2009
Unloading the catch at the quay
Day boat rally at the Pool stones
Wells Leading Buoy