Sunday, 1 December 2019

A walk in Suffolk

Last  weekend, John, Lucy and I travelled to Suffolk to continue our walk along the Suffolk coastal path. The path is 57 miles long, however you end up walking more as there has been quite a bit of erosion of the cliffs which means walking inland in places. The walk is very varied with the path running alongside river and sea walls, going across marshes, heath, foreshore and cliffs. We started the walk at Lowerstoft earlier in the year. This weekend we were walking from Shingle Street to Tunstall on Saturday. This should have been the other way round but it was easier to get a taxi in the morning  and walk back to where we were staying. On Sunday we walked from Shingle Street to Bawdsey quay (and back). For those of you who like to read much of W.G. Sebald's novel The Rings of Saturn describes a walking tour of Suffolk that roughly follows the Suffolk Coastal Path.

Shingle Street lives up to it's name with shingle covering the beach. It makes for very tiring walking so I was very happy when not far along the beach we stepped up onto the top of the earthwork coastal defences. The land here is very flat and the sea is taking the land at a very fast rate. I took this photo along the beach and you can see how flat it is. This is the top end of the beach near the houses and there is vegetation growing between the shingle so it was easier to walk on.

We came across this group of plants surrounded by the white line and with the white line heading for the shore. 

I 'm not sure why it was there but when you looked more close at the white line it turned out to be made up of hundreds of white shells. It must have taken someone ages to do and I assume the sea doesn't come this far up the beach at this point.

The sky was as grey as the sea, the landscape flat and we only met three  people on the route. It all felt very lonely. I was very pleased to have John and Lucy with me. Lucy in particular is good at staying cheerful on a grey day.

The sky at times was very threatening but at the same time amazing to look at. Fortunately for us it didn't rain at all during the day.

Along the route there were several pill boxes. pillbox is a type of blockhouse, or concrete dug-in guard post, normally equipped with loopholes through which to fire weapons. It's like a trench firing step hardened to protect against small-arms fire and grenades and raised to improve the field of fire. They can be found all along the coast and particularly on the east coast due to the risk of German invasion during the second world war. Lucy found this one useful for checking out the landscape and then doing a song and dance routine. I really should have made a video of that!

There was quite a wind blowing and it was certainly very bracing. At some point on the walk we came to the mouth of the River Ore which we followed for a while.

As we went inland the sky became a little brighter and we walked up and down the only hill on our route.The hill had an ascent of 15 metres so nothing to really write home about but it made a change from flat flat flat! 

We were walking right up to and beyond sunset as we had started a little later than we'd planned. Just at dusk we had stopped to watch a huge flock of geese and as I slowly walked on a short eared owl took flight.. It was beautiful to watch and I'm so pleased we were walking at dusk. If it had been earlier in the day we might have missed it even though they do hunt during the day. I couldn't get a picture so I've borrowed one from the RSPB website (Royal Society for the protection of Birds) 

Short-eared owl

For the rest of the walk we were moving as fast as we could to get back to our cottage before it was fully dark. We had our phones with us so we had flashlights but not only was it getting very dark it was also threatening to spit with rain. Once home we enjoyed a rest before heading to a restaurant for dinner. The walk was about 11 miles.

On Sunday we headed to Shingle Street once again but this time we were heading in the opposite direction to Bawdsey. We walked along the shingle before heading quickly to firmer ground. We passed a Martello tower which has been turned into a hotel. Originally 103 towers were built between 1805 and 1812 to resist a potential invasion by Napoleon. They were built of brick which was 13 foot thick on the seaward side and stood about 30 foot high. They were also equipped with a cannon on the roof. 74 were built along the Kent and Sussex coastlines between 1805 and 1808, the other 29 were to protect Essex and Suffolk. 45 of the towers are still in existence, but many are in ruins or have been converted. Only 9 remain in their original condition. The one below at Shingle Street you can book a room to stay.

We walked past three Martello towers on our journey and saw a fourth in the distance. We were particularly taken with this one who seemed to be a very happy Martello tower.

The ground was very wet. The UK has been having a lot of rain recently and many areas have been flooded. There were no floods in this area as such just very large puddles and it was very soggy under foot.

Large rocks have been put down to try and stop the coastal erosion. 

This gull was sitting happily on the remnants of coastal defences.

The stretch of coast we were walking had a lot of coastal defences and a little further along we can across quite a large installation. The buildings in the photo below had been built into the slight cliff and they all interlinked and also had underground passages and rooms. There was nothing to say you couldn't go into the passages due to them being unsafe but there was a lot of water in them so Lucy din't go exploring.

The fourth Martello tower was further along the coast but at this point we turned inland for a while.

There was an information board telling you about the defences but at some point it had got damaged so it was difficult to read parts of it. If you click on it you can make it larger and so get the gist of what was going on at East Lane .

As we headed inland we went past this structure. We couldn't work out what it was but we decided it was an observation post from the war. However we continued to wonder why it had Prisoner of war in metal work in that long slit at the top. I googled it later in the evening and it was a temporary art installation in the summer of 2005. It used 13 window spaces and walls and had texts written by Simon Frazer. The texts were based on the spoken wartime memories of the people of Bawdsey who were mostly young adults at the time of the war.

On the other side of main Bawdsey village we can across this sign about the Bawdsey Radar museum. We have added this to our list of must visit places next year.

We continued our walk to get to Bawdsey Quay, Looking across the mouth of the river we could see this on the other side

and on our side, looking back this was the view. The beach was sandy and the concrete in the foreground is the slipway for the ferry. We needed to be the other side of the river to complete the coastal path but the ferry closed at the end of October so we will do the final walks in December and make our base further down the coast.

Lucy and I spotted the cafe which was still open and also that it served cream teas so we diverted to enjoy tea and scones. The ladies working in the tea room were very knowledgeable about the area and interested in the walk we were doing. We were also very lucky because as we left they started closing the cafe for the winter.

Having enjoyed our tea we had to walk back to our starting point to pick up our car and then head for home. On the way I was very taken with this Georgian house. It looked just like a pretty dolls house.

There were also a lot of rose hips and other berries in the hedgerow

As we arrived back at Shingle Street the light was fading fast. We sat in the car and enjoyed coffee from our flasks before driving home.

The weekend was great fun and I really enjoyed the walks we did. I especially loved seeing the short eared owl.

Now I need to get back to some work for work so that i can then enjoy some slow stitching later this evening whilst watching TV or chatting with John. Lucy has been away this last week so I may have to pick her up later.

The count down is now on for Christmas. I have presents to buy, a Christmas quilt to finish and a birthday to enjoy and then all the fun of Christmas. I think I'm getting a little excited already.



  1. Loved reading your post and seeing all the pics. I live in North Carolina and am from Australia, so found your pebbly beaches interesting!

  2. I always enjoy reading about your walks and trips away, never realised there were so many coastal defences.

  3. I really enjoyed reading about your walks. It was very interesting. Wish I could visit it in person but this is the next best thing. Cream tea and scones sounds yummy too!!

  4. That was quite a long walk with a great diversity of scenery. We have that problem with coastal erosion here in Oregon too, and some houses are at risk. We also use the large rock walls to try to stave it off. We call it “rip-rap” here.