Coast is delighted to be partnering with the Ramblers each month to promote a coastal walk column. In their first, JACK CORNISH, head of paths, profiles a special Suffolk spot.
Medieval towns, glorious coastline and wide, open skies all make Suffolk a rambler’s paradise. But exploring this part of the world was not always so straightforward. In fact, close study of the OS map in certain parts of the county would have shown a suspicious lack of public rights of way.
The rights of way were recorded here, as they were across the country, after the Second World War. Local councils were given the responsibilities of legally mapping centuries of public paths, creating what is known as the definitive map. In Suffolk, the local parish councils, influenced by some landowners, ensured that many paths were missed off the map, heavily restricting our access to the landscape.
That was until John Andrews, a member of the Ramblers, set to work. John has volunteered his time over several decades finding and successfully applying to get many footpaths, bridleways and byways reinstated across Suffolk.
It is a lengthy process requiring extensive evidence and sometimes even requiring legal action. John pursued one case all the way up to the Court of Appeal. But thanks to him, ramblers can wander Suffolk’s recovered ways, from down in Constable Country to the England Coast Path that hugs the shoreline.
A SHINGLE STRETCH
Want to explore Suffolk yourself? This Ramblers out-and-back walk from the small hamlet of Shingle Street to Bawdsey Quay stretches across the first few miles of the Suffolk coast path. It takes in one of the most atmospheric and historically rich stretches of the county’s coastline. It traverses shingle beaches, crumbling cliffs, marshes, estuaries, heathland, forests and farmlands.
Following the coast path, you’ll soon come to the Martello Tower, one of a string of defensive forts originally constructed in response to Napoleon’s threat of invasion. A distinct feature within the panoramic landscape of beach, sea and grassland, these forts are dotted across Suffolk’s coastline.
Continuing on, and fast-forwarding a few centuries, more evidence of the Suffolk coast’s defensive importance will reveal itself. After passing the car park at East Lane, you will come across a large concrete gun battery and observation tower, dating back to the Second World War.
One of the 153 Emergency Coastal Batteries constructed when the threat of German invasion was at its height, this is not the only landmark to have played a crucial role in British military history. A little further down the way, you’ll pass Bawdsey Manor which overlooks the mouth of the River Deben. Originally constructed in the late 1800s by Sir William Cuthbert Quilter, the manor was sold to the Air Ministry in 1936, when it became a secret radar research base and, later, the first operational radar station.
Suffused with history and encompassing the rich variety of Suffolk’s coastal landscapes, this route is the perfect way to explore the county’s coastline and take advantage of your hard-won access rights. Find out full details of the walk here.
THREE MORE TO TRY…
Not based in Suffolk? Try out these similar Ramblers routes in other parts of the country
Pagham Harbour and Sidlesham, West Sussex
This leisurely circular route around the Sussex village of Sidlesham takes in wonderful views of nearby Pagham Harbour, a peaceful nature reserve managed by the RSPB. An internationally important wetland, the reserve is home to black-tailed godwits and egrets. On clear days, ramblers will be rewarded with views of Chichester Cathedral in the distance. https://tinyurl.com/2mjeh3me
Hartland Circular, Devon
A more strenuous option, this route takes in dramatic cliff views along the coast path overlooking Lundy Island before looping back inland past Hartland Abbey and a parish church once visited by Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia and central figure within the Rastafari movement. https://tinyurl.com/3a3hkwbs
West Kirby and Caldy Hill, The Wirral
A varied route beginning in West Kirby and taking in Grange Hill and Caldy Hill. As well as spectacular views over Liverpool Bay, ramblers will be able to look across to the Pennines and North Wales before dropping down onto the Wirral Way and around the Marine Lake. https://tinyurl.com/ydjzbrdm
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