Begin The Ship, Dunwich
Distance 9 miles
Time 5 hours
Ascent 100 metres
Dunwich is a village with a handful of cottages, a ruined friary, a church, a small museum, and a pub. However within the Twelfth century, it was an internationally vital port with a thriving fishing business; it had a dozen inns, a number of church buildings and two hospitals. The Domesday Ebook information that the city paid a tax of 68,000 herrings and had 3,000 inhabitants.
Google map of the route
Now it’s a form of Suffolk Atlantis. A collection of devastating floods eroded the coast and swept away greater than 400 homes on a single stormy evening within the mid-14th century. Divers have discovered starfish and sponges dwelling on the partitions of one of many church buildings washed from the clifftop. On the sting of a cliff a brief stroll from the Ship pub, you may nonetheless see the final grave from the churchyard of vanished All Saints.
The Ship is the only surviving pub in Dunwich. It’s completely positioned for a backyard or fireplace pint after walks via woods, marshes, heath and alongside the shingle seashore. Ingesting a pint of Adnams in a single nook of the pub’s refurbished bar, I examine drawings on the wall that present the destiny of All Saints church from 1880, when its tower was nonetheless standing. In that yr, poet Algernon Swinburne described the erosion of the church in his poem By the North Sea. Roofs that had been “exalted as soon as with prayer and psalm” had disappeared, he wrote, and now “one hole tower and hoary/Bare within the sea-wind stands …”
By late 1919, All Saints was decreased to a single buttress. Three years later, the buttress was moved to the churchyard of St James’s, a few minutes’ stroll from the Ship. You possibly can see it as we speak together with the stays of a leper chapel – the one piece of Twelfth-century structure left in Dunwich.
I move the chapel on the finish of my first day’s nine-mile hike, which begins with a bracing tramp north alongside the seashore in the direction of Walberswick. Blueish sea kale and pale yellow horned-poppies are sprouting from the shingle financial institution. It’s a shiny, clear morning and I can see egrets and plovers around the saline lagoons on the Dingle marshes. There are views of distant Southwold landmarks such because the Fifteenth-century St Edmund’s church and white Victorian lighthouse. Earlier than Walberswick, I head into the marshes and observe an embankment path.
Simply earlier than I attain a derelict brick windmill, I flip left on an extended, grassy path via the reeds. It’s deep in autumn mud; there are flocks of starlings within the rushes and marsh harriers looking overhead. My toes might need stayed drier had I saved on previous East Hill to select up the Sandlings Stroll, which I rejoin later, however I don’t remorse selecting to wander via the wild Westwood marshes.
The 2 routes meet ultimately in Dunwich forest, the place paths via ferns and timber lead over wood walkways and wire-covered duckboards. Waymarks with a chook image now information me again to Dunwich via copper-coloured bracken and glowing golden birches. After I lastly arrive at St James’s churchyard, it’s just a few steps additional to the little village museum with its mannequin of the drowned city and, past that, to the Ship.
On day two, I circle the flagship chook reserve at RSPB Minsmere. It’s a wild and delightful space, though the proposed nuclear energy station at Sizewell C is ready to alter the view once more. I observe the waymarked coast path up on to the cliffs, previous Greyfriars, a Thirteenth-century Franciscan friary dissolved in 1538. On over Dunwich Heath, via Scots pines, gorse and burnished heather, to succeed in the Eel’s Foot pub in Eastbridge. Heading throughout marshy meadows in the direction of the ocean, I move the stays of one other chapel, close to Minsmere sluice, which has a vibrant stained-glass set up within the ruined wall, a part of a public artwork mission launched in October 2020.
Strolling north up the coast, I spot a line of concrete anti-tank blocks marching alongside the seashore. The land across the Minsmere River was drained within the nineteenth century for farming. In the course of the second world conflict, it was intentionally flooded and turned again into marsh to discourage German invaders. After the conflict, these wetlands turned RSPB Minsmere, with 1000’s of acres of lagoons with chook hides. Lengthy-absent avocets returned.
Again within the Ship’s flagstoned bar, Adnams ales, brewed in neighbouring Southwold, are all the time on faucet. Throughout lockdown, the homeowners redecorated. The bar has sensible blue partitions and the eating room boasts placing pelican wallpaper. Former normal supervisor Sheila Magan, who ran the Ship till August, enthuses in regards to the space’s various landscapes. “Irrespective of the season, it’s lovely right here,” she says, displaying photos of blooming heather on her telephone.
She tells me how the colors change all year long – inexperienced leaves, purple heather, autumn golds, blue sky – and there are paths to swimsuit all types of tourists: “Canine walkers, birdwatchers. It has a little bit of the whole lot.” Magan says closing the pub for lockdown was “one of many hardest moments of my profession”. However the employees stayed cheerful, with images challenges and on-line cocktail lessons. The pub thrived in the summertime with guests flocking to the UK coast. Now, because the summer time rush subsides and the birches across the beer backyard flip bronze and amber, is an effective time for a pint within the Ship and for walks via the forest, marsh, and heathland round Dunwich.
Data counsel there was a Ship Inn right here since about 1560, though the present buildings date from the 18th and nineteenth centuries. Outdated brick partitions and casement home windows encompass woodburning stoves and beamed ceilings. The beer backyard has a brand new out of doors bar and kitchen. The spreading fig tree is sort of 400 years previous. The cooks use substances from native farms and fishing boats, together with Brancaster mussels, Blythburgh pork and Aldeburgh ice-cream. I loved the black pudding scotch egg with tangy, do-it-yourself piccalilli and Baron Bigod cheese, made in Bungay.
I’m sleeping in one of many pub’s 16 tastefully shabby-chic bedrooms, all named after native landmarks comparable to Greyfriars. Wooden-panelling, rattan or wrought iron headboards and printed cotton cushions furnish areas that vary from cosy doubles like mine to spacious household rooms, that includes additional beds, sofas and claw-foot bathtubs. The home windows largely overlook the backyard, with its birches and apple timber, however there are additionally rooms with fireplaces, trying throughout the coastal wetlands.
Double rooms on the Ship from £145 B&B, shipatdunwich.co.uk