Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Winter Snows on Thorpeness Common

Snow on the common

An 7 mile circular walk across The Walks and Thorpeness Common.

The winter snows finally arrived in February this year creating a wonderful winters scene across the Aldringham and Thorpeness Commons, enticing folk out to witness the scene and encouraging local kids to take advantage of sledging down the slopes of the marl pit.

Winter Snows on Thorpeness Common - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Leiston View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Sizewell View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
7 miles
Walk difficulty


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
12:00 to 15:30
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Snow on the ground, grey skies, chilly wind on coast and very cold

Walk Notes

The winters snow timed itself very well this year, the heaviest falls happening over night on Saturday giving Sunday morning a complete white scene with roads, gardens, rooftops completely covered. The met office had said that between 5-10cm had fallen. Having the snow fall at the weekend not only means the roads are less busy but also the free time presents ample opportunity to go out, explore and play! Despite the skies being a murky grey and the temperature well below zero we put on many layers of clothing and ventured out to take in the sights.

Once out of town we soon encountered drifts which occasionally made the going tough. Although these were only a few feet deep at the most, even this depth hampers ones passage when it is soft and untouched. But that is the fun of it. The common was very much a winters picture postcard, the only thing that would have made it perfect would have been a blue sky to brighten up the white landscape, but we cant have everything!

The path from Grimseys Lane leads across to Thorpeness golf course, then continues onto the old railway track and across an area on Aldringham Common known as The Walks. To get onto the golf course, the path diagonally crosses a field which for the past few years has had pigs in it with an electric fence alongside the footpath. This winter the pigs were shifted to other fields and this land has now been ploughed up with the footpath being reinstated as legally required, the farmer levelling a passage through the sandy soil. Even with the snow the path could clearly be identified as it lay flat amid the lumps and bumps of that covering the ploughed section. However the path that has been reinstated runs along the incorrect route and leads to the far corner of the field some 100 yards away from the gap in the fence to the golf course. Knowing it to be incorrect, we nonetheless ventured along its path, the virgin snow too enticing to not walk this. As expected there was no gap in the fence and we had to mount the chicken wire bounding the field and then fell into a deep snow drift. It was fun! Whether this path gets adjusted to its correct location, only time will tell.

As is the norm these days, as soon as the snows come or there is a sustained period of cold the media start putting out lists of closed schools and commenting on the grit levels and whether they will last the duration of the winter. In counteraction to this, in the general chatter of the common people you hear the usual quotes along the lines of 'it never used to be like this in the old days' or 'other countries can cope, why can't we'. As the country quickly grinds to a halt we have to remember that up until very recent times people were a lot more localised and thus less affected by such weather. Children walked to schools that were in the locality. Folk were employed locally. Things have changed over the years and these days children are driven to school and employment is often many miles from home. As an example of this, I was able to walk to my first ever full time job before I went to university. I then spent many years working in the next town, 6-7 miles which I would regularly cycle. Then things started get further and further away with each change of employment up to 25 miles when the company I worked for was taken over. After a few happy years working from home I was eventually forced to find alternative employment and that was 40 miles away. The reason for the huge increase in commuting distance is not so much trying to attain better employment prospects but more due to the ever more specialised skill-set we tend to get channeled into. Finding work within ones skill-set often incurs either having to move home or commute. So, therefore I would whole-heartedly agree with 'it never used to be like this in the old days'.

Thorpeness viewed from the Common
Thorpeness viewed from the Common


A simple walk following the marked out routes across the heaths and commons between Leiston and Thorpeness. A lot of this land is open access which allows the walker to find a myriad of alternative routes

Head out of Leiston on the Aldeburgh Road. Almost opposite Goldings Lane there is a little road on the left. This leads onto a footpath alongside the field boundaries. Keep to this until it bears to the left and joins another footpath at an angle. Almost double back on yourself and walk through to the field adjacent to a copse of trees with a track down the side of this. Cross the field diagonally and keep in a straight line through the golf course beyond until the path meets several other paths at the point of the old railway track. Go through the metal gate and onto the common following the yellow topped marker posts. This emerges through another metal gate onto a sandy track. Cross the track and follow the footpath through he trees until it joins another path. Turn right along this, which is now the re-routed Suffolk Coast Path (due to coastal erosion). Take the path on the left as the path emerges from a tunnel of trees, then follow this round ignoring the private track that leads straight ahead. Look for the style on the right that leads onto Thorpeness Common. Take this and follow the path through the trees and out onto the cliff top heath, taking a left diagonal to the edge of the heath where there is a path down the cliff.

Either take the beach or the cliff path through to Sizewell. At Sizewell follow the road, past the Vulcan Arms inland. At the first junction on the left follow the road up to a cottage on the right with a track down the side. Take this track and at the end where the track branches off into two more tracks take the footpath on the right through to the rear of Halfway Cottages. Bear around to the left and then turn right to take the path between two fields, continuing straight ahead at the end onto the track that leads onto Red House Lane into Leiston.

Snowy coast path
Snowy coast path


The Vulcan Arms, Sizewell: View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
The Vulcan Arms, Sizewell:

Another curious named pub with an award wining sign to match. The history of this establishment goes back many years. It was recorded as being an alehouse in the census of 1540 but then changed to a blacksmith under Cromwell's reforms. Eventually it returned to being a pub in the early 1700's when it took the name of The Vulcan Inn, Vulcan being the Greek god of fire and smithery. It also has a history of smuggling, Sizewell Gap being the haunt of many smuggling operations, including the infamous Hadleigh Gang during the 1700's. Local folklore suggests that there was a tunnel linking the Vulcan cellar to the beach. Unfortunately the original cellar was filled in during WWII.

The pub offers a caravan site, food each lunctime and evening with Saturday evening carveries and Sunday Roast dinners. Ales on offer are Greene King IPA and Abbott and Woodfordes Bure Gold.


The pub was fairly empty with the roads being so snowbound and the pub being out-of-town. Despite this a warming pint of Abbott was well appreciated and some splendid banter from the landlord.

My favourite seat
My favourite seat


The Coldest Suffolk WintersView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The week long cold spell at the start of February 2012 is far from the the worse experienced even though temperatures went down to minus double figures.

The winter of 1739-40 was a bitter one with gales blowing in from the heart of Russia and lowering temperatures in eastern England down to -9C. It is reputed that the frost was so hard that it split trees in two and many a sailor on the east coast lost fingers due to frostbite. The cold spell lasted from December through to March and the poor folk of Suffolk suffered from such ailments as scurvy because their crops failed in the torrid conditions.

During 1830 such a severe frost occurred at Christmas that it is said streams and mill ponds froze solid in 48 hours.

1850 saw temperatures plunge to -15C together with a heavy fall of snow on Christmas night

On 18th January 1881 hurricane force winds initiated what became known as The Great Blizzard which resulted in 10 foot drifts of snow, loss of life and rail and roads blocked. A temperature of -21.7C was recorded at Bury St Edmunds.

During November 1890, 16 inches of snow fell on Ipswich and the intense cold lasted throughout December.

The winter of 1890-91 saw a frost that lasted most of December and January with the River Yare freezing up between Norwich and Yarmouth. After experiencing temperatures above 20C in May within four days they had dropped to -3C and snow.

In 1895 the River Deben froze allowing skating across it.

1907-08: Norfolk and Suffolk recorded 12 inches of snow on 23rd April,

1947 was particularly cold when it was said you could drive a car on Oulton Broad as snowstorms occurred throughout January and February together with a period of sustained cold where the temperature in East Anglia never rose above -5C. In East Suffolk 300 Prisoners of War assisted the authorities in clearing the snow. By mid February electricity supplies were ordered to be cut. The river Waveney froze over so that it was possible to skate from Beccles to Lowestoft. March brought a thaw which resulted in much flooding.

The winter of 1962-3 became the coldest since 1740 with heavy snowfalls creating 12 foot drifts in coastal Suffolk. This came to be known as The Big Freeze with a sustained period of cold lasting from late December through to early March with storms and blizzards. Homes across the UK suffered power cuts caused by power lines being brought down by ice on the cables and fallen trees.

The only year in recent history that is worth mentioning is that of 1978/1979 when a great blizzard hit the south on New Year's Eve. January's temperature averaged -0.4C, as continuous frosts and snowfalls continued.

Branches weighed down with snowThe gorse still in flower no matter what the weather, season or temperature
On the left Branches weighed down with snow; On the right The gorse still in flower no matter what the weather, season or temperature


Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2019-01-01


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