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Saturday, 15 June 2013

Southwold to Covehithe Circular Walk

Beach at Easton Bavents

An 11 mile walk along the Suffolk Coast Path between Southwold and Covehithe

A walk along the beach route of the Suffolk Coast Path to the tiny hamlet of Covehithe with its impressive ruins of St Andrews church. Return is along the inland route of the Coast Path. This walk is dependant upon tides and consultation of tide times is vital in order to negotiate the beach route.

Southwold to Covehithe Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
SouthwoldView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
CovehitheView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
10 miles
Walk difficulty
Beach walk, quiet lanes, footpaths, road walk through Reydon
The beach route is cut off at high tide. A few kissing gates. Busy road at South Cove between the junctions for Covehithe and Frostenden

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
10:30 to 15:00
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Bright sunny winters day

Walk Notes

This was a last minute planned winters walk. It must be emphasized that one should consult the tide times as the tide does cut off access in front of the cliffs at Easton Bavents. In this instance a quick reference to the tide tables showed that we had ample time to get up to Covehithe before high tide but even with this information it is worth taking a visual inspection of the beach to be certain that there is plenty of beach to walk along before attempting the route.

This was the second time we had undertaken this circular walk and since the first time the route of the Suffolk Coast Path had changed. The original route navigated around the edge of the marshes at Easton Broad and the previous attempt had highlighted the reasons why this route was altered as the boardwalks had sunk deep into the waters of the marsh. Faced with such an obstacle, the only alternative was a walk along the busy B1172 to the next track to the Covehithe road. The new route is a little longer and navigates around the hamlet of Frostenden but is a worthwhile excursion.

AS mentioned, this was the second attempt at this walk, though the beach walk has been undertaken on many occasions. Each time I have strolled along this section, Easton Broad always brings a sense of wonderment with it being so close to the sea and the remains of trees from Easton Wood that have succumbed to the erosion, littering the beach. This is an ever changing scene and always worth taking some time out to gaze across this landscape. On this occasion a new sluice had been built. This had resulted in a gully in the beach where the waters would wash out to sea. At first glance, viewing from some distance away, the thought did go through my mind that the gully was just another breach of the broad which would force us to return back to Southwold. This was not the case and the beach had been built up to walk over the sluice pipe.

Covehithe is the real reason for doing this walk. The ruined church is impressive and no photo will do it justice. It is worth spending some time exploring this ruin as well as investigating the newer church that resides inside the crumbling walls and has adopted the original tower. The new church is a small thatched building and inside the immediate striking thing is the stains and mould that cover the abutted tower. There is a typed notice on the wall which states that in 2012 it was discovered that the walls to the tower are double skinned with the intervening space filled with rubble. This space has become saturated with water which has resulted in damp exuding through the walls both inside the church and on the exterior. The damp can be felt to the touch of the wall and can be seen by the stains and mould. There have been discussions with the Churches Conservation Trust which seeks to conduct more investigation in order to provide a lasting solution. Obviously this all needs funding and a box is provided for donations.

A little known aspect of Covehithe is the location of a nuclear bunker. Quite where this is exactly located I do not know but there are a couple of references to it, notably in the Touching the Tide publication (pp 16) plus the publication from the Blyth Estuary Group entitled Critique of DEFRA’S Coastal Policy and the Environment Agency’s Blyth Estuary Strategy which states there being '1 historic nuclear hardened GPO cable bunker' (pp 16).

On the return route, the lane from Covehithe heads to South Cove. This name is a little misleading. I know there are many people who drive up and down the A12 trunk road and see the signs for South Cove and have images of a small fishing village nestled by the sea. I hate to destroy these illusions but South Cove is landlocked hamlet some distance from the coast and it can hardly be represented as a seaside fishing village. The name cove is derived from the old English word 'cofa' which means a small chamber or a place of shelter. This is the source of the names Covehithe, south Cove and North Cove but I have found no explanation as to why South Cove would have been a place of shelter. Thinking aloud, it may have just taken the name from Covehithe which at one time was a prosperous fishing town before succumbing to the sea. Maybe South Cove was purely a southern district to Covehithe but this is purely conjecture.

This walk lacks any pubs or refreshment opportunities therefore drinks and food should be taken to consume on route. The pub identified here, the Kings Head at Southwold, is at the end of the route and is a worthy reward for the completion of this distance. There are other pubs in Southwold for more varied choice. Being Southwold all these are Adnams houses, but you cant beat a pint that is but a stones throw away from the brewery no matter where you are in Southwold.

Smear Marshes
Smear Marshes


The route uses the beach route and inland route to the Suffolk Coast Path. The beach route is self evident and the inland route is waymarked although these are somewhat lacking. Make certain the latest Explorer OS map is used for navigation as the route was changed in 2012 and older renditions will depict the inaccessible route around Easton Broad marshes.

Proceed along the seafront of Southwold beyond the pier and the beach huts. At the far end there is access to the beach. Continue northwards, there is some sand and the going is not too difficult. Beyond the cliffs the land flattens in front of Easton broad. There are more cliffs before Covehithe Broad is reached. Take the footpath on the north side of the broad which leads up to the road. Turn right and proceed down the road to visit the church and ruins.

Return back up the road taken the left fork as it heads out of Covehithe. Keep to this road through to the junction with the B1127. Turn left. This is a busy road but there is a broad grass verge on the right hand side which can be walked along. Take the first junction on the right, opposite the church, and follow this lane, keeping to it as it bends around to the left where another lane junctions with it. AS the lane enters more woodland on the left keep a lookout for a footpath sign. Take this through the woods and follow it as it veers around to the right and out onto meadowland. The path is well trodden across the meadow and leads out onto a tarmac-ed lane. Turn left and follow this onto a track and keep to this when it bends sharply round to the left ignoring other routes. The track turns to a small footpath which, after some distance, nearly doubles back on itself, Continue until there is a footpath on the left just before the overhead power lines are reach. Take this path through to the road. Turn left. Keep to this little used lane, ignoring other lanes until it emerges into Reydon. Continue straight ahead through Reydon and ahead again when the road meets with a forked junction. Continue down to the junction with the Southwold road. Turn left and follow the road over the Buss Creek bridge and up into Southwold.

Covehithe Church
Covehithe Church


Kings Head, Southwold View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
High Street, Southwold

It is thought that the building now known as The Kings Head dates from the early 19th/late 18th century when it was a cottage fronting the High Street. The present rear brick building is a later addition.

In 1836 Revd Edward Jermyn was granted an alehouse licence for the premises, of which there was only eight allowed in the town at any one time. The Revd Jermyn appointed John Crowford as the manager and two years later the pub was handed over to William Crisp of the Sole Bay Brewery.

The pub, along with all the estate of the Sole Bay Brewery was actioned in 1872 when William Crisp died. This, along with the brewery was purchased by the Adnams brothers. After passing into other hands and becoming a free house, the pub reverted back to Adnams in 1921 which it has retained to this present day.

A complete history of this pub can be found at Southwold and Son website.

The pub hosts an open plan bar with paintings hanging on the walls. Food is available and a selection of Adnams ales are on offer.


Luckily the pub remained open past 3pm and a worthy pint of Adnams Ghost Ship was the reward for the effort of this walk

Easton Broad
Easton Broad


St Andrews Church, CovehitheView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A settlement at Covehithe can be dated back to Roman times and the Domesday Book records the place as Nordhalla when it was a medium sized settlement. The middle ages brought prosperity as the town grew resulting in Edward I granting a fair on the feast day of St Andrew. With such a sixeable population and prosperity it becomes a bit more understandable why such a large church was built that still lays in ruins on the edge of this dwindling community.

The church has its origins the 14th century with significant additions in the 15th century. The western tower still survives intact. With increasing coastal erosion devouring the community, by the 17th century there was little left to support the expensive edifice. In 1672 permission was granted to pull down the church and erect a smaller one more fitting with the local population. This demolition involved removing the roof and using much of the stone to build the new church, which used the original tower, and was given a thatched roof.

Easton Bavents and Easton BroadView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The beach route up to Covehithe highlights the constant erosion of this coastline with one house now teetering on the edge of the cliff at Easton Bavents. This was once the most easterly ecclesiastical parish in England. A mile of land has been taken since the 17th century and the village of Easton Bavents now lies out to sea. The village church, dedicated to St Nicolas succumbed to the sea in the latter half of the 17th century and its replacement, St Margaret, has also suffered the same fate.

Just north of the cliffs is Easton Broad which forms part of the Benacre National Nature Reserve along with Covehithe Broad and Benacre Broad. Reedbeds, woodlands and heathland form this reserve with saline lagoons where species such as the lagoon shrimp and starlet sea-anemone survive. The broad can be viewed from the beach where it is separated from the sea by a low shingle and sand bank that is regularly breached and can, at times during winter storms, prevent access along the beach. To the north of the broad is woodland which is slowly being taken by the sea resulting in interesting display of decaying trees as they fall to the incessant erosion of the tides. On the southern edge of the broad is a newly erected sluice.

Covehithe Broad and Church
Covehithe Broad and Church

Links and Bibliography:


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

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery


Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2016-01-16


  1. Fabulous write-up, insights and info. Thank you!

  2. Fabulous write up, insights and information. Look forward to following in your footsteps..... :)


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