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

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Suffolk Coast Path - Lowestoft to Southwold Beach Route

An exhilerating 12 mile coastal walk along the Suffolk Coast. The Suffolk Coast Heritage Footpath runs between Lowestoft and Southwold but due to coastal erosion has been diverted inland which results in some road walking, including along the main A12 between Pakefield and Kessingland, and parts that appear to be permanently under flood by Easton Broad. An alternative route is to follow the coast as it is possible to walk the entire distance along the beach providing the tide is not high. On such occassions, although there is no legitimate access, it is possible to clamber along some of the clifftop. This section is worth making the effort to walk, just to view the trees that are slowly being taken by the sea at Benacre and Covehithe broads where the distance between the broad and the sea is a mere sandy section of beach. Remember to check the tide tables before walking this section!
Date of Walk: 2010-03-06 with Kat and 2008-07-16 alone
Start point: Lowestoft 52.474086 1.750056
End Point: Southwold 52.322395 1.678846
Start Time: 10:00
End time: 13:30
Distance: 12 miles
Walkers: Griffmonster, Kat
Weather conditions: The first time I walked this it was a warm summers day, the second time was a cold and blustery spring day
Path taken: From Lowestoft walk along the promenade southwards following the Suffolk Coastal footpath waymarkers. At Pakefield you need to go down onto the beach. Keep walking along the beach - providing it is not high tide - the entire length should be accessible.
Walk difficulty: Easy - theres plenty of firm sand to walk along - some occassional shingle.
  • The Sailors Home, Kessingland: 52.411948 1.727184 Seafront pub with a resident parrot. A couple of guest ales on and some very satisfying home made soup.
  • The Red Lion, Southwold: 52.325074 1.679693 large town centre pub, Adnams of course. Food available
Kessingland - I remember when all this was sea! This just goes to show that not all of the east coast is eroding. The same also appears to have happened up at Winterton in Norfolk
Walk Features:
  • Coastal Erosion: 52.384039 1.71692 The main feature of this walk is the coastal erosion and the curious sight of trees succombing to the sea at Benacre Broad. It wont be long before the broad is engulfed also. At Easton Bavents there is more erosion with one house sitting right on the edge. This is the home of retired engineer Peter Boggis who, over the years has fought to defend his property from the sea. In December 2008 a judge ruled that a decision by Natural England to allow the cliffs near his home to continue to erode for scientific reasons was unlawful. But this ruling was overturned in the High Court in October 2009. Whatever the outcomes of future court cases I think this is probably a losing battle as eventually the sea will have its way. Although the majority of this coastal section has the devastating effects of erosion, it is not always the case - at Kessingland the promenade sits hundreds of yards away from the sea and groynes are buried beneath tons of shingle. I remember coming here as a kid for holidays in the 70's and the sea was within spitting distance. I was quite taken aback when I first walked this to find such a vast area of new land.
  • Southwold: 52.322395 1.678846 Southwold is a charming seaside town which is almost an island, being bounded by the North Sea to the East, by the River Blyth and Southwold harbour to the South-West and by Buss Creek to the North. On the green just above the beach, descriptively named Gun Hill, there are six eighteen-pounder cannons to commemorate the Battle of Sole Bay, fought in 1672 between English and French fleets on one side and the Dutch (under Michiel de Ruyter) on the other. The battle was bloody but indecisive and many bodies were washed ashore. Southwold Museum has a collection of mementos of the event. It has occasionally been held that the cannons were actually captured from the Scots at Culloden and given to the town by the Duke of Cumberland but they are much larger than those used in that campaign.
  • Southwold Lighthouse: 52.327215 1.681383 Southwold lighthouse was constructed in 1887 by Trinity House. It stands as a landmark in the centre of the town. It replaced three local lighthouses that were under serious threat from coastal erosion. It began operation in 1890 and was electrified and de-manned in 1938. The lighthouse is unusual in that the light itself is switched on and off in sequence (four flashes every 20 seconds), rather than using lenses to create a rotating beam.
  • Southwold Pier: 52.330506 1.686007 Southwold Pier was built in 1900, and, at 810 feet was long enough to accommodate the Belle steamers which carried trippers along the coast. In World War 2, it was weakened by having two breaches blown in it; one by the Royal Engineers, to hinder a possible German invasion and the other by a loose sea-mine. Although the gaps were repaired in 1948, a gale in 1955 destroyed a large part of it; and further damage, caused by weather, occurred over the following decades. By 1987, the pier had been reduced in length to approximately 90 feet and what remained was generally in a poor condition. It was entirely rebuilt and restored in 2001 under the auspices of the then-owner, Chris Iredale, and is now approximately 623 feet in length. Whilst many English seaside piers are in decline, Southwold Pier is enjoying renewed popularity. It includes a collection of modern coin-operated novelty machines made by Tim Hunkin. Once again, pleasure steamers such as the paddle steamer PS Waverley and the MV Balmoral berth at the Pier to embark and disembark trippers. A trip to Southwold Pier would not be complete without a visit to Tim Hunkin's fascinating and entertaining hand-built amusement arcade. Included in this building half way down the pier are such wacky contraptions as the 'Mobility Masterclass', where you can test your ability on a zimmer frame, the 'walk the dog through Southwold' where you get to experience the dog’s view and the 'Fly Drive', how much can you eat before the fly-swot gets you. To complete this collection of wierd artefacts is the famous Water Clock which marks the half hour with a cheeky sense of humour. Have a look at Mr Hunkins website to whet your appetite.
A lone tree left standing on the beach at Benacre broad. On the right, Southwolds most famous landmark, its lighthouse.
Notes: A thoroughly enjoyable walk but dont get caught out by the tide! The second time I walked this with Kat we had checked the tide tables and started soon after high tide. Even so, by the time be got down to Benacre Broad the sea was still encroaching upon the cliffs and we had to clamber across a couple of fences to get to the top of the cliffs. Even here there was another barbed wire fence that went virtually to the cliff edge which was a little hairy getting around. Once we got to Covehithe the sea had receded enough to continue the journey to Southwold along the beach.
Cannons looking out to sea at Gun Hill, Southwold
Adjoining Walks:
Related Walks:
  • Suffolk Heritage Coastal Footpath
  • Suffolk Heritage Coastal Footpath - Lowestoft to Covehithe
  • Suffolk Heritage Coastal Footpath - Covehithe to Southwold
Just a glimpse of the obstacles encountered if you have to resort to walking along the clifftop. Amazingly the fields were ploughed virtually to the edge of these cliffs - there must be some brave tractor drivers in these parts
Equipment: Day pack
OS Map:
  • OS Explorer Map OL40 The Broads
  • OS Explorer Map 231 Southwold & Bungay
Accommodation: None
Transport: Car to Southwold - park for free on the edge of the common. Anglian Bus service 601 Southwold to Lowestoft
The tide is on its way out but it still left us having to run the gauntlet when a big wave crashed onto the shore
View Siffolk Coast - Lowestoft to Southwold in a larger map Coast Walk, Suffolk, Suffolk Heritage Coastal Walk,

Last Updated: 2015-01-11Z


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