It was the third glorious morning in a row, and I decided to take myself off to Southwold and Walberswick down on the Suffolk coast. I've been to both places a couple of times previously, but being accompanied by someone else never really gave me the scope to explore as I would have liked so I thought it was time to rectify the matter. So with breakfast out of the way, the awning tidied and the dogs walked , I set out southwards. One advantage to having lived with someone who comes from down there is that I'm very familiar with many of the routes to and from various places, so avoiding most of the busy A12 I had a very pleasant drive along the quieter country roads and through some nice little villages. The only bit of the A12 I touched was a stretch of a few hundred yards which took me to the turn off to Walberswick.
The road down to Walberswick runs initially past vast fields containing hundreds of pigs and with little wooden 'piggy houses' dotted about the sandy soil, then past fields of crops bordered by high hedges, and through the village itself, finally ending in a large gravel-surfaced car park near the mouth of the river Blyth. I parked up and paid my car park fee, gave the dogs a drink, then headed off in the direction of the dunes and beach, with the dogs running free over the grass-covered shingle. Just off the river is a tidal creek spanned by a couple of wooden bridges - it's a very popular place for kids to go crabbing, and there were several of them on one of the bridges with their buckets of water, crab lines and various forms of foul-smelling bait. It's also the place where I once slipped and fell in the mud, but that's a completely different story!
Although I had been to Walberswick before I had never been to the beach so I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice it is. A wide expanse of firm flat sand was bordered by a shingle strip and backed by dunes and more sand. The sea was on the retreat and at one point the water was lapping the sand in ripples rather than waves - just right for taking Sophie for a swim, and as I was wearing cycling shorts and beach sandals I clipped on her lead and waded in up to my knees. She wasn't too keen at first but when she realised that the waves weren't going to drown her she swam quite happily on the end of the lead for a few minutes. Sugar was in her element, swimming round and doing her impersonation of an otter, she was loving it. After our paddle and swim we walked back along the beach and headed back towards the river, stopping briefly at the van for the dogs to have another drink.
From the riverside at Walberswick there are two ways to get to Southwold - along the riverside path for about half a mile, cross the bridge and walk back down the other side, or go across on the ferry. I opted to get the ferry just for the experience as I had never used it before. Now the word 'ferry', for me at least, conjures up a picture of a reasonably-sized boat which will carry a fair few people, but the Walberswick ferry is nothing like that at all - it's a rowing boat, and carries no more than eleven passengers. It's operated by a local guy and currently costs 80p per trip, with dogs travelling free. There was already a small queue when I got to the jetty and when everyone else had boarded the boat it was full so I had to wait till the next trip, but it only takes a few minutes to go across and back so I didn't have long to wait. Being first in the boat on that trip meant I was last to get out and I managed to have a quick chat with the owner - he said that in good weather and at the height of the season he can do as many as sixty trips in a day - times that by eleven people at 80p each and that's a nice little earner. And all that rowing must be good exercise, he had arm muscles like Popeye on a spinach overload.
Leaving the jetty on the Southwold side of the river I walked along the rough, potholed lane past the boat sheds and the chandlery to a riverside cafe which I've been to before. There were a few tables and benches outside, so tying the dogs to one of these I went inside to order - and I didn't have coffee and cake this time, I had fish (said to have been freshly caught that morning) and chips. It was so pleasant sitting in the sun and watching the riverside activity while I had my meal that I was tempted to linger for a while, but my quest for more photos soon had me on my feet again. The boat sheds were a hive of activity when I passed, and there was a big tractor reversing an even bigger boat on a trailer into one of them - the boat was my favourite colour, red, and looked like something which could have been bought with a decent lottery win. Nearing the end of the lane I passed a field with some very comatose-looking cows lying in the sunshine - across in the distance the houses of Southwold encroached on the marsh and the fields, and the white body of the lighthouse rose up from the middle of the buildings.
After passing a caravan site and a car park I finally reached the beach, turned left - turning right would have resulted in a ten foot drop into the river - and walked along till I came to a row of brightly painted beach huts, which looked nicer at the back than they did at the front, and the lower level of the promenade. By this time the sky had clouded over somewhat to the north and I hoped the weather wasn't going to break down on me but it didn't - the clouds soon cleared and left behind a sky which, if anything, was bluer than before.
Taking one of several paths which traverse the cliff side I reached the upper promenade and headed in the direction of the pier, stopping every so often to take a photo. Now most seaside towns (well the ones I've been to anyway) usually have their piers roughly in the centre of the beach, but Southwold has to be different, and its pier is right at the northern end, so it was a fair distance to walk. About half way along the cliff top path is St. James Green, a popular spot for taking photos of the lighthouse. It's just about impossible to take a photo of just the lighthouse as it is literally surrounded by houses - I did try, but a gable end wall and a roof got in the way. And I couldn't resist taking a photo of the corner bungalow, I thought it was really cute.
After stopping several times to look at the view and take photos I finally reached my destination, the end of the promenade and Southwold pier. There's nothing much beyond the pier other than a boating lake and model yacht pond, so after taking a short breather I set off back the way I'd come.
When I got back to the river I decided that instead of going back across on the ferry I would walk all the way round and get some shots along the riverside. Further up the river a few boats were lying, partially tilted, on the mud, but most of them were afloat, tied up to the wooden jettys which spanned the deep gloopy mass. Some of the jettys had fallen into disrepair, with gates hanging off their hinges, handrails broken and missing, and holes in the boardwalk - I could just imagine one of the boat owners coming back from the pub on a dark night, missing his footing and falling off into the mud, getting stuck there while the river rises. I don't know if it's ever happened and I hope it never does.
The sun was still quite hot when I got back to the van so I treated myself to an ice cream from the nearby kiosk and gave the dogs a much needed drink before setting off for 'home'. On the way through the village I stopped to take some photos of the church - it's a lovely old Norman church built in the ruins of an even older church. There are quite a few churches like that in Norfolk and Suffolk and I love to look round them if I can.
Those were my last photos of the day, so with the dogs settled in the back of the van and a cd playing happy songs I drove back to California. After having a brew and a bite to eat I downloaded the photos onto my laptop and discarded the few I didn't want to keep. The dogs must have been tired from their day as they stayed on their beds all evening - it was much later when I took them for a final brief walk, then with a last brew I retired to my cosy bed to reflect on the lovely day I'd had and make a few plans for the following morning.
- Hi! I'm Eunice and I live in Bolton, Lancashire, with my two dogs Sophie and Sugar and an assortment of cats - well it used to be Sophie and Sugar, now it's Sophie and Poppie. I first began camping back in 1997 when my then partner took me to Anglesey for my birthday weekend. We slept in the back of the car - a hatchback - using the cushions off the settee at home as a mattress, and cooked and brewed up on a single burner camping stove. The site was good, the views were great, the weather fantastic and I was completely hooked. Following that weekend we got a two-man tent and some proper accessories and returned to Anglesey two weeks later, then over time we progressed to a three-man tent followed by an old trailer tent, then a new trailer tent, a campervan and finally a caravan. When my partner decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the street - literally - in April 2009 and I suddenly found myself alone after fifteen years, I decided there was no way I was going to give up camping and caravanning if I could cope on my own. This blog is the story of my travels, trials and tribulations since becoming a solo camper - I hope you like it