Springtime sojourn to the Suffolk coast

Last week we headed off to to the seaside for a few days and our chosen detination was Dunwich, a tiny village on the Suffolk coast which in medieval times was the capital of the region and a thriving, wealthy port for moving cargo and people between East Anglia and the European mainland. It’s an amazing place with very interesting history which I wrote about in a post last year.

We stayed in my favourite inn called The Ship which has panoramic views over the Dingle Marshes which stretch several miles north to Walberswick, which is renowned for it’s annual crabbing champi0nship. It is also where the king of art nouveau, Charles Rennie Mackintosh moved to after he had abandoned architecture to become a watercolourist and where the series of flowers known as the ‘Walberswick collection’ was painted.

The marshes along this part of the coast are full of wildlife, including rare birds such as harriers and bittern, mammals such as otters as well as a host of marsh and heathland plants and the associated fauna. It’s a wonderful place. The view from our window at The Ship was generally dominated by low grey cloud which occasionally saw fit to rain on us, but even so the wildlife was much in evidence without even leaving the inn:

The tree opposite our window played host to numerous small birds including this house sparrow (Passer domesticus, Dansk: gråspurv) and blue tit (Cyanistes caerulius, Dansk: blåmejse)
And a couple of hundred metres beyond the tree were some pools of rainwater where lapwing and these teal were on parade each morningAnd beyond that was a ditch where a little egret (Egretta garzetta, Dansk: silkehejre) was hunting every day

So, as you can imagine, it wasn’t so easy to haul myself away from my nice centrally heated room and my cup of tea and go out into the wintry mornings, when I could sit by the window and see all this! But I eventually extricated myself and walked a circuit of the village taking in the local church and graveyard, the remains of the Franciscan Friary and the woods inbetween, and was very adequately rewarded. The local church has the remains of a medieval leper hospital in its grounds which is a fascinating place historically, but is now inhabited solely by sheep and snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis). There were no sheep while we were in there but the snowdrops were growing out between the melting snow.

Snowdrops infront of the be-lichened walls of the ancient leper hospital in the grounds of St James church

A lapwing pair pausing in the Friary between displays of breathtaking aerobatic excellence

The Friary is long deserted by the Franciscan brethren and is now a ruin, but it still plays host to the local wildlife. As well as the lapwing (Vanellus vanellus, Dansk: vibe) , there was a songthrush (Turdus philomelos, Dansk: sangdrossel) foraging amongst the  grassy tufts and robins (Erithacus rubecula, Dansk: rødhals) singing from the trees beyond.

A deciduous tree adjacent to the Friary was completely covered in lichen

I don’t know which species the lichens are on the tree trunk but I think there are at least four. The flat resupinates can be seen on old wood and even brick walls in towns and villages, but the feathery species are much more susceptible to atmospheric pollution and therefore only exist where the air is clean.

Beyond Dunwich to the south is the gorse covered heathland of Dunwich Heath which is owned and managed by the National Trust, and beyond that is the RSPB reserve at Minsmere where I watched a marsh harrier quartering the reedbeds and where another walker told me he had seen smew and a bittern in one of the lakes on the reserve. I went to look there but I didn’t see either, but I did see other birds, and some splendid lichens. Of which more in a later post.

12 responses to “Springtime sojourn to the Suffolk coast

  1. I will certainly bear it in mind if I’m ever down that way. The trouble with these wonderful islands of ours is that there is just too much choice and not enough time to see everything. The English are very good at tearooms, naturally enough, so I would have high hopes of finding some nice ones especially, as you ay, in the Sandringham area.

    • You’re absolutely right about our islands, they’re magnificent. I spent all my childhood holidays in Denmark and only started to explore the UK about 20 years ago – which I’ve been doing avidly ever since… and I’ve still only scratched the surface. The landscapes, seascapes, flora and fauna as well as the human diversity is a thing to be marvelled at.

      • Are you Danish? I can understand why people want to go abroad for their summer holidays, to get guaranteed warmth and sunshine, but the older I get the more I want to spend time exploring the UK because it has so many interesting places and, as you say, such incredible diversity.

      • I’m half Danish, hence the holidaying. And I still love going there, but it doesn’t have the variety we have here.

      • I’ve been to Denmark a couple of times and what struck me about it was how flat it is. I don’t know quite what I was expecting but perhaps not that. I did see some wonderful brick-built buildings though, and I would love to explore Copenhagen some time.

      • Certainly is, I think it’s highest point is around 400 feet. It’s an extension of the same piece of flat continent that East Anglia, Holland and Schleswig Holstein are made from. Copenhagen’s a great town, if you get a chance have a mooch around and make sure you sit and have a beer or two outside a bar in Nyhavn. I love it over there.

      • Thank you for the tip, if I get to Copenhagen I will endeavour to consume beer in Nyhavn!

  2. That looks like a beautiful spot, and I love to see lapwings. I’m looking forward to your post on lichens.

    • It’s one of my favourite places and it’s only a couple of hours from Cambridge, so fotunately I get there at least a couple of times a year. If you’re ever in East Anglia it’s well worth exploring (not sure about the tea rooms in East Anglia though – but maybe there’s one near Her Maj’s other country retreat at Sandringham).

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