The Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a stunning landscape, covering 155 square miles along the Suffolk coast. It is a low-lying coastal area of astonishing variety, a world of subtle but fascinating contrasts – the mix of shingle beaches, crumbling cliffs, marshes, estuaries, heathland, forests and farmland makes the AONB so special, with many historic towns or villages, spared from modern development and each retaining a distinctive character.
THE DEBEN ESTUARY.
The Deben Estuary is a Special Protection Area and Ramsar Site and within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its significance arises from its over-wintering population of avocet. The estuary features shifting sandbanks, and is dominated by the Common Reed. The salt marsh and intertidal mud-flats that occupy most of the area have the widest range of salt marsh flora in Suffolk. Ramsholt is a small village on the estuary, home to the popular Ramsholt Arms, and is a favoured place for sailing. Waldringfield is host to salt marsh, mudflats and riverside grassland making it an excellent habitat for wildlife; visit the Maybush Inn public house for relaxed riverside dining. Woodbridge lies along the River Deben. Woodbridge railway station is on the Ipswich-Lowestoft East Suffolk Line and is located just a few hundred metres from the Woodbridge Tide Mill. Woodbridge Tide Mill is a rare example of a tide mill whose water wheel still turns and is capable of grinding wholemeal flour. Woodbridge is close to the most important Anglo-Saxon site in the United Kingdom, Sutton Hoo (not featured in the video). It is the site of two 6th and early 7th century cemeteries, one containing an undisturbed ship burial, including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance.
CAPTAIN’S WOOD AND SNAPE.
Captain’s Wood is a nature reserve located near Sudbourne. The reserve is owned and managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust and covers 56 hectares. Each year hundreds of people visit the woods to see the spectacular display of Blue Bells. “Perceval” by British artist Sarah Lucas stands proud at Snape, carting large concrete Marrows. Follows is “The Family Man”; an unfinished sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, who passed away before she could complete it. The Romans established a settlement at Snape, centred on salt production. In Anglo-Saxon times the Wuffings (who ruled East Anglia from Rendlesham) used Snape largely as a burial site, and archaeological investigations have revealed boat burials and other graves. Snape is now best known for Snape Maltings, no longer in commercial use, but converted into a tourist centre together with a concert hall that hosts the major part of the annual Aldeburgh Festival. The Maltings, with its fine brick buildings and riverside position, is ideally suited for the famous Aldeburgh Festival, emphasising the area’s links with Benjamin Britten. Sailor’s Path, named after the sailors who used the route, is a 12 mile return walk from the Maltings to Aldeburgh.
MINSMERE AND DUNWICH.
Minsmere is a nature reserve owned by the RSPB. It is well known for its huge variety of bird species. Dunwich Heath is a rare survival of coastal lowland heath; the Suffolk Sandlings used to form a lot of the Suffolk coast, but have mostly been developed for agriculture or built upon. It supports many unusual invertebrates, such as ant lions, digger wasps, mining bees, as well as the True Lover’s Knot moth, and the Emperor moth. In the Anglo-Saxon period, Dunwich was the capital of the Kingdom of the East Angles but the harbour and most of the town have since disappeared due to coastal erosion. At its height it was an international port similar in size to 14th-century London. Its decline began in 1286 when a storm surge hit the East Anglian coast; it was eventually reduced in size to the village it is today. Most of the buildings that were present in the 13th century have disappeared, including all eight churches, and Dunwich is now a small coastal “village”, though retaining its status as a town. The remains of a 13th-century Franciscan priory (Greyfriars) and the leper hospital of St James can still be seen. A popular local legend says that, at certain tides, church bells can still be heard from beneath the waves.
Located on the River Alde, Aldeburgh is notable for its shingle beach and fisherman huts where freshly caught fish are sold daily. The internationally renowned Aldeburgh Festival of arts, which takes place at nearby Snape Maltings, was created in 1948 by the resident and acclaimed composer Benjamin Britten. Aldeburgh attractions include the ancient Moot Hall and the Napoleonic-era Martello tower, which is the northern-most tower in England and the largest Martello tower built. It is constructed in a unique clover leaf quatrefoil design, effectively four towers joined together. “Snooks the Dog”, a replica statue of a local doctor’s faithful friend, can also be seen next to the model yacht pond; the original bronze can be seen in the Aldeburgh Hospital garden. In November 2003, a striking tribute to Britten and his music was unveiled on the beach just north of Aldeburgh. The Scallop – a four-metre high steel sculpture – was conceived by Suffolk-born artist Maggi Hambling, and made by Aldeburgh craftsmen Sam and Dennis Pegg. The phrase “I hear those voices that will not be drowned” (from Peter Grimes) is pierced through the steel, to be read against the sky. The music used in this video is also a tribute to Peter Grimes.