hiking

Beach walking

As a child, I grew up next to the coast and have always found myself drawn to its power, beauty and unforgiving nature.  Every day on the coast is different, not one pebble as it was the day before.  The tides give and take away. One can find solitude, peace, inspiration and much more, all for free.

I’d like to draw your attention to the benefits of fresh air and a stroll/walk/hike or similar, on mental health.  Even 30 minutes by the sea can be enough to help balance the mood, increase the production of ‘feel good hormones’ and to bring about a sense of calm.  I know this from my own experience and even though it’s sometimes difficult to make the move to get out of the door, everything seems so much more bearable once I’m on the beach.

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Balancing pebbles on top of one another is quite the most wonderful way to find stillness in the moment.  It’s something that everyone and anyone can do and it certainly helps to bring your focus on to nothing but that moment.  Don’t underestimate the calming effects of what might appear to be quite a mundane activity/task.  If you look here you will see a multitude of pebbles and stones in some fascinating and precarious poses.  At the end of the day, it can be great fun and you’ll never be short of a pebble or three at the beach.  It truly is an art form.  Happy pebble wotnotting.

Ever since I walked The Suffolk Coast Path back in October, I have been drawn to one place in particular and have returned on numerous occasions, tide and time dependent.  The stretch of coast between Minsmere and Aldeburgh is my new favourite place to walk.  It’s usually a case of marching up towards Aldeburgh, plonking myself down on the shingle for a spot of nut butter and yoga before then hopping back to Minsmere for a hot drink and a spot of bird watching.  Of course, these can all be combined for a most glorious day out with friends, family or simply going it alone to reflect and blow away the cobwebs.

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Even on the cloudiest of days, there is fun to be had.  Break up your walk with some balancing or yoga or pretend to be on the top of a mountain without a care in the world.  Reach up to the sky, smile the smile of all smiles and don’t be worried about what other people might think because they’re probably wanting to do exactly the same thing.

If you can find a like-minded soul to go with you, all the better.  I smile…a lot.  Even when I’m on my own.  Does it lift the mood or make me feel good?  Oh absolutely yes and even more so than eating cake (not that I can eat cake any more but if I could.)  My beautiful friend, Sarah…provider of giggles, love and fun.

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If you are lucky enough, you might just get to see one of these;

It didn’t say that I couldn’t climb up into the trees. A small diversion through Minsmere with a spot of frolicking in the trees.

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In summary, there is a always something to do along the coast, any time of the year, for everyone and anyone.  You might be amazed by what you find or see.  Make new memories, for free.

 

hiking

The Suffolk Coast Path

The Suffolk Coast Path is approximately 50 miles in length, depending on the exact route taken.  You can find comprehensive details, directions, GPS routes, maps and more: here here and here.  You might choose to incorporate parts of this walk on circular routes or tackle it in small sections if the thought of walking long distances on consecutive days is not for you.  You might be surprised by the beauty and history that form a part of our most beautiful coastline.

You might find this book useful.  Not that I am suggesting you purchase it from this website.  I picked it up at my local Waterstones shop in Bury St Edmunds.  It was reassuring to have it in my backpack and it certainly helped with the logistics of my walk.

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I’m not entirely sure if I should thank or blame Simon Armitage for the fact that I’m sitting up in my bed, booking a train ticket to Lowestoft for the following morning.  I have never met Simon but I have read two of his books; Walking Home  and Walking Away both of which, I can highly recommend because they are somewhat infectious.  I also have to thank Griff  for his incredibly inspiring and comprehensive guides, without whom, I may well have been caught out by the tides or lack of a foot ferry.  You will find lots of very useful links on his website and I urge you to read through these if you are planning any of the walks that he has undertaken.

I had been contemplating walking the Suffolk Coast Path for several weeks as I was trudging along The Essex Way and The Stour and Orwell Walk.  I knew that I had a small window in which to complete the walk due to the foot ferry that operates between Bawdsey and Felixstowe and also Southwold to Walberswick.  It is important to note at the time of writing that the footbridge between Southwold to Walberswick is currently closed due to erosion of the supporting structure.

It might be appropriate to bring up the most important issues pertaining to the logistics of this walk before you head off to the beach with your sandwiches and sense of humour firmly secured in your backpack. Most importantly, check the Tides and then check them again.  Although much of the walk can be done along sections of the beach, there are pinch points that will not be favourable to anything other than sea-faring creatures at high tide.  There are inland diversions (all of which are listed on Griff’s website) so do take a look. There are many sections along the coast where mobile phone services are non-existent.

I walked this route over the course of 3 days.  A combination of coast, estuary, heaths and meanderings through pig farms and forests; all of which provided me with the opportunity to reflect, meditate and find peace.  It also afforded me the opportunity to test out my new rucksack and to make a wonderful new friend on the train between Norwich and Lowestoft.

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Lowestoft

As with any linear walk, there is the logistical issue of planning appropriate transport to the start and finish of each section.  You may well decide to camp wild at the end of each day or find appropriate accommodation.

Paddling at Dunwich
Soothing the aching feet at the end of day 1

How I broke down the route:

Day 1: Lowestoft to Dunwich 16.7 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 23 minutes.

Day 2; Dunwich to Chillesford 20.4 miles with a moving time of 5 hours 24 minutes.

Day 3: Chillesford to Landguard Fort 18.7 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 51 minutes.

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This pinch point on the beach before Aldeburgh is where you are likely to experience problems at high tide.  Remember to plan according to the tides and follow the diversion if you need to walk inland.IMG_7523

If you’ve never been to Boyton Marshes, I might suggest that you add it to your list of places to visit.  It was here that I found solitude and sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of life.  You can walk at your own pace, find peace and tranquility or watch the wildlife wading, hopping and swooping before your eyes.  It was here that I stopped to nibble on nut butter and wave to a man who was riding upon what looked like a sit on lawnmower but I realised that my greasy fingers had smudged my glasses and he was in fact, on a jet ski.

If you would like to know more about the archaeology of this area then there is much to read/research and learn.

One is never too old for frolics.

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I have visited Shingle Street many times over the years and it never fails to delight me.  Neither does it fail to make my lower legs surrender to the mercy of marching through what feels like treacle on an empty stomach and with marshmallows for legs.  I’m intrigued as to the very long stretch of shells from the cottages towards the sea.  I imagine this was both fun and beautifully therapeutic.

As an aside…this entire walk was free from the horrors that come from standing in dog shit…until I witnessed a dog dumping it’s load on the path leading to the beach.  The owner appeared to be neither concerned or in a hurry to pick it up or stick it and flick it into a place far away from boots, children and my sanity.  Not once did I come across even the slightest whiff of filth or debris on this stretch of coast…thanks to considerate owners.

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Without a doubt, Landguard Fort was the busiest section of the walk but, given that this was the end of The Suffolk Coast Path, I was not phased by the numbers of people flocking here.  I’ve walked along the estuary from across the water and am always amazed by what looks like giant lego bricks being hauled onto waiting ships.

Although this walk took place in October I was blessed with simply gorgeous weather.  Despite feeling somewhat tired at the end of each day, I was up and back at it the following morning to continue my journey.  Who knows where I might go next.