Sunday, 11 September 2011

Plugging Places: the Bawdsey/Ramsholt peninsula, Suffolk, England

I'm going to pick a favourite place or area from time to time and say why I like it. This time - an out-of-the-way corner of coastal Suffolk. The A12 runs like a spine along East Suffolk, from Ipswich towards Norwich and Great Yarmouth, with fairly easy trips off it to Aldeburgh (art), Minsmere (birds) and Lowestoft (traditional seaside stuff) - and the railway follows a similar course -but although the Bawdsey/Ramsholt area is near to Ipswich and even Harwich as the crow flies, we aren't crows and the Deben estuary gets in the way. To arrive from nearly anywhere you need to go round Woodbridge and take quite a long trip seawards.

So the area isn't crowded. The beaches are shingle. But it has the character of an island, quirky, special, running to its own rhythms. The open East coast scenery is beautiful if (and) sometimes bleak. It's a great area for birds (easpecially autumn migrants) and other wildlife such as butterflies, and it has some excellent pubs of which the Sorrel Horse is probably the best, though at the Swan you have good acomodation and Indian meals, and at the Ramsholt Arms an estuary-side location and good beer variety, if not really a proper pub atmosphere weekends. There's history too: Bawdsey was the number one location for the development of radar, without which the history of the Second World War would have been very different. Martello towers from the Napoleaonic Wars and "pillboxes" from the Second World War point out that this has been a possible invasion area since Celtic times.

The villages contain some interesting buildings (Bawdsey especially) but aren't picture postcard pretty. Back towards Woodbridge is more good birding (and UFO-chasing) territory with Hollesley Common and Rendlesham Forest: the latter has signs to a UFO trail, though I doubt if any UFO pilot would understand them, and if (s)he did, might ignore them. Towards Woodbridge also is much older history than 1939, the early Saxon royal burial site and museum at Sutton Hoo (Hoo may well refer to Long-eared Owls, so back to birds again).

It's all worth a day trip, but even more worth staying a couple of nights.

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