Published: Monday 8th Apr 2019
Written by: Sally Owen
With Southwold just four miles to the north and Walberswick three and a half miles directly east, Blythburgh, just off the A12, makes for a wonderful, easily accessible and much less ‘touristy’ base from which to enjoy this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In fact, roads and footpaths radiate in all directions from this charming village, whether you’re wanting to enjoy the Heritage Coast or prefer head inland along the River Blyth to the market towns of Halesworth, Beccles or Bungay although that’s not to say the village has a charm all of its own. It does. In spades!
At its heart, for example, lies the cathedral-like, Grade I listed Holy Trinity Church, one of the finest medieval churches not just in the county but in the entire UK. Perched on high ground overlooking the fields and marshland of the Blyth Valley, it’s a masterpiece of architecture, with a soaring ‘angel roof’, a timber construction decorated with carved angels which can be found all over the country but are most prevalent in East Anglia. Other features to look out for is the rare Jack-o-the-clock painted wooden figure and the ‘masons marks’ which decorate all the pillars bar one and were the craftsmen’s trademark, still visible centuries later. Visit after dark and its equally impressive, floodlit to spectacular effect and visible for miles around, and has a spooky take to tell!
Those interested in history might also be fascinated by the past of what is now one of the village’s most contemporary and luxurious developments, ‘Blythview’. Whilst offering an on-site indoor swimming pool, gym and stunning views for holiday makers the building was actually a workhouse, Bulcamp, in a former life and the backdrop to two ‘Suffolk Rebellions’ – riots – in 1765 and again, over 170 years later in 1835. Stay in any one of the six properties Suffolk Secret has in the complex, sleeping between 2 and 8 people, and it’s hard to imagine such a chequered past. (view Blythburgh holiday cottages)
However, it’s Blythburgh’s natural beauty which is a magnet for walkers and wildlife lovers alike. Wander through the reedbeds and marshes and you may be lucky enough to catch a marsh harrier or egret, perhaps whilst taking the footpath to Walberswick which follows the long-since closed narrow-gauge Southwold Railway though the estuary of the River Blyth and out to the heathlands which extends to Dunwich. The walk to Southwold which follows the river is equally stunning.
It’s a fascinating landscape, in part shaped by the tidal breaching of the sea walls to the north which have, over time, created a lagoon which throngs with birdlife, particularly waders, (Bird lovers will also know that RSPB Minsmere, the most important bird reserve in the UK, is just a fifteen-minute drive south.
Whilst staying here, don’t miss a visit to the local pub, The White Hart, which sits alongside the A12 and whose beer garden and restaurant overlook the river. Owned by Adnams, there’s few places better to sample the beers and spirits which are made at the brewers’ headquarters in Southwold. Another local product which you can’t miss seeing roaming throughout the surrounding fields is the famed Blythburgh pork. Just 3% of British pigs are reared as truly free range and, if you’re a meat eater, this high welfare approach to rearing results in exceptional flavour.
There can’t be many visitors who stay in Blythburgh, though who don’t venture to the more famous coastal towns which lay within a five-mile radius, Southwold being the most popular. Boasting independent shops, restaurants and galleries, a promenade flanked by brightly coloured beach huts, a Blue Flag beach and what must be the quirkiest Pier in the UK, it’s a wonderful place to spend the day at whatever time of year. Walberswick, too, is the place to celebrity spot and go crabbing, its long, sandy beach the perfect backdrop for a picnic or walk and from where you can take a foot ferry across the water to Southwold, too. Dunwich, to the south, has a completely different kind of beach, predominantly pebble like the beach at Aldeburgh even further south, but also flanked by heathland which has pathways meandering throughout.
With so much to see and do on the doorstep, make Blythburgh your base and you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Written by Rebecca Scrase,