Suffolk boasts a lot of stunning beaches. The Suffolk Coast is famous for its sunrises. Lowestoft, for example, is the most easterly point in the UK and one of the first places to welcome in the start of a new day.
If you want to come to Suffolk and avoid the crowds, a good beach to visit is the deserted and stunning Shingle Street, on the Deben Peninsula coastline. Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of Suffolk Heritage Coast, this hidden gem is a remote stretch of coastline steeped in mystery.
The tiny settlement falls within the parish of Hollesley and can only be accessed via one narrow country lane. Before the bridge over the creek was built in the 1920s, the only way of getting there was by boat or by walking across the marshes. Its fascinating, barren landscape makes it stand out from anywhere else on the coast.
Shingle Street is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), dominated by its big Martello Tower – one of four. These are small defensive forts that were built to protect England from an invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. There is also preserved WW2 pillbox defences, and a single row of cottages looking out over the North Sea.
The beach is at the mouth of the River Alde facing the 10-mile-long shingle spit, Orford Ness. The submerged tip of Orford Ness is marked by the clanging North Weir bell buoy.
Known for its shingle and pebble beach, it is incredibly peaceful and often windswept. The beach attracts many visitors who come to walk, explore and enjoy the natural beauty. If you love wild solitude, the crash of waves, the sight of wheeling seabirds, and the sound of the wind, this is the perfect place.
It is also popular with swimmers. Tidal lagoons have formed in different places over the years and there is currently a big enclosed natural pool where people can swim and paddle at high tide. It’s a beautiful place for wild swimming, with the benefits of the sea in the lagoon but the safety of not being out in the open. At low tide quicksand can form so swimming is not advised at those times. Tide times can be found at https://www.tidetimes.org.uk/ (look up Bawdsey). Swimming in the sea is not advised at Shingle Street as there are rip tides. There is no lifeguard patrol there.
Visitors come for the vast open skies and wonderful peace. You can often see seals swimming and in the summer there is a riot of wild flowers on the rare, vegetated shingle beach.
Don’t expect ice cream parlours or any type of amenity – there is not even any public facilities at Shingle Street beach. So make sure you take everything you need, and take it home with you at the end of your visit. There’s a small free car park. Dogs are allowed on Shingle Street Beach, but please take care for nesting birds.
The tiny Suffolk seaside hamlet has an interesting history – it was very different 100 years ago, when a fishing community lived amongst the stones in a long row of small wood houses and huts. Nets, pots, boats and other fishing gear were strewn along the beach, and winches and cables stood ready to pull the boats up the steep shingle out of the sea.
Further back than that, multiple conspiracy theories abounded in World War II. These include a German landing on the village, the shoreline seeing burning bodies washed up, various chemical bombs testing, the North Sea being set ablaze, German troops washing up on the beaches, and even a firefight with German soldiers who were part of an invasion attempt.
The attempted German invasion has been largely written off as wartime propaganda. The area was evacuated during the war and later used for munitions testing, with residents only returning once all mines were cleared in the late 1940s.
Beautiful on a stunning early morning, watching the sun rise makes you realise why Shingle Street is one of Suffolk’s most photographed locations.
Check out Natasha’s family outdoor adventure travel blog at www.natashasoneseditorial.com/blog