walkhighlands

Suffolk Coast Path 3: Southwold - Hopton-on-Sea

Date walked: 20/09/2019

Time taken: 1.5 days

Distance: 34km

Ascent: 150m

web Suffolk Coast & Heaths waymark.jpg
Suffolk Coast and Heaths Waymark


The Suffolk Coast Path currently follows rights of way and permissive paths along the Suffolk Heritage Coast north from Felixstowe to Lowestoft South Pier.

I'm currently completing the walk in sections as a series of linear walks using public transport; circular routes that return by the Sandlings Walk (which I am also completing as a series of short walks); or "out and back" walks where neither public transport nor suitable circular walks can be devised. This report is the first of three that I shall be uploading (despite the report number!) It is more practical for me to walk the sections south to north and therefore simpler for the reports to be numbered in sequence from Felixstowe northwards.

Suffolk Coast Path 3: Southwold to Hopton-on-Sea

In many places the official route detours quite a long way inland and, currently, finishes at Lowestoft. The total length of the route is about 90 - 100 kms (60 to 65 miles) in length depending upon the choice of route taken. Between Southwold and Lowestoft it is possible to “straighten out” the route and follow the coast much more directly and Laurence Mitchell’s excellent Cicerone guide details these alternatives.

Some caution is required, particularly north of Southwold, around Benacre and Pakefield. High tides could trap the unwary up against cliffs, particularly around the Spring and Neap tide periods where they do come right up to the cliffs at several points. In bad weather, don’t even think about it. Cliff erosion is also an issue, so it may be sensible to check the Suffolk Coast & Heaths website for the latest news on coastal erosion and be prepared to turn back if it is unsafe to proceed. Check the tide tables for all the key sections of your planned walk, and make a note of them.

When we walked the section between Southwold and Lowestoft it was only a couple of days before the high Neap tides, however, the weather forecast was perfect and we set out shortly after High Tide at Southwold, which meant that by the time we reached Benacre and Pakefield the tide was well out. Even then, considerable care was needed negotiating some of the, still wet and slippery, sea defenses.

Public transport to and from Southwold is much less frequent than from Lowestoft, so it makes sense to plan your arrival/start from this end and walk back to Lowestoft, rather than the other way round.

So why do it? Because a Coast Path should follow the coast as much as is possible, and there is some fine coastal walking along this stretch and it really is a lovely walk if you get the tides and weather right.


web 6088 Southwold a.jpg
Southwold Lighthouse



Southwold Pier to Lowestoft Station

Southwold is a lovely and very fashionable seaside town complete with Adnam's Brewery, its white lighthouse (above) , iconic brightly coloured beach huts and pier.The pier is notable for its water clock, which is well worth a look in passing.

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Walking towards Southwold Pier

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The Water Clock, Southwold Pier


The waymarked Suffolk Coast Path and Sandlings go off inland to the west, shortly after the pier is passed. My route continued straight on along the coast towards Covehithe. Some care may be needed on the rocks here if the tide is still up as they may be wet and slippery. Once negotiated, the walking thereafter is straightforward all the way to Covehithe, where the SCP route may be re-joined. Our choice was to continue to Benacre Broad where, despite very low water levels, hundreds of feral Barnacle Geese were present. In early 2000 a White-tailed Eagle took up temporary residence here, together with some Hooded Crows, much to the delight of local birders. In the winter months the broad and sea here can offer good coastal birding most years, usually by walking out and back along the cliff top from Covehithe.

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Near Benacre Broad

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Benacre Broad in late September


Beyond Benacre the main SCP is re-joined and followed all the way to Kessingland, where, again, there is an inland option that avoids walking beneath Pakefield Cliffs (high tides can, again, catch out the unwary here). At low tide and in good weather, the beach continues to offer a very pleasant alternative route into Lowestoft.

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Kessingland Beach

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Approaching Lowestoft along the beach.



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Length: 16.5 miles 26.6 km Ascent: +114m -115m Naismith: 5h 30m
Completed on 12.09.2019

If you decide to make your own way and continue north towards Hopton-on-Sea and Norfolk, there is not yet a designated National Trail path, and the section around Corton Cliffs is especially problematic (footpaths along the cliff tops have recently fallen into the sea and, even at low tide, there currently appears to be no way through below them. Sections of the sea defenses and promenades are in a very bad state and currently best left well alone, and I’ve deliberately not suggested any route beyond Corton as the “best” (only?) option currently appears to be along a busy road that currently has no footpath.

I’ve walked all the Norfolk Coast Path from Heacham to Hopton-on-Sea, and so was quite keen to join that walk to the start of the Suffolk Coast Path. Perhaps others may feel that it may be best to wait for the “official” National Coast Path route to be designated before going beyond Corton. I can’t pretend that it’s pleasant but it is only for a mile or so.

Lowestoft Station to Hopton-on-Sea

There are good road, rail and bus links from Lowestoft to Norwich and to Ipswich.
There is no official National Trail for this section yet, but I'd recommend walking past the fishing dock to the sea.When I was a child it was possible to cross the harbour by walking across from boat to boat, the trawlers and drifters being so closely moored together (as it was in Great Yarmouth). If anyone tried it today in either harbour it would probably end very badly, certainly very wet!
web 6170 The Fishing Dock.jpg
The Fishing Dock


A visit to Ness Point, the most Easterly point on Britain, should be the next point of call. The sheer size of the marker caught me by surprise the first time that a saw it, hence the 55 litre rucksack up against it to give some sense of scale.
web 6177 Ness Point.jpg
Ness Point

web 6174 Ness Point detail.jpg
Ness Point plaque detail


From Ness Point the walk continues northwards along the sea wall past the lighthouse and on towards Gunton Warren.
web 6182 Lowestoft Lighthouse.jpg
Lowestoft lighthouse


Gunton Warren Nature Reserve, managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, is the only remnant of the Suffolk Coast that still has a full range of natural habitats from shingle, sand dune, vegetated cliffs and lowland heath and it supports a wide variety of species.

web 6185 Gunton Warren.jpg
Gunton Warren


Beyond Gunton the quality of the walking deteriorates and it is necessary to leave the beach and take the promenade and slope up to the village. The cliff top footpath here has recently disappeared into the sea and the continuation onwards to the National Trail at Hopton-on-Sea in Norfolk is disappointing at present. Hopefully by 2020 better alternatives will be available.


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Length (as shown on the map above): 6.5 km (4.0 miles) Ascent: +29m -21m Naismith: 1h 20m

Completed (in both directions) on 20.09.2019

Recommended Reading

Laurence Mitchell (2017) Suffolk Coast and Heaths Walks Cicerone
OS Explorer Maps: OL 40 The Broads
231 Southwold and Bungay

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Comments: 2



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Activity: Mountain Walker
Mountain: Kilimanjaro
Place: Glencoe
Member: MTA; LDWA; Norfolk Wildlife Trust; RSPB; National Trust
Ideal day out: Epic ridge walk

Munros: 94
Corbetts: 10
Grahams: 9
Donalds: 11
Wainwrights: 175
Hewitts: 233
Islands: 2



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Statistics

2019

Trips: 19
Distance: 525.25 km
Ascent: 10184m
Hewitts: 20
Wainwrights 12

2018

Trips: 35
Distance: 542.75 km
Ascent: 15498m
Munros: 4
Corbetts: 2
Grahams: 5
Donalds: 3
Hewitts: 14
Wainwrights 30

2017

Trips: 7
Distance: 99.5 km
Ascent: 1615m
Wainwrights 4

2016

Trips: 22
Distance: 385.35 km
Ascent: 9671m
Munros: 2
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 2
Donalds: 3
Hewitts: 8
Wainwrights 5

2015

Trips: 28
Distance: 1375.7 km
Ascent: 28462m
Munros: 8
Corbetts: 4
Grahams: 1
Donalds: 4
Hewitts: 10
Wainwrights 14

2014

Trips: 40
Distance: 466.7 km
Ascent: 19896m
Munros: 11
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 1
Hewitts: 38
Wainwrights 32

2013

Trips: 18
Distance: 263 km
Ascent: 14550m
Munros: 20
Corbetts: 1
Hewitts: 21
Wainwrights 11

2012

Trips: 5
Distance: 70.5 km
Ascent: 4870m
Munros: 5
Hewitts: 7
Wainwrights 10

2011

Trips: 11
Distance: 133.1 km
Ascent: 9065m
Munros: 9
Hewitts: 14
Wainwrights 4

2010

Trips: 10
Distance: 130 km
Ascent: 9130m
Munros: 9
Hewitts: 17

2009

Trips: 12
Distance: 146 km
Ascent: 10612m
Munros: 15
Hewitts: 11

2005

Trips: 3
Distance: 10 km
Ascent: 731m
Munros: 1
Hewitts: 2
Wainwrights 3

1991

Trips: 9
Distance: 129 km
Ascent: 12592m
Munros: 6
Hewitts: 28

1990

Trips: 4
Distance: 45.5 km
Ascent: 4092m
Munros: 2
Hewitts: 7

1989

Trips: 1
Distance: 8 km
Ascent: 1000m
Hewitts: 2

1986

Trips: 1
Distance: 10 km
Ascent: 992m
Hewitts: 3

1985

Trips: 1
Distance: 11.5 km
Ascent: 1150m
Hewitts: 4

1984

Trips: 2
Distance: 76 km
Ascent: 2492m
Hewitts: 3

1981

Trips: 7
Distance: 82.2 km
Ascent: 8440m
Munros: 4
Corbetts: 1
Hewitts: 13
Wainwrights 2

1980

Trips: 9
Distance: 91 km
Ascent: 7350m
Hewitts: 17
Wainwrights 8

1979

Trips: 1
Distance: 6.8 km
Ascent: 780m
Hewitts: 1

1978

Trips: 8
Distance: 86.5 km
Ascent: 7233m
Hewitts: 18

1977

Trips: 1
Distance: 10 km
Ascent: 992m
Hewitts: 3

1976

Trips: 3
Distance: 32 km
Ascent: 2592m
Hewitts: 9

1975

Trips: 2
Distance: 22 km
Ascent: 1700m
Hewitts: 2
Wainwrights 1

1974

Trips: 4
Distance: 52.5 km
Ascent: 5015m
Hewitts: 17

1973

Trips: 7
Distance: 592.4 km
Ascent: 10327m
Donalds: 1
Hewitts: 29
Wainwrights 16

1968

Trips: 1
Distance: 10 km
Ascent: 610m
Hewitts: 1


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