Rest Day, 1st November: Corton, Lowestoft & Southwold
MILES TO DATE: 4,444.4 ASCENT TO DATE: 511, 328ft
With no facilities at the campsite, the planned long lie-in wasn’t as long my ageing body would allow, but a big supermarket breakfast was always going to go down well. Sharpie headed off via Lowestoft railway station with yet more thanks for our second series of Max and Paddy’s ‘Road to Nowhere’ and I began my next week of less beer but more comfort and luxury. I parked Snickers up at Southwold and waited for my brother Steve, his wife Anita and my mum to turn up for their week supporting me from a holiday flat in Southwold. Snickers would get a few days rest as I took advantage of my family and their hospitality. The first night was a welcome pub meal and a few pints of Adnams. So much for the beer consumption.
Stage 217, 2nd November: Corton to Southwold
As I was now in Suffolk, it wasn’t long before I was at my last major compass point, which came and went without much fanfare as I passed a plaque buried in the sea wall at Ness Point, Lowestoft.
From there it was a short distance into town and out again to walk along the promenade of the South Beach. It was here, as I was snacking my morning twix, that an attractive young lady briskly jogged her way from the surf and up to a public shower by the beach huts. Considering it was a chilly November morning, she was dressed in nothing more than a bikini and a “You’re brave” comment from my lips was greeted with a cheeky grin as I passed by. I walked along another twenty paces to see three old men sitting on a bench. One of them muttered at me “She’s here every day y’know”. I had a strong suspicion that they were too.
My chuckles stayed with me for a while as I made my way down the sea front and the sandy shingle beach, hiding Pontins holiday camp from my view. It was then down to Benacre where very soft sands and another National Nature Reserve pushed me inland to follow the Suffolk Coast Path. The path was hardly coastal and I ventured much further inland than I would have liked. It had an aversion for roads of any kind and skirted Pottersbridge Marshes through woodland and the village of Reydon, but eventually I arrived on the outskirts of Southwold as the light was fading with no time or tidal opportunity to search for locally renowned amber on the beach. With the nights closing in rapidly, light chasing was going to be an issue again, something I hadn’t really done since my first few weeks back in February. February felt a lifetime away now.
Stage 218, 3rd November: Southwold to Aldeburgh
September and October had been fairly kind to me weather wise but with a chill damp start I knew things were due to change. The middle class enclave of Southwold with its boutiques, delicatessens and expensive eateries didn’t look quite so inviting in the drizzle and the muddy track through Southwold harbour had lost some of its twee visitor appeal in the grey late autumn chill. Nonetheless, the place felt at ease as if relaxing after a long season of busily sucking up income from visitors platinum credit cards.
From here I kept seaward of the equally wealthy Walberswich and after a brief shingle beach walk it was inland via a reed bed boardwalk and woodland tracks heading for Dunwich. All along an unmade track “Surrey by the Sea” continued as exclusive attractive and sometimes huge houses tucked themselves into the trees. I imagined that property prices around here might be out of my league.
At Dunwich I was back on the beach and I stepped down the steep shingle bank to find easier firm sand at the waterline. I stayed here as the beach edged passed Sizewell nuclear power station taking me all the way to Aldeburgh. My first visit to Aldeburgh was a quick seafront one and a chat with a lovely woman, taking photo upon photo as she walked, reaped a very welcome donation. Within seconds of tucking the donation into my pocket and after threatening with drizzle all day, the heavens truly opened. It caught me off guard and I had no time to don my waterproof trousers, so it was head down for the last ninety minutes as I walked the sea bank looping up the River Alde to meet up with Steve waiting back on the other side of Aldeburgh. The skies cleared as I approached the car waiting to take me back for a very welcome hot bath in Southwold and the sunset warmed my soul if not my rather wet and very chilled hands, legs and feet.
Stage 219, 4th November: Aldeburgh to Hollesley Bay
I continued up the River Alde, now via a soft woodland walk towards Snape. This would be one of many river estuaries and marshes for me to get around over the next couple of weeks and progress across the map would be slow. My progress was slowed a little more as I came across a quivering and whimpering scruffy little dog trotting along the path in front of me. After inspecting his collar I came to the conclusion that Tom Tom the dog was lost. I picked him up and backtracked to a nearby car park. There I met a woman just arriving to walk her dog. Together we knocked on a local door and called the phone number on Tom Tom’s collar, but to no avail. We put him in her car and walked off down the path together to see if we could meet up with his owner. Sure enough, we did. She seemed utterly unconcerned as apparently Tom Tom frequently lingers to sniff his way slowly through the woods. Her other two dogs bounded passed and I left feeling both relieved and a little deflated that he probably wasn’t lost at all. I should’ve guessed that a dog named Tom Tom was unlikely to ever be lost, even if he might have found himself down a dead-end path.
Soon I was heading back down the River Alde and, in places, a badly flooded path tempted me to cut inland for the villages of Sudbourne and Chillesford via Tunstall Forest. The fields were full of pigs. Pigs, pigs everywhere and if wasn’t pigs it was turf growing country. The Suffolk farming landscape was very different to the huge industrial arable land in Lincolnshire.
From Butley I returned to the waterside. Now it was the River Ore and I only managed a distant glimpse of the sea as I followed the sea-bank along the river running a strange parallel course to the coastline beyond. I met Steve with my mum parked up at the eventual river mouth. The sea had returned but was still a good distance out beyond high and wide shingle banks. This was a remote, bleak coast, another Dickensian coast, but not an unattractive one.