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Breakwaters on the beach at Southwold
Point 1 - The Changing Coastline
Standing near the pier take a look at Southwold’s elegant seafront. You will see the low lying sweep of beach and the Victorian lighthouse on the higher ground behind.
Southwold is virtually an island, surrounded by river, creek and sea. For centuries this part of the coast has suffered from currents and tides which cause the sands to shift and the line between land and sea to change. The silting up of the harbour has been a problem for generations of fishermen and today the area is facing an on-going battle with coastal erosion.
The sand along this part of the Suffolk coast was laid down by the North Sea about two million years ago and basically the sea is now trying to claim it back. The slightly higher piece of land, with the water tower and golf course on it, is made of more solid gravel and it resists erosion.
You can see this gravel behind Southwold at the pits at Henham and Wangford. There’s similar higher ground at Dunwich and Minsmere, again containing this chunky gravel, but in between there’s the sand which is gradually being chewed away.
LISTEN/READ MORE ABOUT THE GEOLOGY OF THIS AREA FROM LOCAL GEOLOGIST, HOWARD MOTTRAM. CLICK ON THE LINK AT THE TOP RIGHT OF THIS PAGE >>
Take a look at the picture above, looking north beyond the pier towards Easton Bavents. You will see a deep curve in the coastline, but within living memory this part of the coast was a straight line.
Sea defence work by local resident
One concerned local resident, Peter Boggis, has started building his own sea defences. ‘King Canute’ (as he has become known) has already dumped thousands of tonnes of waste material on the beach at Easton Bavents. But there are fears that this controversial scheme may itself be contributing to sand and shingle erosion and interfering with the sedimentary drift.
During the devastating East Coast Floods of 1953 five people drowned in the bungalows in Ferry Road and the town was cut off for 48 hours.
YOU CAN READ EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNTS OF THE FLOODING IN SOUTHWOLD AND SEE MORE PICTURES BY CLICKING ON THE LINK AT THE TOP RIGHT OF THIS PAGE >>
A Natural Beauty
At the opposite end of the beach from where you are now standing, near the harbour mouth, is an area of dunes.
Sea pea on the dunes at Southwold
The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Unit is working with a variety of agencies to try and restore the dunes to make sure they provide a barrier against the sea. Many plants here are low growing to protect themselves from the worse of the elements. They hug the ground and form a mat on the shingle or sand.
Typical of this type of plant is sea pea, birds foot trefoil and rest harrow - so named because it did just that. When horses were used for ploughing the rest harrow would snag the plough and prevent the ploughman from doing the job properly.
The dunes are also home to a wide range of birds, including the little tern and the skylark. The little tern is a very small pale-coloured bird with a black head. It comes all the way from Africa to nest along this coastline. It’s a rare bird and very vulnerable to disturbance, so if you’re walking along the beach or the dunes take care to watch out for any signs of nests.
Little tern, RSPB Images
Don’t forget as well to look out for amber. This is fossilised resin and you can find it all along the beaches in Suffolk. It has a similar specific gravity to coal and because it’s light it floats in the water. The best place to look for it is at the very top of the strand line. It’s a little yellowy coloured stone and looks vaguely translucent.
At the mouth of the River Blyth you can see across to Walberswick Marshes and you get a sense of just how vulnerable this coastline is to the sea and how easy it would be to flood.
There’s a ferry that goes from Southwold Harbour across to Walberswick. For a very reasonable price Dani the Ferrygirl will be pleased to row you across the River Blyth.
LISTEN/READ MORE ABOUT THIS STRETCH OF COASTLINE FROM MALCOLM FARROW OF THE SUFFOLK COAST AND HEATHS UNIT. CLICK ON THE LINK AT THE TOP RIGHT OF THIS PAGE >>
So let’s start the walk and head up along the slope (North Parade) towards the town.
last updated: 22/04/2008 at 10:51
Have Your Say
old buck student
How many crabs can you fish out from the sea?