Well, what a surprise to start my first photographic trip of 2012. The third warmest March on record and I just managed to catch the tail end of it before the weather changed dramatically back to what would be expected to be normal at this time of year. The first trip was almost a 1000 miles, 30 hours of driving and almost 50 miles of walking and saw me revisiting Norfolk and Suffolk an area of the country I had first visited at the beginning of my journey in 2006. On that occasion, I concentrated on the North Norfolk coast and the coastal areas of Suffolk down to Southwold. This time I was taking the opportunity to base myself initially in southern Suffolk with the intention of popping over the boundary into the coastal areas of Essex and then moving onto the Broads National Park and the coast.
I had allowed myself three days to take a look around the first area. Its never really enough time but I managed to visit most locations I had planned on. The first day was very busy visiting Paglesham, Essex just northeast of Southend where there is the only proper access to the River Roach and the land between that and the River Crouch. A 7-mile walk saw me start at Paglesham Eastend and returning to the same spot via the Paglesham Creek and Pool. Opportunities for decent images was more limited than I had anticipated and the light was difficult being very bright and harsh.
Moving on from Paglesham I visited the Dengie Peninsula an area of land between the River Crouch and the Blackwater Estuary. This area is considered to be one of the remotest places in Southern Britain. The objective here was to visit and photograph the Church of St. Peter’s-on-the-Wall which stands defiantly on a bank exposed to the fury of the North Sea storms, although when I arrived it was bright blue skies. The church was built in AD 654 and is one of the oldest places of worship in England.
Day 2 I decided to stay around my base on the Essex/Suffolk border with an 8-mile walk around Constable country and in particular Dedham Vale taking in parts of the Stour Valley Path and the Essex Way. Photographic opportunities were again more limited than I anticipated and was only glad that my visit was just before the Easter holidays with the area around Flatford Mill already very busy.
The following day a trip to Mersea Island via Tollesbury. The island, the most easterly inhabited island in England is joined to the mainland by The Strood a causeway liable to flooding at high tide. But first Tollesbury which I had been drawn to for the boathouses which appeared from my research to be very photogenic but of course when I arrived the majority had been renovated and therefore not as appealing as I had first thought. Still, a walkout over Woodrolfe Creek provided some photographic opportunities including the “Trinity” lightship which is now the hub of activity for the Fellowship Afloat Charitable Trust (FACT). Moving on I crossed The Strood and completed a 6-mile walk around the East Mersea almost completing a Coast to Coast across the island.
Well, that was my brief visit to Essex and Constable Country over has I moved on to my new base on the Broads via walks at Shingle Street and Dunwich in all that shingle which was very tiring. Shingle Street reminded me very much of Dungeness, Kent although on a much smaller scale. Its little more than a row of cottages built above a stretch of shingle, which the sea has pushed up into a high bank. Dunwich, of course, being the town lost beneath the waves, carried away by the relentless erosion of wind and tide where it is said that at times the submerged church bells can be heard, ringing out a warning of an approaching storm.
My first day on the Broads produced probably the best day photographically so I took the opportunity to visit as many of the locations on my list as possible and capturing almost 100 images, a third of the total captured on the trip. I started off with a 9-mile walk from my base firstly to visit the ruins of Benedictine St Benet’s Abbey. Unfortunately, the gatehouse which is the largest of the remains, curiously surmounted by the brick tower of a windmill built some 200 years ago was surrounded in scaffolding and inaccessible. Thanks to the Norfolk Archaeological Trust for placing notices to advise me before I had walked two miles there and back down a lane to visit. 🙁 Things could only get better and they did with the thick cloud disappearing and being replaced with sunlight and clouds. The walk was completed via How Hill, Turf Fen wind pump and the River Ant. Having recovered from the walk visits were then made to Thurne and Winterton on Sea. A good day after all despite the bad start.
My next day on the Broads also proved to be fruitful with a walk around Horsey Mere visiting Brograve Mill and then moving on to the coast at Horsey Gap, Sea Palling and Happisburgh, the latter of which I had visited in 2006. I had not visited Sea Palling before and although the main entrance to the beach was quite busy moving North up the coast I managed to find an alternative access where it was considerably less busy producing some interesting photographic opportunities of the nine reefs installed just off the shore in 1995 by the Environment Agency to help protect the area. On revisiting Happisburgh late afternoon I ran out of time to access the beach area North of the village due to the incoming tide so decided to revisit the next day.
The following morning at Happisburgh the weather was again perfect for a few hours but upon arrival found that path I used the day before to gain access had now disappeared and a JCB digger was busily rearranging all the cliffs. After walking northwards for a mile or so I managed to gain access to the beach by climbing down an area of the collapsed cliff face on pieces of broken concrete. The walk back to towards Happisburgh from here must be the worst area of coastal erosion I have seen anywhere in the British Isles and even the staircase that used to provide access to the beach has now been left isolated from the land, the connecting bridge having collapsed sometime prior to my visit. I found it quite amusing that the “No Admittance” sign was still fixed to the stair landing despite the fact it was abundantly clear that no one would be gain access anytime soon. If visiting this location you must be extremely careful that you do not get stranded on the beach due to the current lack of safe access and the incoming tides.
I completed my return visit to Norfolk by following the coast road North as far as Brancaster Staithe, a location I had visited in 2006 before returning to my base to prepare for my journey home and to start planning for the next stage of my journey.