Take a look through this Shingle Street coastal home
PUBLISHED: 15:52 22 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:52 22 February 2018
A forgotten place, is how Catherine Lindsay-Davies describes the Shingle Street location of her coastal home. Unique and magical are other words she has for it. Words and images: Tony Hall
At the coastal hamlet of Shingle Street, a sign in the car park says, ‘Shingle Street is special’. It’s true. It’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest and sits in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is unspoiled by the progress of time, almost in a time warp.
There are no shops, no pubs, just a collection of, now mainly converted, fishermen’s and coast guard cottages, plus a Martello tower, also converted, all standing on the shingle ridge, with far reaching sea views. This place is memorable to me from my days as a young sailor.
It marks the point where the Rivers Alde and Ore meet the North Sea and it’s a tricky, ever changing estuary. At sea, you line up two buoys with a cottage on the shore, follow that line, then run along very close to the shore. At least you did – local up to date knowledge is essential. But once into the river, you can breathe a sigh of relief.
I was delighted when I received a call from Catherine Lindsay-Davies about meeting her at her home, Windy Ridge, one of the collection of cottages in this stunning location. Catherine, a counsellor and psychotherapist practising in Woodbridge, and her husband, first bought the cottage in 2005, while still living in London.
They were so blown away by this spectacular location, that in 2008 they moved here permanently. When they relocated closer to Woodbridge in September 2016 for work reasons it was, admits Catherine, a terrible wrench.
“It is just the most perfect location, watching the sun or moon rise and set. The light is so wonderful, and the sea and weather are constantly changing, far better than watching TV. It’s such a wild but extremely beautiful landscape, both to the creeks, marshes and countryside one way, and the sea the other.”
Prior to her new career, Catherine worked in the music industry. Born and brought up in Abbotts Langley, she studied history at Leicester University and got involved in booking bands for gigs there. When the music industry beckoned, she started as a secretary, then over the years worked her way up to become managing director of Sony Music UK.
She worked around the world and lived in London, where she met her husband. Favourite artists include The Super Furry Animals and, on the classical side, Benjamin Britten. But after 20 years in the business she felt she needed a change.
She went to St Martins to do a post grad course in photography, then decided on a completely new career path. After qualifying as a counsellor and psychotherapist, she set up her own practice in Woodbridge.
“After we bought Windy Ridge initially we just used it for holidays,” says Catherine. “Before we moved here permanently, we needed to update throughout. We added a summer room/conservatory looking onto the walled courtyard garden, knocked a wall down to make the living area bigger, replaced the roof and windows, and then created a new bedroom wing in what was a studio, complete with a spacious master bedroom with dressing room and en suite facilities.
“Friends used to think we were so isolated here, but over half the residents live here permanently and we chat most days, more than a lot of people do in towns. I am also the chair of The Shingle Street Settlement Company, which has bought and owns the surrounding land, to stop development.
“We get together twice a year and it’s very welcoming, with lots of community spirit.”
Shingle Street has a fascinating and, at times, mysterious history. Catherine says the settlement certainly existed in the 1800s, principally for fishermen, but because of its remoteness, notoriously difficult waters and the prevalence of smugglers, a pilot and coastguards were installed, and the hamlet grew.
“This cottage was built before 1812 and may well have actually been that very pilot’s home,” says Catherine.
In 1812, a Martello tower was constructed as part of a chain along the south-east coast, fortification against possible invasion by Napoleon, which added to the workforce. Shingle Street was evacuated in 1940, during World War Two, and rumours abounded about a failed German invasion on the beach there.
“This hamlet is regarded as the edge of the world, certainly for Suffolk,” says Catherine. “That’s why we all support one another, such as hospital and shopping trips, and so on. In the tidal surge of 2013 we were safe, due to our forefathers’ knowledge in building these dwellings right on top of this shingle ridge, which is like a fifteen foot sea wall.
“That said, however, on the fields behind us which are much lower, they were covered in water and resembled a large lake, covered in birds, a truly spectacular and memorable sight.”
Having travelled the world, Catherine says she knows of nowhere more beautiful, peaceful, quiet, full of birds and wildlife, with the sea and a great community. “It’s totally unique. It’s one of the last coastal places untouched and, thankfully, fiercely protected.
Having no facilities has helped enormously, as the pub was bombed in World War Two and never replaced. You could well call it a forgotten place.
“My most memorable moments are swimming in the sea here in early morning, when it’s completely still and the little terns are bobbing on the water which is glistening, and there is no one around. Just so magical.”
To stay at Windy Ridge, Shingle Street, contact Suffolk Secrets Southwold. Tel: 01502 722717