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Our favourite Suffolk villages: Dunwich

PUBLISHED: 17:26 23 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:24 20 February 2013

Our favourite Suffolk villages: Dunwich

Our favourite Suffolk villages: Dunwich

Cathy Brown explains the attractions of this windswept coastal hamlet

Cathy Brown explains the attractions of this windswept coastal hamlet




Dunwich was once a thriving city. Today it is officially still a town, but in reality it is a small village most of its medieval glories lost to the sea, a glaring example of the ravages of coastal erosion. The cliffs are more than a mile inland from the settlements heyday and in living memory, the coastline has moved inland by scores of yards.
Early photographs record how the remnants of All Saints Church the last of eight medieval churches in the borough fell into the sea in 1919.
Today only the gatehouse and wall of Greyfriars Priory (the last of five religious houses) hint at the long-lost treasures of the medieval capital of East Anglia. Dunwich was a port that grew wealthy on the wool trade and also had a thriving ship-building industry until coastal erosion and violent storms wrecked its harbour, some 700 years ago.
Since then its commercial fortunes have declined, but the settlement still offers untold riches for the present day visitor. It is primarily a magnet for those who enjoy the open air an ideal centre from which to explore the Suffolk Coast and Heath Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The National Trust centre at Dunwich Cliffs is a good starting point for walkers, with a big car park, and a visitor centre with a welcoming tea room. Bird watchers in particular are attracted to the network of paths. A walk along the coast leads to Dingle Marshes where there is the opportunity to glimpse (or at least hear) the elusive bittern, booming among the reed beds.
After a bracing walk along the beach, what better than to refuel at the renowned Flora Tea Room in the beach car park a destination in its own right for coach trippers intent on sampling fish and chips and spectacular ice cream sundaes.
Or if a lunchtime pint is more to your taste, the Ship Inn is also renowned for the quality of its fare and the warmth of its welcome, promising real ale, real food and a real fire.
If the weather is unkind, the best way to enjoy Dunwich is to visit the museum, which tells the whole story of the rise and fall of this vanished city, with maps, models and evocative artefacts.
From the height of its medieval prosperity, Dunwich sank to its lowest reputation as a rotten borough at the time of the 1832 Reform Act, when it had just eight residents, represented in Parliament by two MPs.
Today its status is once again in the ascendant as one of the great glories of Suffolks fabulous Heritage Coast.

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