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Time out: Low-flying angels

17 November 2010

by Malcolm Doney


Blythburgh, Suffolk, is a village of two halves, bisected by the A12 as it meanders between Ipswich and Lowestoft. As a result, it too often goes unnoticed by those heading for its neighbouring media-luvvie haunts, Southwold and Walberswick. Unless, that is, you are driving by night, when the floodlit magnifi­cence of Holy Trinity — “the ca­thed­ral of the marshes” — alerts you to the fact that you have arrived at a place of historic significance.


Its surroundings are jaw-droppingly beautiful. The tidal section of the River Blyth flows just to the north of the village on its way out to the sea at Southwold Harbour. Over the years, the sea-walls have been breached, creating a tidal lagoon, Blythburgh Water, where oystercatchers, godwits, egrets, curlews, and redshanks parade for the benefit of keen birdwatchers and idle dog-walkers alike.

Getting there

There is a train service from Liverpool Street, London. Dar­sham is the easiest station for access. From the nearby market town of Halesworth, the 520 bus meets the train, Monday to Saturday.

What to see

The path alongside the estuary, with its secluded hide, is a must. Birdwatchers should time their stroll to coincide with low tide, when waders strut their stuff. For keen walkers, the path continues, through the woods and on to Walberswick, where two excellent pubs, the Anchor and the Bell, will sustain you for the return journey.

Holy Trinity, built in 1412 on a Christian foundation that goes back to 630, is spectacular. A flight of wooden angels cast their watching eyes over the congregation below from their beamed heaven (above).

And be sure to check out the devilish claw marks on the inside of the north door. These could have been made by the legendary Black Shuck, said to be the prototype for the Hound of the Baskervilles — or they could be scorch marks from the great storm of 1577.

Where to eat and drink

The White Hart, Blythburgh, on the A12, has good food, Adnams beer, a friendly clientele, and a high-quality B&B. The views over the estuary from the gardens will nourish your soul as you quench your thirst. Or try Mains restaurant, in Yoxford, a few miles south — small, unpretentious, scrumptious.

Near by

Southwold, with its beach huts; Walberswick, with its crab-catching championship; Aldeburgh, with its festival (actually at Snape); and Sutton, with its Hoo.

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