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Saturday, 25 June 2011

Walk 36 Kessingland to Lowestoft

Walk 36  Kessingland to Lowestoft (Suffolk)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R156 and 134
Distance: about 11km or 7 miles
Difficulty: mostly flat, some easy low cliff walking
Terrain: paths, beach
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Trains at Lowestoft. Bus 602 – 4 a day Mon to Sat every 2 hours going from Lowestoft and stopping at Kessingland. 

There are a number of interesting and attractive churches in this part of the country. Most are best got to by car. One that I found quite stunning is St Peters at Theberton (north of Leiston) – it has a thatched medieval roof and an unusual round tower. The inside has colourful pillars and walls - these are modern but probably reflect the original decoration.

The walk starts at the Sailors Home pub in Kessingland – the sign states that it sells the best fish and chips in Kessingland!  A large scrubby beach has to be crossed to get to the sea. There has been a settlement at Kessingland since ancient times. The sea provided the village with its main livelihood. At one time the residents paid a rent of 22000 herrings to their lords which made it probably more important than nearby Lowestoft.

Up until the 1960s the village had two communities the ‘beach’ and the ‘street’. It was then combined into one community when a large housing estate was built. During the summer the population of 4000 nearly doubles with the arrival of holiday makers. One of the most famous residents was Sir Rider Haggard (author of She and King Solomon’s Mines) who owned a house near the cliffs.

Walking northwards, Lowestoft can be seen in the distance – part of this walk I completed on the beach and the rest on the path that runs alongside it. Behind some beach huts at Pakefield a thatched church of over a thousand years old is next to the path. It was destroyed by Cromwell and then in World War 2 but has since been restored.

On the south side of Lowestoft is a pleasant park adjacent to the seafront. An impressive statue of Richard Henry Reeve, former lord of the manor, has been erected here. The pristine sands of the south beach helped the town become a holiday resort in the nineteenth century. From the middle-ages fishing, particularly herrings, had been the lifeblood of the town. In the civil war, rivalry with the herring fisheries of Great Yarmouth resulted in the towns taking opposite sides – Lowestoft supported the Royalists.

The first lighthouse built by Trinity House was built in Lowestoft in 1609 and when the town’s lifeboat station opened in 1801 it predated the RNLI by 23 years. Walking along the promenade there are indicators for the Peto Trail. Samuel Peto had a significant impact on Lowestoft and it owes much of its success to him. He helped to establish a proper harbour and a railway line so fish could be delivered to Manchester. He bought nearby Somerleyton Hall (open to public) and made it into a large mansion for himself. Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft and a local school is named after him.

Walking further along to the main Lowestoft seafront, near the attractive glass built east pavilion, take care as there are a number of concealed fountains which spurt unannounced through the pavement in the square! Looking across the harbour is an industrial area built up when the fishing industry declined. Originally this area would have had kipper houses for smoking and floating shops called ‘grog shops’ which would have served the many fishing ships.

Walking to the north of Lowestoft involves walking across the harbour bridge. When I was there it had lifted to allow a boat through causing traffic chaos and stranding a paramedic on an emergency call. Near to the bridge is a large sculpture of a lifeboatman, in honour of the RNLI, looking out to Dogger Bank the sea area used for fishing. Don’t miss the walk out to the Euroscope (showing distances/directions to places across the sea) which is at Lowestoft Ness or Ness Point – this is the most easterly point of the UK.

Snaps show: St Peter's thatched church at Theberton; Kessingland; two views of walk to Lowestoft.

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