It’s Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK; spring break to use an Americanism and we are in Suffolk, dangling off Britain’s rump as it contours into the cold, cold sea. Today, unusually for a Bank Holiday is warm, often sunny and free of even a small squall so The Textiliste, Dog and I set off for Dunwich Heath and Mount Pleasant Farm for a walk and, after, a well earned cake.
We started at the National Trust Coastguard cottages which nestle on the end of Dunwich cliffs before they slope down to the marshes that comprise the Royal Society for the Protection of Bird’s site at Minsmere – which this week hosts the BBC’s Springwatch, a set of live programmes watching nature unfurl for a new year.
The path, with the coast behind us sets off inland along silver sand through dead looking heather and scrubby gorse. The heather will take its time but by late summer the explosion of purple will damage the eye, falling off the light spectrum beyond violet in its intensity.
Right now it’s the contrast with the fresh green of the ash and oak as they bud and leaf amongst the conifers that draws the eye.
The path, westerly, wends its subtle way to an old mixed wood where the gnarled and crusty silver birch dominate. Rotten wood, the occasional dew pond or wetted rut break the dry monotony.
Then as it seems the path will continue for ever it turns north and widens. Blossom appears at last in the open spaces less buffeted by the easterly salt winds off the north sea; the corn-like spikes on the conifers give the finger to the cold and presages a deepening of the undergrowth.
We skirt Dunwich Heath, mixing narrow paths with bramble before reaching Mount Pleasant farm. This, curiously, was acquired, so a sign tells us, by the kind generosity of Pizza Hut customers. An incongruous if pleasing thought. The path, heading for the cliffs now is perhaps the most flower-packed with Campion and worts of various sorts.
The occasional building peeps through foliage and reminds us we are near Dunwich itself now. A caravan and camping park is well screened, though, so as not to irritate the vistas. But the road is close and the birdsong deadened by the combustion engine’s ubiquitous growl.
Out of the wood, the grey murky sea is to our left, in amongst the heather. We stop, distracted by a sticky popping sound; it can only be the gorse seeds exploding daintily by our feet. More people appear: we must be near the coast guards’ cottages again and the attractions of the tea room and beach.
Fifty years ago my dad joked at the reluctance of people to leave their cars and whatever veneer of civilisation they had parked close by for the uncertain attractions of the countryside beyond the fence and tarmac; and it is still true today. We walked six miles and passed maybe ten people during five and half of those miles; but maybe thirty to forty people clustered in the remaining half mile by the car park. Go figure.
There it is, perched on high and drawing us on with the promise of a barbecue or scone, tea of other temptation.
We refuel. Dog begs daintily and finishes my roll hungrily. The beach and the pond take us on another detour before we sneak back to the low oven that is the car and home for a late lunch and snooze.
This forms part of Restless Jo’s Monday Walks.