If you’re driving round the Suffolk coast then a visit to Walberswick has to be on your itinerary. It’s worth going just for the name itself!
Walberswick – believed to derive from the Saxon ‘Waldbert’ – probably a landowner – and ‘Wyc’, meaning shelter or harbour – retains its village feel with just a few small gift shops, tea rooms, and a couple of great pubs.
Although busy in the summer months, at other times of the year you’ll feel the desolation of the place – just how us Hobos like it.
Let’s find out more…
Visit Walberswick – a gem on the East Suffolk coast
If you’re searching for a slower pace of life, the Suffolk coast is the place to go. Travelling along the A1120 ‘Suffolk Tourist Route’ through villages of ‘chocolate box’ cottages suits our old VW van down to the ground.
Walberswick is a favourite destination which brings back many childhood memories for us both. But nostalgia is not the only reason for visiting.
We visit Walberswick at least a couple of times a year whenever we’re along this part of the Suffolk Coast. There’s the relaxed holiday atmosphere. Walks through the sand dunes or browse in the small gift shops. Or try crabbing on the famous bridge.
Indeed, crabbing for fun is a common way to amuse the youngsters here – although the annual competition had to be curtailed due to its popularity!
There’s good news if you visit Walberswick in a motorhome: there’s a roomy car park within walking distance of the sea and village.
Sand dunes, samphire and smiles!
The walk from the car park along the sandy (occasionally muddy) paths beside brackish lagoons leads to the dunes. Here you can picnic or sunbathe, hidden away from others if you’re lucky.
Beyond the dunes is the beach, busy in summer but nearly always desolate in mid winter. During the summer months on the way back from the dunes we always harvest fresh samphire to cook in the van. And then, heading away from the dunes out of the car park you’ll enter the delightful village.
Everyone seems to be happy here!
East Suffolk is like that. It harks back to the time when everyone would speak to their neighbours over garden fences, sharing the stories of the day.
We have sat at one of the pubs, enjoying a refreshing brew whilst watching the world and his wife pass by.
In summer, there are often roadside stalls selling produce and secondhand books lined up on garden walls. There are several souvenir gift shops.
Walberswick is also typical of many Suffolk coastal villages – around half of the houses are holiday lets or second homes. This means that it’s much quieter in winter.
The history of Walberswick
Walberswick was in the shadow of nearby Dunwich prior to the 13th Century. Dunwich was, at that time, of similar size to 13th century London.
However, at the end of that century, a series of devastating storms finished the doomed town of Dunwich as a working port. Land was lost to coastal erosion and the mouth of the river Blyth moved and silted up. Walberswick fought to gain the advantage and duly became a major trading port right up until WWI. .
Like many other larger Suffolk coastal villages, Walberswick (Walbert’s Harbour) grew with its port. It erected a large church to thank God for its wealth…only to have to pull much of it down once longshore drift silted up the ports and the ships moved on to safer waters.
The ruins show how magnificent the church once was.
During WWII, much of the Suffolk coast was heavily defended by pill boxes, mines, metal scaffolding and ‘flame fougasse’ installations. With no cliffs to help defend it, Walberswick was under real threat of invasion. Much like Shingle Street further down the coast.
Today, the low-lying areas are managed by English Nature as ‘Walberswick Nature Reserve’. Made up of Sandlings heath, shingle, grass and woodlands, saline lagoons, reed beds, salt marshes and mudflats, they attract a diverse selection of flora and fauna.
The reeds are still harvested for thatch. This provides an income to put towards protecting the freshwater marshes at Westwood against ingress from the sea. An increasingly difficult task.
There is an old railway footbridge, or more excitingly, a ferry across the River Blyth to Southwold if you wish to travel between the two on foot.
We will take the van.
Read our VISIT SUFFOLK pages for further ideas for your road trip round Suffolk