We’d have done almost anything to escape lockdown, even if the excitement is reduced now we can go out observing safe distance, so the chance to go with our friend Joan for a walk near the coast was welcome.
For one thing, we hadn’t seen her for weeks; for another we wanted a change from our own local walks. When Joan suggested Dunwich we were delighted. The Heath is among our regular destinations but only once had we been to the village. Joan’s suggestion was neither, but a walk across Westleton Heath to the ruins of Greyfriars was new to us.
A safe place to park, just off the road, was beside a path into forestry land. This led to the road into Dunwich, which we left at the entrance to the village. The path took us to Gallows Field, a slightly undulating area of sour grassland surrounded by low trees and a magnificent oak. At one point we had a distant view of the current Dunwich church, safely away from cliffs. Its tower looked curious against a passing tanker, out to sea.
The next section brought us steeply downhill – unusually for Suffolk – with various colours of foxglove amidst bracken and trees on the lower slopes. There was also the sight of a raptor being mobbed, if that’s correct for a single assailant, by a crow. A little egret flew just below the treetops to a stream.
In the lower village we passed the church, the museum and the Ship inn, all closed in lockdown. Sparrows were enjoying the lack of day visitors. Just beyond the Ship was the path towards the cliffs, with notices warning of the unstable nature of the cliffs. Two metre distance from people and two metre distance from the edge: an eerie pair.
The path steers clear of danger of course but offers views down to the beach and sea. A fisherman sheltered in his tent from the rain. We had cover from the trees. Briefly out of the trees we came upon the ruins of Greyfriars, nowadays occupied by a pair of horses with all the social distance they could wish. Moving aside from the path to allow a jogger to pass we took the opportunity to view the last burial of the old town, remnant of a church that had gone over the cliff. Another view of Greyfriars occurred as we took a path towards the ‘high’ road of Dunwich.
Along this route are the houses built safely among the monastic lands, some of them very grand I imagine. They were withdrawn from view in wooded grounds.
Not knowing this part of Dunwich we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves near the gate of Gallows Field, and therefore a few minutes’ walk from our cars. The rain was still threatening so we did what all Brits do on a day out, found a car park and our lunch in the cars with windows open for conversation. The ‘low’ road was visible only from the cars passing along it and a few walkers were exploring the paths.
It was ironic after weeks of sunshine to be reduced to this but we had enjoyed the walk, seen the sea and the ghostly ruins of one of the most prosperous of medieval English towns. We will return.