Snape Maltings

Beach sculpture

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Everyone seems to be writing about Snape Maltings so I thought I ought to pen somethings because it is the strangest of places.
Coming out of the wilderness of Suffolk to Snape is like travelling through the snow of Norway and finding yourself in Santa’s grotto, almost. I often think of Suffolk as the best wilderness of England. Remote coastal heaths and marshes with spectacular birds. Where else can you see a bittern and a group of bearded tits in one morning? In the afternoon you can wander around Dunwich heath and see red deer. Maybe spend a week on the Walberswick marshes looking out for barn owls or wandering along the remote eleven mile shingle spit that is Orford Ness.
Then you go to Snape to visit the The Maltings. What a strange name and redolent of music and Radio broadcasts – “Welcome to the Aldeburgh Festival and tonight’s concert is broadcast live from The Snape Maltings…” From seeing no-one to being with everyone, that is the Zen of the place. The place is packed on a Sunday afternoon. There are gift shops, book shops, art galleries and a kitchen shop so huge and throbbing with people it seems as if the entire county’s population is packed into one place. All the papers write about the lush restaurant but the Ravenous Rambler doesn’t have time for such indulgences and retreats to the tea shop. Here, buxom waitresses serve home made cakes and sandwiches with lashings of tea and hot water. The seating area is surrounded by art and photography which gives me a great feeling of inner warmth. There is seating outside too but it’s too cold even if the sun is shining.
It’s worth a visit as it is so unusual but it is being built up even more outside. The old maltings are being turned into luxury homes for the very rich who can afford an extra holiday home. Maybe just pop by on your way back home on a Sunday afternoon


Head in the Clouds

Head in the Clouds

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Suffolk walking
We stayed at a comfortable bed & breakfast near Snape and Aldeburgh. It is called Briar Cottage and has a great website.
From here it was a short drive to Minsmere bird reserve which is fantastic. There are so many different habitats. Woodland, marsh, coast, lakes. We saw the rare bittern, marsh harriers, the avocet, many lapwings in the fields, bar tailed godwit, berwick swans and many more.
I liked the coast – the sea was like a mill pond. Dunwich heath is owned by the national trust and the coast guard station is now a NT restaurant perched on top of the cliffs. There are some old cottages that you can stay in and they look idylic.
Our dawn trip was to go down to Aldeburgh and catch the sun coming up over the sea and the marshes. In the evening we went to Southwold to take photos of the pier, lighthouse and colourful beach huts.
Suffolk is a forgotten corner of England. You don’t go there on the way to somewhere else – its the end of the road and its glorious.

I could spend days just walking around the Minsmere reserve footpaths keeping a lookout for birds and then pottering along the beach to Dunwich Heath. However, a good walk is just outside of Aldeburgh. Drive along the beach road to Thopeness and park at the beach car park. Cross over the road and find the entrance to the Bird reserve. Follow the path inland across some flooded fields full of geese, depending on the time of year. There were some Russian white fronted geese around but I didn’t spot them. After about a mile you hit an old railway line. Turn right and follow along inland parallel to the sea. Then turn right again through a golf course and past the strange red ‘House in the clouds’. This is an old water tower converted into a house and you will catch glimpes of it around the walk. There is a beautiful windmill here too. At Thorpeness, have a cup of tea and rest. Then follow the beach back to the car. It’s a simple rectangular walk of about 3/4 miles with plenty of interest and bird watching.