Out and About - Suffolk
Suffolk is a county of historic origin in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east. The county town is Ipswich; other important towns include Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds and Felixstowe, one of the largest container ports in Europe.
The county is low-lying with few hills, and is largely wetland habitat and arable land with the wetlands of The Broads in the North. The Suffolk Coast and Heaths are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
West Suffolk is, like nearby East Cambridgeshire, renowned for archaeological finds from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Bronze Age artefacts have been found in the area between Mildenhall and West Row, in Eriswell and in Lakenheath. Many bronze objects, such as swords, spearheads, arrows, axes, palstaves, knives, daggers, rapiers, armour, decorative equipment (in particular for horses) and fragments of sheet bronze, are entrusted to the Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds. Other finds include traces of cremations and barrows.
In the east of the county is Sutton Hoo, the site of one of England's most signicant Anglo-Saxon archeological finds; a ship burial containing a collection of treasures including a Sword of State, gold and silver bowls and jewellery and a lyre.
Much of Suffolk is low-lying on Eocene sand and clays. These rocks are relatively unresistant and the coast is eroding rapidly. Coastal defences have been used to protect several towns, but several cliff-top houses have been lost to coastal erosion in the past, and others are under threat. The continuing protection of the coastline and the estuaries, including the Blyth, Alde and Deben, has been, and remains, a matter of considerable discussion. The coastal strip to the East contains an area of heathland known as "The Sandlings" which runs almost the full length of the coastline.
The west of the county lies on more resistant Cretaceous Chalk. This chalk is the north-eastern extreme of the Southern England Chalk Formation that stretches from Dorset in the south west to Dover in the south east. The Chalk is less easily eroded so forms the only significant hills in the county. The highest point of the county is Great Wood Hill, the highest point of the Newmarket Ridge, near the village of Rede which reaches 128m (420ft).
Some useful websites:
At Lakenheath Fen, the RSPB has converted an area of arable farmland into a large wetland, consisting mainly of reedbeds and grazing marshes. The new reedbeds have attracted hundreds of pairs of Reed warblers and Sedge warblers, as well as Bearded tits and Marsh harriers. Also for the first time in 400 years in 2007 Cranes attempted to breed on the Fens.
Bitterns have been seen increasingly in all seasons of the year. In early summer, Hobbies catch insects high over the marshes. Golden orioles breed in the remnant Poplar woods on the reserve which were part of once-extensive poplar plantations, used for match production along with Blackcaps, Garden warblers and woodpeckers. Barn owls and Kingfishers are regularly seen during the winter months.
This is a great place to walk around with a descent car park and a visitor centre and plenty to see apart from birds such as Dragonflies and Butterflies.
- Recommended map:
- Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 229
Minsmere RSPB reserve is a nature reserve owned and run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and supported by Natural England in Suffolk. It lies on the Suffolk coast to the south of Southwold and north of Aldeburgh within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Suffolk Heritage Coast area. It is protected with SSSI, SAC, SPA and Ramsar Site conservation status.
The 9.69 square kilometres (3.74 sq mi) site was established in 1947 and covers areas of reed bed, lowland heath, lowland wet grassland, and shingle vegetation. The nature reserve is recognised for its high diversity of bird species and other wildlife and is used as a demonstration of successful reed bed management. It is known as one of the UK's premier bird watching sites with seven birdwatching hides and a public viewing platform to give close up views of the wildlife.
The Minsmere reserve includes 1.79 square kilometres (0.69 sq mi) of reed bed habitat, representing 3.6% of the UK's reed beds, as well as areas of open water, lowland heath, grassland, scrub, woodland, dune and shingle vegetation. The reserve is an important breeding, roosting and feeding site for many bird species with over 100 resident species and around a further 240 species of migratory visitors being recorded at the site.
Heathland areas are particularly important for populations of Dartford warbler and antlion and woodland areas are important for Nightingale populations. Other species found at Minsmere include Adders, Otter, Water vole and one of the largest herds of Red deer in England.
Over 1000 species of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) have been recorded at Minsmere. The 32 recorded butterfly species include the Silver-studded Blue, the Camberwell Beauty and the Queen of Spain Fritillary.
I found the reserve easily accessible by car, but you can also access by cycle and bus, Minsmere reserve is also accessible on foot from Dunwich Heath, Sizewell Beach and Eastbridge, with 12 miles of public rights of way around reserve. The long-distance walks, the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Path and Sandlings Walk connect to the reserve.
Minsmere has extensive footpaths throughout the site and seven bird hides are provided for birdwatching. Some but not all of these are accessible to wheelchair and buggy users. Only assistance dogs are allowed within the reserve, all other dogs must be kept within the car park which could be difficult to do on a warm day? a visitor centre or on the public rights of way that surround the site. A visitors' centre with all the facilities is by the car park.
Entry to the reserve is free for RSPB members and a fee is charged for non-members. The site is open daily during daylight hours, year round. The visitor centre and facilities are open from 9 am to 5 pm with some seasonal variations.
It would be easy to spend all day here, I found it an easy place to walk around and plenty of RSPB volunteers giving help on bird identity etc.
- Recommended map:
- Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 212
© Simon Thurgood 2017
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