The small seaside village of Dunwich, a few minutes’ walk from Bridge Barn, has a fascinating and unusual history. Dunwich was the capital of the 8th-century Kingdom of East Anglia (modern-day Norfolk and Suffolk). In the medieval period it was a substantial coastal town with twelve parish churches, a harbour and shipyard and an extensive trade with continental Europe. The town was substantially destroyed by coastal erosion in a series of storm surges in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Reduced to a small village, Dunwich became one of the most notorious rotten boroughs: its few dozen inhabitants retained the right to return two members to Parliament until the 1832 Reform Act.
The modern village of Dunwich lies on the outskirts of the medieval town (the harbour was in the salt marshes below Bridge Barn). The remains of All Saints, the last of Dunwich’s medieval churches, fell into the sea in 1919. The ruins of two significant medieval buildings survive: Greyfriars Abbey to the southwest of the village and the Leper Chapel, behind the church of St James (built in 1832 in the medieval style). The delightful Dunwich Museum in St James’ Street presents the history of Dunwich from earliest times, with a variety of exhibits recovered from the sea.
The shingle beach extends for several miles north and south of Dunwich and is peaceful and relatively empty even at the height of the holiday season. Dog-friendly throughout the year.
On the landward side of Bridge Barn, Dunwich Forest is a large area of coniferous and broadleaved woodland with an extensive network of footpaths and bridleways. The Forest is currently undergoing a process of ‘rewilding’ with a long term plan to regenerate the natural landscape that existed prior to the conifer plantations. As part of this scheme, Dartmooor ponies have been introduced to parts of the forest and are often to be seen in the area behind around Bridge Barn.
Check out the Wikipedia link for more info on Dunwich:
Dunwich Heath, managed by the National Trust, is the ideal place for relaxing walks in an unusual and unspoilt coastal landscape. The Heath is home to a large herd of red deer as well as rare species including the Dartford warbler, nightjar and ant-lion.
Minsmere is one of the top bird sanctuaries in Europe and the RSPB’s flagship nature reserve. Minsmere supports a very wide range of bird species and is especially well known for its avocets, bitterns and marsh harriers.
Bridge Barn is less than thirty minutes by car from Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh and Southwold.