There’s something rather wonderful about Walberswick. It’s not just that it’s a very picturesque village or that it’s got a great beach. Nor is it the striking black beach huts among the sand dunes, the houses on stilts or the pretty harbour.
It’s more to do with the feel of it. It’s the sort of place where you find yourself slowing down and living life at a more relaxed pace. The kind of place where you’ll happily spend hours crabbing, playing on the beach or going for long walks across the marshes or along the Suffolk coast.
Its charm is no secret – it’s long been a favourite hideaway for artists and writers. The artist and architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh lived here from 1914 and novelist, Esther Freud, who has a home here with her actor husband, David Morrissey, has set two of her novels in the village.
Here are six of the ways you’ll fall in love with Walberswick.
Walk up the banks of grassy dunes and you’ll reach the beach, a glorious stretch of sand and shingle that never gets as crowded as the one at Southwold just across the river. Wander further south in the direction of Dunwich and chances are you’ll have the whole beach to yourself.
The coarse sand here is perfect for building sandcastles or you can search for amber amongst the rocks. The waves are just right for jumping in and dogs are allowed on the beach all year round.
If you’re here early in the morning, don’t be surprised if you catch some scantily clad individuals heading down to the sea. Every day, a group of locals walks down to the beach for an early morning dip in the North Sea, even in winter.
It’s virtually impossible not to spend time in Walberswick without becoming obsessed with crabbing. All you need is a crab line, bucket, fishing net and some raw bacon bits for bait and you’re ready to go.
From morning until early evening you’ll find eager children – and their almost as eager parents – lined up on the banks of the river, crammed onto one of the wooden bridges or peering into the harbour, trying to catch those elusive crabs.
There’s nothing quite like the sheer excitement of pulling up your line and finding a crab (or two) clinging on at the end. Be warned, it’s addictive. All the crabs get put back into the water when you’ve finished – ready for the next load of eager crabbers. Take plenty of spare clothes – there’s always one or two children who end up wading – or falling – into the shallow water in their excitement!
Walberswick isn’t just about the beach. It’s a picture-perfect Suffolk village complete with pretty village green, pastel-painted houses and a couple of shops and cafés. In the courtyard of The Parish Lantern you can have locally-made ice-cream or home-made cakes and cream teas. A few doors down, at Tinkers, you can buy well chosen antiques and homeware alongside the lovely hand-painted mugs.
The annual village fête over the August bank holiday weekend is one of those quintessentially British affairs, with teas and sandwiches in the village hall, tombola stalls and dog show. The only difference being that you’re more than likely to bump into a celebrity or two – Richard Curtis and Emma Freud, Paul Greengrass, director of the Bourne films, and DJ Simon Mayo all have holiday homes in the village.
The mouth of the River Blyth forms part of Southwold Harbour. It’s a wonderful spot to sit and watch the seagulls and the small boats moored at the jetties on the bank. We loved walking along the harbour path, with the boats on one side and the marshes on the other. If you’re lucky you might spot a seal in the river and there is a huge variety of birdlife on the marshland.
Walk across the Bailey Bridge and through the harbour on the Southwold side and you’ll find stalls selling fresh fish, a great fish and chip shop and the Alfred Corry Lifeboat Museum. From here you can cross the grassy dunes and walk to Southwold along the beach.
Walberswick is just across the river from the seaside town of Southwold. It’s an 8.3 mile drive by car but there’s a lovely 45-minute walk beside the harbour, across the marshes, over the Bailey Bridge and along the old railway line. Even better, catch the rowing boat ferry across the river. It only takes about two minutes.
There has been a regularly scheduled service across the Blyth River since 1236. Today it’s one of the last remaining rowed ferries in the UK. The Walberswick Foot Ferry has been operated by the same family since the 1920s. The current ferrywoman is the fifth generation of her family to row the boat.
The foot ferry operates a daily service from the end of May until early October. It runs on weekends and bank holidays during the rest of May and October. Over 5s, £1; bicycles, £1; dogs free.
There are two excellent pubs in the village, both of which serve good food and welcome families. The 600-year-old Bell Inn has open fires, low beams and flagstone floors. It’s the perfect place to retreat into one of their hidden alcoves with a pint of the local Adnams and good freshly-cooked food like Suffolk Smokies (flaked smoked haddock in cheese sauce) with granary toast or the steak, ale and mushroom pie.
On Sunday lunchtimes the place to be is in the garden of The Anchor for one of its delicious summer barbecues. The 1920s Arts and Crafts pub is one of the best gastro pubs in the UK and well worth a visit at any time of the year for its fantastic food and good selection of wines.