This leg is very different to the previous one; instead of woodland and heathland much of this leg is spent amongst farmland. Where the previous leg was fairly remote with no settlements of any size passed through, the first half of this leg passes through the small villages of Snape and Friston before friskily passing Goldfair Green. It also passes within a mile of Thorpeness. The second half of the leg has a more remote feel as it crosses heathland and passes through some woodland on its way to meet the sea for the first time.
3 hours 22 minutes
Map of the leg
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.
This leg starts off at Snape Maltings (TM391574). Head north along the road and follow it as it crosses the River Alde at Snape Bridge. A third of a mile after the bridge it reaches the hamlet of Snape at TM393580; there is a pavement on the left between the bridge and the village.
After passing the Crown Inn on the right, turn right along Priory Road to pass the Golden Key pub on the left. Follow the road east-northeastwards; after half a mile it curves sharply to the left to head northwards for 0.6 miles, passing Rookery Farm before ending at the A1094 road at TM403593. Carefully cross the main road, and continue straight on along a track on the other side. This immediately passes some buildings on the left before curving slightly to the left.
A junction with a track called Sloe Lane is reached after half a mile, with electricity pylons striding across the landscape ahead; turn right to follow this track in a rough easterly direction. The track forks as it approaches Friston Hall. Take the middle of the three forks and follow a good-quality concrete track as it head to the south of the hall. Pass some woodland on the right, and then turn right along a footpath that heads eastwards across a field. Go through two hedges; at the second then turn half-right to head southeastwards across another field before it ends at Mill Road in Friston (TM411601).
Turn left and follow Mill Road northeastwards for a couple of hundred yards until it reaches the B1121 beside the Old Chequers PH. Cross this road and continue on up Grove Road for a fifth of a mile until it curves sharply to the left. At the bend continue straight on to cross a stile to join a track; turn right down the track for a short distance with a hedge on the right. When the gardens on the right end, turn left across a stile to head east-northeastwards across a field for a fifth of a mile, aiming for a stile in the left-hand hedge. Cross this and turn right down the track.
Continue on this track for 0.8 miles; initially it heads east-northeastwards before curving to take an east-southeasterly and then easterly course to end at the B1069 road at TM431605. Turn left to head northeast along this road for a short distance, and then turn right to continue south along Sloe Lane for half a mile, passing Billeaford Hall on the left. When some woodland is reached on the right, turn left to head eastwards along another track. Initially this heads to the north of some more woodland, before heading to the south of another copse. After this it curves to take a more southeasterly course. When the track approaches a tall transmitter mast, take the left-most track that heads through a gate. This passes the transmitter and some industrial buildings on the left. This track eventually ends at the B1122 at TM451592.
Carefully cross the road, and continue eastwards along a path that crosses North Warren. A hedge on the left eventually peters out, leaving the path to cross some heathland; after two-thirds of a mile a junction with a track that runs along an old railway trackbed at TM462594. Turn left to start following this track northwards. When a track is reached turn right for a few yards, then left by a house down another track. Finally turn right to rejoin another track. When a large shed is reached on the right with a golf course ahead, turn left down another track. 0.6 miles after joining the old railway trackbed this meets the B1353 road at TM462604.
Cross the road and follow a road northwards for a couple of hundred yards until a footpath leads off to the right at TM461606, following a track. This track heads northeastwards, initially with some woodland on the right. It continues for a mile, slowly curving to take a more northeasterly course between hedges. Near Dower House at TM473616 it joins a surfaced road. Turn left and follow this road northwards for a little over half a mile until it ends at a T-junction with a road called Sizewell Gap. Turn right along this road and follow it east-northeastwards, passing the Vulcan Arms on the right. There is a pavement on the right-hand side of the road; it swaps over onto the left just after the Vulcan Arms.
After a quarter of a mile the road ends in Sizewell Beach at TM475627.
Snape and Snape Maltings
Snape is a small village based near the first crossing point of the River Alde. It is most famous as being the site of Snape Maltings, an massive complex of buildings that closed in 1960. The area had long been the home of the composer Benjamin Britten, who started the Aldeburgh music festival in 1948. Over the years the festival moved to various locations, finally settling into a concert hall converted from one of the malting’s buildings in 1967. Since then more of the buildings have been converted into studios, rehearsal spaces, shops, a pub and residential accommodation.
The village of Snape itself is home to two pubs, and allegedly was J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for the surname of one of Harry Potter’s enemies, Severus Snape.
In 1862 a boat grave, believed to date from 530CE, was found under a burial mound on Snape Common; this was similar to the famous boat grave later found at Sutton Hoo. The boat was clinker-built with rivets; although the grave had been plundered many interesting finds were found, including a gold ring that is now in the British Museum.
Rivers Alde and Ore
The River Alde runs from Laxfield in Suffolk southeastwards towards the coast; just below Aldeburgh it curves to head southwards, prevented from joining the sea by the large shingle bank that forms Orford Ness. It runs south and then southwestwards for ten miles, becoming the Ore before finally draining into the sea at Shingle Street near Hollesley. It once entered the sea near Oford (which is why the small village has such a prominent castle), but the spit grew by another five miles southwards.
The river is tidal as far inland as Snape, and is little more than a freshwater stream beyond. The first crossing point of the river is at Snape Maltings, although a foot ferry does operate occasionally from Orford across to the shingle spit of Orford Ness.
Aledburgh is an exceptionally picturesque village situated on the Suffolk Coast. It is based around a long street of largely Georgian houses that stand a couple of streets from the sea. A beautiful half-timbered town hall - called the Moot Hall - stand near to the beach. It is home to many small shops, including an excellent fish and chip shop. Many fishing boats are to be found pulled up high onto the beach.
The area is famous for its music, helped by the fact that Benjamin Brittain lived in the town. Along with the singer Peter Pears he started the Aldeburgh Music Festival, which is now held a short distance away at Snape Maltings. On the beach a short distance north of the town stands a memorial to Brittain, in the form of a large metal clamshell facing the sea.
A shingle beach called Orford Ness stretches for ten miles south from the town, separated from the sea by the River Ore.
Thorpeness feels like a strange place; its eclectic collection of buildings appear to be ancient, with many Tudor- and Jacobean-styled structures. Yet the entire village was only a fishing hamlet before 1910, when a barrister and railway engineer called Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie bought a vast swathe of the Suffolk coast. He set about building a private fantasy village in a staggering range of styles. His rather eccentric vision can be seen in the form of the ‘House in the Clouds’; the village’s water tower that is disguised by a wooden house that sits hat-like on the top. He also erected a windmill that used to stand a couple of miles away. The style of the place brings Portmeirion to mind, but whilst the Welsh village is brash and brightly coloured Thorpeness seems stately and refined.
There is a large car park and pub near to The Meare, a sixty-acre artificial boating lake that forms the centre of the village. Although the village was owned by members of the Ogilvie family until the 1970s, many of the houses are now owned by other people. It is an absolutely unique place, and is well worth spending an hour to two exploring its lanes.
Sizewell A and B power stations
The small hamlet of Sizewell on the Suffolk coast is famous for its two nuclear power stations. Sizewell A started operating in 1966 and ran through to 2006; it could generate 420MW of power. The building is an ugly grey concrete monolith that seems totally out of character with the area.
In the 1980s work began on Sizewell B power station, the country’s first and only (so far) Pressurised Water Reactor. It started generating power in 1995, and has a maximum output of 1,195 MW. Unlike the A power station, the B station could be described as beautiful, with its white containment dome sitting above a squat blue building. The dome can be seen for many miles along the coast in either direction.
In 2010 it was announced that Sizewell was one of eight preferred sites for new nuclear power stations; the current plan shows Sizewell C as being a 1,600 MW unit that could be operating as early as 2020. If it is built, then we can only hope the design is more like the B unit than the hideous A unit.
Thorpeness and Leiston, both off-route, are served by Anglian Bus’s route 165 that departs roughly every hour to Ipswich, calling at Snape Maltings on the way. Sizewell Beach itself is poorly served by public transport.