Suffolk is a county with a wealth of attractions to delight the visitor: rural beauty, rivers and nature reserves, windmills and watermills, ancient wool towns and villages, churches hardly touched by the Victorian ‘improvers’, stately homes, thriving ports and holiday resorts, a conservation coastline standing defiant against the North Sea.
Suffolk is very much a maritime county, with over 50 miles of coastline. The whole coast is a conservation area, which the 50-mile Suffolk Coastal Path makes walkable throughout. With all the miles of meandering rivers and superb stretches of coastline, it is only natural that watery pursuits are a popular pastime, and many of the local museums also have a nautical theme; the Suffolk coast has been a source of inspiration for many of the nation’s most distinguished artists, writers and composers.
The sea brings its own dangers, even in human form, and it was against the threat of a Napoleonic invasion that Martello Towers were built in south eastern Suffolk, in the tradition of Saxon and Tudor forts and the precursors of concrete pillboxes. The marshes by the coast have traditionally been a source of reeds, the raw material for the thatch that is such a pretty sight on so many Suffolk buildings. Reed-cutting happens between December and February, the beds being drained in preparation and re-flooded after the crop has been gathered. Thatching itself is a highly skilled craft, but 10 weeks of work can give a thatched roof 50 years of life.
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