Disappearing Dunwich

Roy Bullard (UK)

There are many places around the coastline of the British Isles that are quite simply majestic and, in their own unique ways, full of magic. Dunwich lies between the lovely town of Southwold and the village of Sizewell on the East Coast of England in the county of Suffolk. It is a coastal area that is easy to include in this category and is a place that I love to visit. However, as you sit there on the shore watching the cliffs and the North Sea, it is hard to imagine that so much has been lost since the time when Dunwich was once a large, thriving community.

Sandy cliffs of Dunwich.

My aim in this short article is to take a look at the present state of this coastline and compare it with the coast as it once was before huge amounts of coastal erosion had taken place. In addition, I will take a look at the area’s history and mention, in passing, one of its well-worked, mythical tales.

A steeply sloping shingle beach now lies in front of the cliffs at Dunwich. These cliffs have changed a lot over time but, over the past few years, erosion has decreased substantially. The cliffs today are overgrown and this indicates a significant slowdown in the rate of erosion. However, with the ongoing threat of climate change and rising sea levels, the local residents and council have joined together to act now to protect the northern end of this cliff. As a result, the construction of a small defence work, which uses large, buried sandbags, can now been seen along this part of the beach.

The ancient city of Dunwich was once a thriving Saxon settlement and commercial centre. It was to grow after the Norman Conquest and became one of England’s foremost towns. During this period, it was rich and prosperous with a fleet of ships that traded across the North Sea and into Scandinavia. Sadly, all this was lost to the sea, due to rapid and extensive erosion along this part of the coastline.

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