Living in Sussex and Suffolk

A Foot in Both Camps

There have been some interesting posts on Facebook recently… One thread in particular caught my eye… and that was the comparisons that were made between living in the counties Sussex and Suffolk.

I have had the good fortune of living in both counties and have discovered that both have their charms. I lived in Sussex, near the town of Rye, for about 10 years during the 1970’s. What I remember most clearly are the forests, the coastline near Winchelsea and lovely rolling hills… The forests were right on our doorstep – just right for a lad in his teens that loved to be in amongst the trees – halcyon days.

As for the coast, the section that has remained clear in my memory is the stretch that runs between Winchelsea and Pett. The coast road runs behind a sea wall that guards the low-lying land from flooding. As you approach Pett, the land rises and cliffs take over the duty of holding back the sea. High up on the cliff, there was a cave.. Access was via a path barely the width of your feet with the delight of a precipitous drop if you were less than watchful. The cave was big… or so my memory tells me. From the entrance, the cave passed into the cliff and at the ‘far’ end, there was a window that overlooked the sea. It was a great place just to sit and soak up the view. In the year prior to leaving Sussex, access to the cave had been swept away by a rock fall.. I remember looking for the cave but failing to see it.

Pett is a village that literally has its highs and lows. The aptly named “Chick” hill (a diminutive of “Chicken Hill” if local anecdotes are to be believed) separates the lofty part of the village from its sea-level sibling. In places, the hill gradient is 25% (1 in 4 in proper language) and only recently have I found a hill that was significantly steeper!

As for our home county of Suffolk, we have lived here since the 80’s. It does not have the trees or the hills… but oh boy, it has a huge sky and much of the coast has something about it that is indefinably beautiful. I remember the first stretch of Suffolk coast I visited. It was in 1984… Covehythe. Seeing this was enough to make Suffolk the place I wanted to live. At that time, there was a series of pill-boxes along the cliffs at Covehythe. They are all gone now – taken by an inexorable north sea. The cliffs are sand.. so the tides, let alone storms, continuously eat away at the cliffs.

Suffolk CoastSuffolk CoastOrfordnessOrfordnessOrfordnessOrfordnessOrfordness

Equally beautiful is Orford and Orfordness – A shingle beach some 10 miles in length. Your first impression is that it is barren – and certainly, there is nothing to shield you from any winds that may spring up. The ness is, however, a nature reserve and has a host of other attributes assigned to it such as SSSI, AONB, etc. Old, cold war buildings stand like sentinels on the ness with, perhaps, the most iconic of the structures being the ‘Pagodas’. While much of the internal fixtures and fittings have long been removed, it is the external features that make the pagodas so memorable. The roof, in particular, is of a curious construction. The pillars hold up a huge tray that holds many tons of gravel. The design of the roof was to cater for a potentially grim outcome of the work that was carried out there. Components used to detonate the UK’s nuclear weapons were tested here and there was a risk of explosion during the testing. While such an accident would not involve fissile material, the roof was designed to collapse into the space should such an explosion occur.

Now that all these buildings lie silent, they add to the beauty of the place.. It is owned by the National Trust and is well worth a visit. If you want to read more about the more recent history of the ness, great insight can be found here.

As for the sky, well, being relatively flat and treeless (at least in part) means so much more of the sky is visible.. During the hours of darkness, this means the night sky can be a glorious sight – weather permitting. At times such as harvest, dust thrown up into the atmosphere can create glorious sunrises and sunsets and the wider sky makes them more glorious still. During storms, the vastness of the sky reminds me that while the we live in what is often described as a “small world” we humans are considerably smaller still..

So Suffolk vs Sussex? I can’t decide which I prefer 🙂

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