Covehithe is another example of a town which, like Dunwich to the south, has fallen prey to coastal erosion. It was a prosperous little town in the Middle Ages, but erosion had set in by the 17th century, and its large church of St Andrew was all but pulled down, with only the tower remaining, standing neglected above the ruins of the original church. The locals were unable to maintain such a large structure, so in 1672 they built a smaller thatched chapel inside the original church’s roofless nave. It is possible to walk along the cliffs near Covehithe, but it is not a walk for the faint-hearted, with the coast eroding at the rate of 9 metres a year, as evidenced from the number of fallen trees whose debris litters the beach. If you follow the path to the north, you come to the Benacre National Nature Reserve at Benacre Ness, where a varied habitat of heath, dunes, broads and woodland provide shelter for breeding birds.
A short distance further up the coast is the small resort of Kessingland, popular with families not least because of the Africa Alive! wildlife park which features among its attractions. But it is not just pleasure-seekers who flock to the town: it is also frequented by archaeologists who come for the Palaeolithic and Neolithic implements which have been found there, not to mention the remains of an ancient forest on the seabed. Kessingland’s heritage includes yet another impressive church: St Edmund’s with its 300-foot tower. Tall church towers are a common sight along this stretch of coast, the reason being that they were built to act as beacons for ships out at sea.
Map of the area.