February 25, 2012

Southwold

We recommend walking or cycling to see Southwold at its best

No visit to Southwold is complete without a visit to The Pier. Pastel illustration by Valerie Wood

No visit to Southwold is complete without a visit to The Pier. Pastel illustration by Valerie Wood

Southwold has well-stocked supermarkets, delicatessens and a wide variety of independent shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants to look after your needs while staying in Mandalay.

Surrounding the town are pretty greens, designed as fire-breaks after Southwold suffered a devastating fire in 1659.

Southwold lighthouse was constructed in 1887 by Trinity House. An obvious landmark in the centre of the town, it replaced three local lighthouses that were under serious threat from coastal erosion. It began operation in 1890 and was electrified and de-manned in 1938. Trinity House organises visits during the summer.

Southwold's Electric Picture Palace is run by by John Bennett, chairman of the Southwold Film Society

Opened by Michael Palin, Southwold’s Electric Picture Palace is run by by John Bennett, house director and chairman of the Southwold Film Society. Photo: Lowestoft Journal.

The Electric Picture Palace cinema was opened in 2002, a pastiche of the original 1912 cinema that stood nearby. Although relatively small, it has stalls, a circle, a minute ticket office and foyer, plus an organ that rises out of the floor during in the interval and usherettes serving choc-ices and tubs.

On the green just above the beach, descriptively named Gun Hill, the six eighteen-pounder cannon commemorate the Battle of Sole Bay, fought in 1672 between English and French fleets on one side and the Dutch (under Michiel de Ruyter) on the other. The battle was bloody but indecisive and many bodies were washed ashore.  Visit Southwold Museum for more on the event.

A visit to Southwold Pier is a must – and from Mandalay, a lovely walk along the beach in front of the town’s famous beach huts.  Built in 1900, Southwold’s Pier was long enough to accommodate the Belle steamers which carried trippers along the coast.

In World War 2, the pier was weakened by having two breaches blown in it; one by the Royal Engineers, to hinder a possible German invasion and the other by a loose sea-mine.

Although the gaps were repaired in 1948, a gale in 1955 destroyed a large part of it; and further damage, caused by weather, occurred over the following decades. By 1987, the pier had been reduced in length to approximately 27 metres (about 90 feet) and what remained was generally in a poor condition.

In 2001 Southwold Pier was entirely rebuilt and restored under the auspices of then-owner, Chris Iredale. Whilst many English seaside piers are in decline, Southwold Pier is enjoying renewed popularity and is the place to be on a sunny day.  It’s also home to a collection of weird and wonderful collection of coin-operated novelty machines made by Tim Hunkin. And once again, pleasure steamers such as the paddle steamer PS Waverley and the MV Balmoral berth at the Pier to embark and disembark trippers.

There is a model boat pond just to the north of the pier, which plays host to the Southwold Model Yacht Regattas held during spring and summer months.

Southwold's "Royal" beach huts - these are closer to Mandalay, south of the pier

Southwold’s famous beach huts – these “Royal” huts are between Mandalay and the pier

As well as its colourful beach huts, Southwold is also renowned for being home to Adnams – the brewery and distillery tours are good value and worth booking in advance.

Aerial view: Southwold town and beach

Aerial view: Southwold town and beach