Walberswick is an adorable little village on the Suffolk Coast in England. It may not be as popular as nearby Southwold or Aldeburgh, but it might be the relaxing day out that you need. Spend some time on Walberswick Beach, then see what else the historic village has to offer. The main street has old shops and pretty cottages with picture perfect gardens. Don’t miss St. Andrews where you can see ruins along with a working church.
The best way to get to Walberswick is to drive. From London, it is 117 miles and will take around 2 ½ hours. There are two “pay and display” parking lots at the end of town. Both are only a short walk to the beach.
Public transportation options are limited. The best way would be to take a train from London Liverpool Street Station to Darsham and then take a taxi 7 miles to Walberswick. Once you get to Walberswick, everything is within walking distance. You will need to arrange for a taxi to take you back to the train station.
Note that you will have to switch trains in Ipswich. The train ride will take around 2 hours. If you do decide to go this route, book your train ticket in advance for the best price. Click here to check schedules and pricing.
From the parking lot, you will walk across a bridge and over the dunes to get to the beach. Walberswick Beach is a mix of sand and stones. There are no brightly colored beach huts, just some brown fisherman’s huts set back from the beach. You can see the Southwold Lighthouse.
We went on a Saturday afternoon in August. It wasn’t too crowded but the weather wasn’t ideal. It was a bit chilly and windy. I wished we had a windbreak like this one. We didn’t let that stop us, we had a relaxing picnic. Some people even swam in the sea! The water is shallow so it’s ideal for swimming as long as you don’t mind the cold water. Keep in mind there are no lifeguards though.
Walberswick Beach is also a great place to build a sand castle or fly a kite. It would also be a pretty place for a walk. Dogs are allowed on the beach and we saw several when we were there.
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Crabbing in Walberswick is a popular past-time and it is the home of “The British Open Crabbing Championship”. The annual contest is open to all ages and the person catching the largest crab within 90 minutes is the winner! Hooks and nets are not allowed and the crabs are released back into the sea once the winner is announced.
When we were in Walberswick, it was hard to cross the bridge to get to the beach because it was full of people crabbing. I was impressed that most people had caught at least one. Apparently, all you need is a bucket, a weighted piece of string, and some bacon for bait! (Click here to see crabbing kits available on Amazon). I am going to have to try it next time. Before you go crabbing, please watch this video which explains the dos and don’ts of crabbing.
The Walberswick Church, St. Andrew’s, is unusual because the church is built on top of the ruins of the previous church. It’s fascinating to visit because you see the features from the medieval church in the current church. On select days, you are allowed to climb the tower.
The ruins have been recently restored. You are encouraged to explore the ruins and get a sense of how grand the previous church was before it was taken down. You can even picnic among the ruins if you like. They also have special events in the ruins and inside the Church.
History of the Churches in Walberswick
There actually have been three churches in Walberswick. At the time of the Doomsday book (1086 AD), there were two: one on the site where St. Andrew’s currently sits and one about 400 yards away.
During medieval times, the port of Walberswick was thriving, like many other Suffolk villages. The merchant class poured their money into the church. Money was also coming in from the nearby Blythburgh Monastery.
In 1426 a beautiful 95-foot tall tower was added to the St. Andrew’s church. It became a landmark for sailors traveling along the coast. Then in 1493 the entire church, except for the tower, was rebuilt on a grand scale, to equal the imposing churches at nearby Blythburgh and Southwold. By the turn of the 16th century, St Andrew’s was one of the most impressive parish churches in England.
Unfortunately for Walberswick, the prosperity of the port did not last. The river began to silt up and the harbor suffered. When the church lost its income from tithes after the dissolution of the Monasteries the villagers were not able to maintain their grand church. Church property was also damaged by Puritans.
In 1690 the villagers got permission to pull down the medieval church and build a smaller new church within its ruins. The villagers had to sell lead from the church roof and three of the four bells to raise the money they needed. Thankfully, the villagers were required to spare the striking 15th-century tower, which still stands at the west end of the new church. The ruins of the medieval building are at the east end.
Inside St. Andrews
The “new” church is well worth exploring in its own right. It is tucked into what was once the south aisle and re-uses the medieval aisle wall. It also retains the large 15th-century porch and quire. In one of the south windows, fragments of medieval glass have been gathered together to create a mosaic. It reminded me a bit of the window in Winchester Cathedral, but on a smaller scale. You can also see the damage that the Puritans did on the Font.
It’s touching that there are several memorials to fishermen lost at sea inside the church. Walberswick’s tie to fishing and maritime trade is symbolized by the crucifix and candlesticks on the high altar, all made of driftwood.
The Church Ruins
Standing in the ruins, you can imagine the grandeur of the previous church. Look up at the tower and notice the line showing where the roof once lay. The two rows of windows show that the church was once two stories. You can still see the checkerboard flushwork on the back on the wall of the current church. Some doorways are still intact too. The floor is all gone and has been replaced with grass.
The best way to get a perspective of these ruins is from the air. Check out our drone video and you can see that these ruins are impressive.
Walberswick Tea Room
The Tea Shed is located just a stone’s throw from the village green. They have a great selection of teas and cakes. You can stop in for a cream tea or a light lunch. Take advantage of the pretty garden if the weather is warm.
Every village in England needs to have a pub! Walberswick has two. You can choose from the Anchor or the Bell. Both pubs look charming. Russell took me to the Bell because he prefers its atmosphere. Next time, I will have to try the Anchor.
The Anchor is located close to St. Andrews. They have a wide range of beers, including Adnams, cider, organic soft drinks and 100 delicious wines. Their food is sourced locally as much as possible and they feature different specials daily. They have a front terrace perfect for those warm summer days.
The Bell Inn is located on the village green close to the sand dunes (and parking lots). It’s 600 years old and part of the Adnam’s pub family. This is a traditional English pub with character. There is plenty of space inside but if it’s a nice day, relax in their large garden. Their food menu also features local specialties
If you would like to go to Southwold from Walberswick, there is a ferry that can take you on certain days during the summer holiday season and other school holiday times. I think “ferry” is a bit generous considering it is actually a rowboat that can only hold up to 12 people. Still, for only £1, it’s not a bad deal. The ferry crosses the River Blyth so it’s not a long ride.
If you rather not go on the ferry, you can also walk to Southwold on the Bailey Footbridge.
Blyth River Trips
The owners of the Walberswick Ferry also run boat trips (select days in the spring and summer) on the River Blyth through Walberswick Nature Reserve – an Area of Outstanding National Beauty. You will see many different types of birds, and you may see other wildlife or even a seal. Your skipper will also tell you about the changing coastline and the fishing industry in Suffolk. Tickets for the boat tours cost £10 for adults and £5 for children.
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