Southwold and Hen Reed Beds 2016

Mum and Dad often came to Southwold for summer walks along Gun Cliffs, the promenade and the pier, in recent years with my brother pushing the special off road wheelchair he made for mum (named “the buggy”) along the easy surfaces.

In 2016 I did a swim journey to remember my parents and raise money for charities related to their deaths, at places relevant to the family threaded along the A12 Road. Round up and charity info in post:  A12 swim journey June 2016: I did it!

They would also visit the impressive church (, and perhaps drive round by the ferry and water tower. (I’m not sure if you can still do that. The road was very rough.)

view downhill towards seaside, beach huts and pier, family group on the left
Mum, dad and Nick at Southwold, looking down towards the pier

The current pier was only recently built, in 2001, but is now well established with interesting shops and cafes and the wonderful Under the Pier Show ( This is an unusual amusement arcade with old-fashioned and modern wacky slot machines made by local artist and inventor Tim Hunkin, who Nick knew. (Incidentally Roger Deakin, who was a friend of his, describes in Waterlog a muddy tidal swim near his home at Blythburgh).

I’ve never actually swum at Southwold, so this will be a first. It is a favourite seaside destination of family friends, the Davises, who sometimes camp here in the summer. The campsite is right by the beach and harbour, though a little walk from the town (

waves, beach, promenade, beach huts, with houses and a lighthouse at the top of the cliff, a sunny day
Southwold from the pier

Southwold was gently mocked by Michael Palin in his film East of Ipswich as being old-fashioned and run down, but it now has a reputation of being posh and trendy. It is not clear whether you can eat your own sandwiches on the pier these days: there was a bit of a fuss about this last year during the media silly season (

families playing on the sand, sunny sea and promenade, camera and hand just seen on the edge of photo
Dad taking photo of beach scene

The pier has lots of other attractions, including a fish and chip shop at the entrance and cafes (, and don’t miss Tim Hunkin’s water clock ( .

Nick pushing mum in wheelchair, entrance with ‘Southwold pier’ sign; a father and children paddling on the water’s edge
Nick with mum in the ‘buggy’, Southwold pier; Southwold beach, near the pier

As an antidote to the hustle and bustle of Southwold, my parents would often stop at the lovely Hen Reedbeds reserve on the way back (, where there was a profusion of flowers, insects and birds in the summer. I remember one occasion when we admired the Polish Konik ponies when they were a novelty in the area, and another exciting moment when we saw a bird fly up out of the reed bed and actually managed to photograph and identify it as a bittern.

ponies grazing
Konik ponies at Hen Reedbeds

Read about the June A12 swim journey:  A12 swim journey June 2016: I did it! And see also A12 swim journey 2016: 33 FB POSTS and Swim Journey 2016 Day 1 places and significance. This and the other stories were written in 2016 just before or after the swim journey and updated December 2022.