The jewel in the east: A short, relaxing stroll from Ness Point

The beautiful Denes, Lowestoft.

The beautiful Denes, Lowestoft. - Credit: Jayne Lindill

A short, relaxing stroll from Ness Point, Britain's most easterly location, reveals beautiful beaches, a unique coastal landscape and a plethora of World War II pill boxes...

Ping! An email arrives. It's from David Falk, Green Access manager at Suffolk County Council, better known to some people as the man who organises the Suffolk Walking Festival. With exquisite timing, he reminds me that the festival is approaching. 

"Why don't I join you on your monthly walk," he suggests, "and we can talk about what we've got planned?" I throw the choice of location over to him and he offers his "new favourite place", The Denes at Lowestoft. Fabulous - it's a first for me. 

We meet at Ness Point and for once I'm early, although not early enough to see the sun come up at Britain's most easterly point. It's a thrill to be here, nonetheless, as I'm eager to see the Euroscope, the direction marker for places across the North Sea and beyond, not to mention 'Gulliver', the giant wind turbine which towers over it. When it was installed in 2005, the 2.75MW turbine, 126 metres (413 ft) tall, was the largest onshore turbine in the UK. Back home in Felixstowe, I'm used to seeing these things waving to me from the Galloper Wind Farm by day and as tiny red dots above the horizon at night. Up close, it's impressively huge. 

Galloper at Ness Point

Galloper at Ness Point - Credit: Jayne Lindill

David arrives and we have a quick discussion about the likelihood of rain - it's late March and we're dodging an unseasonally cold spell of weather. Snow is forecast, for goodness sake. As it turns out, we stroll along the coast under clearing skies, improving sunshine and no wind. The rain gear is soon consigned to our backpacks.

David Falk

David Falk, Green Access manager for Suffolk County Council, leads the Suffolk Walking Festival. - Credit: Jayne Lindill

How appropriate that we're walking at Lowestoft. David was once a regular contributor to Suffolk Magazine and, in 2014, he and I joined BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Lesley Dolphin on a 24-hour charity walk of 60 miles along the Suffolk Coast Path from Lowestoft to Felixstowe. Suffolk Magazine has also been proud to support the walking festival for several years, hopefully helping it to become a popular event in the Suffolk calendar. What better way to get to know the county than exploring it on foot in the great outdoors?

The festival, like so many events, was on pause during the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year it was a virtual festival, encouraging people to get out and about (when permitted) via its website and podcasts. This year it's back, from May 14-29, with more than 70 walks of varying lengths in a 16-day programme, all led by experienced guides. You can find information and book tickets at Lowestoft features in the festival programme with two easy, enjoyable walks in this lovely, historic part of the town that we're sampling today. 

Lowestoft Lighthouse

Lowestoft Lighthouse - Credit: Jayne Lindill

The Denes, enjoyed by dog walkers and fishermen on an early spring day.

The Denes, enjoyed by dog walkers and fishermen on an early spring day. - Credit: Jayne Lindill

Leaving the Euroscope, we head north along the sea wall. 'Denes' means 'a bare, sandy tract or low sand hill near the sea'. Indeed, it's not long before we're walking beside low, sandy cliffs covered in gorse, although the beach that opens up in front of us is far from a mere sandy tract. Lowestoft is famed for its miles of sandy beaches, although most people are probably more familiar with the southern stretches near the piers and other seaside attractions. Here it's a little bit wild and rather wonderful, a timeless place where dog walkers and fishermen pass the time of day. 

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It wasn't always this peaceful. To the left and right of us is evidence of Lowestoft's important role in defending Britain against enemy invasion in World War II - abandoned pillboxes in the sandy cliffs and the relics of others in the tumbling tide. As Robert Liddiard and David Sims describe in their excellent Guide to Second World War Archaeology in Suffolk, Britain's most easterly point was on the front line against invasion in both World Wars and required substantial defences.

Lowestoft was a target for enemy operations, but also a valuable defensive asset since its harbour and port facilities helped protect Britain’s domestic sea lanes. During the Second World War this part of the coast was transformed into a military landscape. What we see now is a fraction of the pillboxes, gun emplacements and artillery batteries that were put in place - most were cleared away after 1945 and coastal erosion has claimed much of what was left. But enough remains to keep this chapter of our history alive. 

The remains of Lowestoft's World War II defences are found on the beach.

The remains of Lowestoft's World War II defences are found on the beach. - Credit: Jayne Lindill

Pill boxes in the cliffs at The Denes

Pill boxes in the cliffs at The Denes - Credit: Jayne Lindill

The remains of war time coastal defences...

The remains of war time coastal defences... - Credit: Jayne Lindill

We walk for just over a mile to a point where the path peters out. David is keen to show me how it's possible, when the tide is right or by heading inland, to continue north along the coast and into Norfolk. It's tempting, but I joke that I don't have my passport with me. Continuing north would reward us with Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserve Gunton Warren, the only remaining section of the coast where you'll find all the coastal habitats of mobile shingle, sand dunes, vegetated cliff slope and lowland heath. It is unique in Suffolk and a great place to see common lizard and adder, as well as greenfinches and green hairstreak butterflies.

We retrace our steps and take a return route through the lovely gorse filled cliffs where we encounter the pillboxes, then along Gunton Cliff, a quiet residential road. We admire the splendid houses with their enviable views of the beach and North Sea, and remark, not for the first time, what a rare, hidden gem of a place Suffolk is. Below us is the Denes Oval - the most easterly oval in Britain, quips David - next to the most easterly tennis courts. A path leads down to Sparrows Nest with the attractions of the gardens, lovely Giardino's Restaurant, Lowestoft's Maritime Museum, the Royal Naval Patrol Service museum, and the lighthouse. 

We wander back through The Ness, a recently created park that celebrates the history of this part of Lowestoft. Alongside the outdoor gym equipment and picnic areas, Lowestoft's maritime history is on display in the rusty anchors, buoys and the row up row of racks once used for drying fishing nets. At the height of the herring industry there was once a whole fishing village here. 

The Denes, looking south towards the Galloper win turbine.

The Denes, looking south towards the Galloper win turbine. - Credit: Jayne Lindill

Back at Ness Point, Galloper stands proudly at Britain's most easterly point, a symbol of a new chapter in Lowestoft's history. I bid farewell to David, thanking him for showing me this fascinating part part of the Suffolk coast. There's a lot more I need to see and learn about Lowestoft. 

Compass points

Distance: approximately 2.5 miles/4km

Time: leisurely two hours

Parking: Ness Point NR32 1XQ

Accessibility: sea wall path, shingle and sandy beaches, sandy footpaths, pavement

Map: OS Explorer OL40 The Broads

Ts & Ps: Sparrows Nest

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