Explore Suffolk's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Suffolk Coast and Heaths
Stretching south from Lowestoft to the river Stour, the AONB protects heathland, reed beds, salt-marsh and mud-flats, a rich mixture of unique and vulnerable lowland landscapes, all of which are under pressure of change. It is deeply indented by the estuaries of the Blyth, Alde, Deben, Orwell and Stour and bounded by the crumbling cliffs and tidal spits of the low and lonely North Sea coastline, the nearest unspoilt coast to Greater London. This is one of the most important wildlife areas in Britain including three National Nature Reserves, many Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the RSPB's Minsmere Reserve. The mud-flats and creeks of the AONB's salt-marsh-fringed estuaries contain wildlife wetland sites of national and international importance, many of which are Ramsar sites and proposed Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas.
The low-lying coastal hinterland contains some of England's few remaining areas of ancient open heathland, including the Sandlings whose wild sandy stretches are a vanishing refuge of the nightjar, woodlark, and rare heath butterflies.
Characterised by its flowering lanes and colour-washed Suffolk pink cottages, the AONB has retained much of its unchanged character. The AONB, with a population of 23,490, has no large towns but includes medieval market towns such as Aldeburgh. There is an increasing number of resident commuters working in Ipswich, Felixstowe and Lowestoft. The rural economy is based on agriculture and tourism.
Visitor activity is centred around Aldeburgh with its major summer arts festival and in small towns and coastal hamlets such as Southwold and Walberswick. The booming popularity of watersports has brought considerable leisure usage to the Stour, Deben, Blyth, Ore and Alde estuaries.
To find out more, visit: www.suffolkcoastandheaths.org
On the Suffolk-Essex border, this AONB protects an exceptional example of a lowland river valley. Undulating slopes fall gently to the slow-flowing, meandering River Stour and in its hedged water meadows, copses and riverbank willows, the landscape is perhaps the epitome of the farmed English countryside. It has an extraordinary range of different scales and special features giving rise to distinctive landscape characters - rolling fields on the valley slopes, lush and sheltered valley-floor meadows and open marshes and intimate tributary valleys. Its pastoral scenes are world famous as the settings used by the artist Constable, and Flatford Mill and picturesque Dedham retain an unspoilt quality, despite their summer visitor onslaught.
The designated area of the AONB stretches upstream from Manningtree to within one mile of Bures. However, the landscape quality of the remainder of the Stour Valley has resulted in its designation as a potential AONB or Special Landscape Area and countryside management takes place within this wider framework.
Because much of East Anglia's traditional grasslands have already been drained and ploughed for arable farming, the hedgerows and wildflower meadows of Dedham Vale are among some of England's most precious and vulnerable pastoral landscapes and the countryside is enhanced by narrow lanes and characteristic timber-frame and thatch houses.
With a population of under 10,000 this is still essentially a farming area, although the AONB now has a significant and growing proportion of residents commuting to Ipswich, Colchester and London. Tourism is localised, but forms an important part of the economy at Dedham and Flatford, while the River Stour is an important boating and angling water.
To find out more, visit: www.dedhamvalestourvalley.org .
Information has been created with help from the National Association for AONBs. For more information visit: www.aonb.org.uk .