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Visit the Shotley Peninsula in Suffolk

Explore the peninsula

A chance remark made in his local pub one night, and suddenly the seed of an idea for a new tour guide business was planted. Derek Davis was sitting in The Rose in Shotley when he made enquiries about some monkeys he had noticed, carved into the gatehouse of Woolverstone Hall in Freston. Monkeys do not have an obvious connection with Suffolk, so why were they there he wondered?

A local man, who was sitting nearby, explained that monkeys were the favoured pets of William Berners, a London property developer, who built his 'gentleman's residence' in 1776. Fire broke out in the hall one night, and the monkeys raised the alarm, giving Berners and his family time to escape the blaze unscathed. The carvings of monkeys around the Woolverstone estate are a tribute to his vigilant pets.

Woolverstone Hall, SuffolkWoolverstone Hall, Suffolk (now a private girls' school).
Derek heard lots of other stories about the peninsula that evening, all of which piqued his interest. “It was obvious the area has a rich tapestry of history, culture and hidden gems in what is a naturally beautiful area” he says. After further exploration and research, Derek set up Shotley Peninsula Tours to share his knowledge and the beauty of the peninsula with visitors, both from the UK and abroad.

The Shotley Peninsula forms part of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which stretches from Shotley in the south of Suffolk, up the coast to Kessingland in the north. The whole area is characterised by shingle beaches, heathland, forest, estuaries and iconic coastal towns such as Aldeburgh and Southwold.

Alton Water, Shotley Peninsula, SuffolkAlton Water, Shotley Peninsula, Suffolk
So what makes the southern part of the AONB such a lovely place to visit? “The eclectic mix of birds, flora, fauna and wildlife” says Derek. “All year round beautiful scenery and hidden gems; and its fantastic people with amazing stories to tell, going back hundreds of years.”

“Check out Freston woods for its wild garlic and bluebells in the spring. Summer sees a raft of sailing regattas and village events, and the Suffolk Open Studios initiative. Migrating birds fill the skies and marshes from autumn onwards and the peninsula is a mix of colourful hues and views”.

Shotley Peninsula, SuffolkPhacelia and foxgloves on the Shotley Peninsula, Suffolk
Many interesting facts make the area a place for exploration too and here are Derek's favourites: Anne Boleyn’s heart is buried in Erwarton Church; Alfred, King of Wessex defeated a Viking fleet off Shotley Point in 885 AD; and Arthur Ransome, well known for his Swallows and Amazons series of children's books (and slightly less well known perhaps, for being a British spy), wrote We Didn’t mean to Go To Sea (1937) while living here.

When it comes to eating well and making the most of local produce and fine Suffolk beers, there are lots of places to choose from. Derek's list of favourites includes the Bristol Arms at Shotley, The Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill and the Suffolk Food Hall at Wherstead for their excellent food and views. The Michelin-listed Red Lion at Chelmondiston is another favourite, and the Shotley Rose gets the thumbs up as traditional English pub.

And where is the best view to be had? “So many to choose from” says Derek. “The Strand looking down the River Orwell is one. Enjoy lunch at the Cookhouse [at the Suffolk Food Hall] and gaze from an elevated position at thousands of birds, Freston Tower and a mixture of yachts and commercial vessels; and Shotley Marina with its views to Felixstowe and Harwich - you can see two counties without moving”.

Suffolk Food Hall, Shotley PeninsulaSuffolk Food Hall, Shotley Peninsula
Derek was a 'Ganges Boy' and trained at the Naval establishment HMS Ganges in 1974. “It was tough discipline” he remembers, “but in between the monotonous drilling and shouting, there were some fun times, climbing the mast, assault courses, learning to use weapons and meeting some terrific lads”.
Nowadays, HMS Ganges  is a child-friendly museum, with activities to entertain youngsters and for adults there are DVDs showing what life was like, and a huge collection of memorabilia.
To book a guided tour of the peninsula, contact Derek Davis at Shotley Peninsula Tours 01473 787375/07824167196 or visit his website for more details.

Read our earlier article about life on the Shotley Peninsula here.

Visit England's Year of Literary Heroes 2017

2017 will be Visit England's celebratory Year of Literary Heroes which includes the 50th anniversary of Arthur Ransom's death. In 1935 Ransome and his wife moved to Suffolk.  He died on 3rd June 1967.
Coincidentally, next year is also the 80th year since Ransome's We Didn't Mean to Go To Sea (1937) was published. This book was inspired by his favourite boat the Nancy Blackett, which he moored at Pin Mill.
He said it was here, “down the deep green lane that ended in the river itself…this happy place where almost everybody wore sea boots, and land, in comparison with water, seemed hardly to matter at all” that he set the opening of the book that the Nancy Blackett inspired.
Keep an eye on the Visit Suffolk events list for news of events celebrating Arthur Ransome in 2017.
The Nancy Blackett, SuffolkArthur Ransome's boat the Nancy Blackett, on the River Orwell in Suffolk.