Blacshore, looking towards the Harbour Inn

Blackshore, looking towards the Harbour Inn

Southwold is always associated in my mind with summer holidays and cups of tea on the beach; sand between my toes and aimlessly throwing pebbles into the sea. Most holidaymakers have only experienced this part of the Suffolk coast when the sun shines, or if it is pouring down, it is precipitating with rain and not snow. It is a place of ice lollies and ice creams, not snow and ice. Southwold has a year-round existence however; not everybody deserts the town for their winter quarters in the Home Counties as the temperature falls. Christmas is of course a busy time of year, with carols and mince pies, Christmas trees and Christmas lights, and this true of Southwold as it is of almost everywhere else. You can feel snug in a bar in Southwold with the fire blazing away, and when the hotels are full at this time of year. But as, in the East Anglian dialect saying, ‘ the days lengthen, so the cold strengthen’, this part of Suffolk passes out of most people’s awareness.

The amusement machines that always rang out in the arcade at the landward end of the pier (are they still there I wonder?) are quiet and the beach stalls are shut up until the holidaymakers come back. High tides and stormy winds threaten the exposed beach huts, and the smooth sandy beach has become piled up with shingle against the breakwaters. The keen east wind whistles down the High Street, discouraging shoppers from tarrying by the shop windows. The Walberswick ferry does not operate during the winter months and the journey to Southwold is many miles by car instead. The sailing community have battened down their hatches until the return of summer. Only the wind rattling the halyards against the masts reminds you of the dinghies pulled up on the rhond.

Snow at Southwold

Snow at Southward

If you like walking in the freezing months of January and February, Southwold shows a different face, one more like it used to be a hundred and fifty years ago, before the leisure industry took over the town.  There are no holidaying sailors along Blackshore now that the winter storms have arrived, but for the fishermen this is the best time of year for catching fish.  Deep sea cod in particular are at their most abundant in North Sea in winter, and may be caught from the beach by rod and line. The harbour becomes once more a place of working boats, although the hardy fishermen were, even forty years ago, mostly part-timers.

In the picture of the dog Suki you can see that the clouds look heavy with more snow but you must admit that the scene is picturesque. The sun is shining, and low in the western sky it is throwing long shadows of my sister’s dog as she stands expectantly in the light covering of snow.  Nobody seems to be about and the one car in the middle distance was my own. The year was 1978. I wonder if the snow still makes its annual return, or if global warming will banish it for good.




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