Dunwich gorse walk

Dunwich Heath, Suffolk IP17 3DJ

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Dunwich Coastguard Cottages © Michael Graham

Dunwich Coastguard Cottages

Sea Watch Hut at Dunwich Heath © Michael Graham

Sea Watch Hut at Dunwich Heath

Gorse on Dunwich Heath © Michael Graham

Gorse on Dunwich Heath

The Enclosure at Dunwich Heath © Michael Graham

The Enclosure at Dunwich Heath

On the way to Docwra’s ditch on Dunwich Gorse walk © Michael Graham

On the way to Docwra’s ditch on Dunwich Gorse walk

Docwra's Ditch at Dunwich Heath © Michael Graham

Docwra's Ditch at Dunwich Heath

Centenary Pond at Dunwich Heath in July © Richard Gilbert

Centenary Pond at Dunwich Heath in July

Route overview

Dunwich Heath offers you peace and quiet and a true sense of being at one with nature. It’s a rare and precious habitat, home to special species such as Dartford warbler, nightjar, woodlark and ant-lion. From July to September, the heath is alive with colour. This walk will take you around the perimeter of Dunwich Heath, all on NT land.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Dunwich Gorse Walk Map
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Dunwich Heath information hut, grid ref: TM476685

  1. From the information hut, facing the front of the Coastguard's Cottages and tea-room, walk round the right hand side of the building and locate the marker post with yellow banding.

    Show/HideCoastguard Cottages

    The Cottages are home to a small but enjoyable tea-room and gift shop, with a viewing room at the top of the building.

    Dunwich Coastguard Cottages © Michael Graham
  2. Walk on past the Sea Watch Hut on the right.

    Show/HideSea Watch Hut

    Located just after the start of this walk, stay a while at the Sea Watch lookout hut and you may be lucky enough to spot porpoises, seals and birds.

    Sea Watch Hut at Dunwich Heath © Michael Graham
  3. In 100 yards (91 metres) or so there's a natural branch in the path, bear right at this point.

    Show/HideGorse

    Look out for some fantastic views of the gorse on this walk.

    Gorse on Dunwich Heath © Michael Graham
  4. Continue on the path until reaching the NT access road. Cross the road, go straight ahead for a few yards and then bear left, and shortly afterwards bear right.

  5. Take the next turn to the right and continue until you reach a marker post for the Sheepfold.

    Show/HideSheepfold

    This area, being bounded by banks and ditches, was thought to have been a medieval sheepfold. However, a recent historic landscape survey has concluded this is a later feature and, therefore, was not used to enclose sheep. Look out for Dartford warblers as they fly low across the heath.

  6. At the next junction, keep to the left and head around the enclosure.

    Show/HideEnclosure

    The enclosure is a fine piece of open acid grassland with scattered hawthorns. It's a great place for spotting birds and insects.

    The Enclosure at Dunwich Heath © Michael Graham
  7. Bear left around the enclosure.

  8. At the next junction keep to the left.

  9. After a few yards you'll reach a public footpath/bridleway with several possible directions. Ignore the public footpath sign to your left and turn right, following the yellow and purple marker post.

  10. Now keep to the left for 200 to 300 yards (180 to 270 metres), along what is known as the North Boundary Walk.

  11. At the end of the North Boundary Walk (with a five-bar gate and stile ahead of you onto public land), turn left and follow the path for 600 yards (550 metres).

  12. With Bunker Hill on your left, turn right at the marker post with yellow and green bands, then immediately left. After 200 yards (180 metres) the path turns left, and in 150 yards (140 metres) you'll reach Nightjar Corner.

    Show/HideOn the way to Docwra's ditch

    There are some fine views on the Gorse walk, and this is one of them. Just be careful not to slip down the slope!

    On the way to Docwra’s ditch on Dunwich Gorse walk © Michael Graham
  13. Nightjar Corner is a lovely secluded spot to look out for dragonflies, damselflies and lizards as well as the elusive adder and grass-snake. Continue to follow the path.

  14. Here, you reach the start of Docwra's Ditch. A little further on is what is known as the Bund, on the right hand side.

    Show/HideThe bund

    The bank or 'bund' (just after point 14 on the map) was constructed in 1999 and is now covered in reed. Its purpose is to protect the freshwater habitats of the RSPB Minsmere reserve (adjoining the Heath) in the event of an inundation by the sea. If the sea-defence was breached, much of the extensive freshwater nature reserve to the seaward side of the Bund would be lost. Look out for a sand quarry, purpose-built as an incredibly important habitat for a variety of solitary wasps and bees. These insects, some of them nationally scarce, dig individual nests for their young in the soft, hot sandy banks and ground. The bees provision their larvae with 'pollen' balls and the wasps with paralysed invertebrates such as spiders, weevils, caterpillars and even honey bees caught in flight or collecting pollen. Read the sign for more information.

    Docwra's Ditch at Dunwich Heath © Michael Graham
  15. Docwra's Ditch extends for approximately 220 yards (200 metres) between points 14 and 15.

    Show/HideDocwra's Ditch

    Docwra's Ditch, named after the first National Trust warden for Dunwich Heath, was dug in 1970. The ditch follows the lines of the original freshwater channel and encourages a rich diversity of wildlife. Listen out for Cettis warbler and water rails, wherever a viewing point is located.

  16. It's another 165 yards (150 metres) or so before reaching Centenary Pond, taking a sharp left turn and continuing straight up the hill towards the Coastguard Cottages, shop and tea-room. Take the opportunity to visit the lookout at the top of the Cottages whilst you're here.

    Show/HideCentenary Pond

    This pond, which has a good stock of mainly smooth newts, was created for the study of water creatures in 1995 to mark the centenary of the founding of the National Trust. Pond-dipping has become a popular aspect of the broad educational programme, now well established at Dunwich Heath. The pond needs regular work to control an invasive weed called Crassula helmsii; affected areas (around the edge) are covered with butyl tarpaulin for a large part of the year.

    Centenary Pond at Dunwich Heath in July © Richard Gilbert

End: Dunwich Heath information hut, grid ref: TM476685

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 2.4 miles (3.8km)
  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • OS Map: Landranger 156
  • Terrain:

    Mostly paths, some roots underfoot and hilly in places. May be muddy in wet weather - suitable footwear necessary. No cycles allowed other than on public bridleways. Dogs on leads welcome, but please clear up dog litter.

  • How to get here:

    On Foot : On Suffolk Coasts and Heaths Path, and Sandlings Walk

    By Bike : On Suffolk Coastal cycle route, see Sustrans website

    By Bus : Demand-responsive bus from Darsham or Saxmundham; booking essential, contact 01728 833526

    By train : Darsham, 6 miles (9.6km)

    By car : 1 mile (1.6km) south of Dunwich, signposted from A12. From Westleton to Dunwich road, 1 mile (1.6km) before Dunwich village turn right into Minsmere road, then 1 mile (1.6km) to Dunwich Heath. National Trust (NT) car park by Information Hut (NT members free; non-members pay and display)

  • Facilities:

    Parking : Pay and display (free to NT members)

    Food and drink : Clifftop tea-room, picnic area.

    Shopping : Coastal-themed gift shop (see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunwichheath for opening times);

    WC's : Toilets in building nest to the old Coastguard Cottages

    Picnic area, guided walks throughout summer, children's play area

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