It’s August and the seaside is calling; time to pack the bucket and spade, the sun cream, and the wet wipes: but if you go to Dunwich you can forget the picnic.
What could be better than a beachcombing stroll in the morning; fish and chips for lunch, and a wander around what’s left of Dunwich in the afternoon, calling in at the Museum, and then the Ship Inn for a drink on the way back to the car?
We went last week on a cool, but thankfully dry day, as part of a coach tour. The flora tea room does coach trips brilliantly; the service is fast and accurate, and jolly. The proprietor enters the coach immediately on arrival and takes the order – cod, haddock, plaice all with chips, and a range of salads. We then made our leisurely way into the bright cheery tea room and took our reserved seats. First came the cup of tea or coffee, (Oh thank you for that!) then the main attraction, the fish and chips. I was pleased to see that the portion of chips was not ridiculously large as sometimes is the case; and for those of a hungrier disposition seconds were soon brought round. There was bread and butter on the table for those who can't resist a chip buttie, and various sauces (in sachets) were offered with the added service of having the end opened neatly with a pair of scissors. Top-ups of tea and coffee were brought round, followed by the sweet which was fruit salad and ice cream. This set menu is reserved for coach parties and costs £10.50 per person – but do book in advance, the tea room seats over 100 people but fills up remarkably quickly.
For the individual diners, a plate of cod and chips is £8.95, and deserts are about a fiver each. The choice of food is more varied; I bumped into a long lost friend there enjoying smoked mackerel which he declared was delicious. There is a variety of burgers and salads and a children’s menu caters for the kids.
There is also a ‘specials board’ each day. It is a long time since I saw ‘Sherry trifle’ and ‘Knickerbockerglory’ on a café menu. Drinks include Earl Grey tea, coffee, cappuccino and hot chocolate. On a really nice day you might like to eat outside on the tables provided.
The café is dog friendly; the car park and toilets are free but donations to local charities are welcome. This place is such a welcome blast from the past: apart from spotting the great golf ball of Sizewell Nuclear Power station in the distance, through the haze, I could have believed that I had been transported back to the mid 1950’s: only the smell of Jeyes fluid was missing!
Most of Dunwich (including 12 churches) is now under the sea, and if you want to find out more about when this happened, take a stroll down the main street past the Shipp Inn and the Old Town Hall, to the Museum. Here you will find a detailed model of the original town with lines drawn across it to show its demise. Upstairs there is a short film show; whist the ground floor houses various ancient artefacts. This again is free (donations welcome) as is the Greyfriars friary and cliff top woodland where you can wander amongst the ruins of this important ancient monument. For one day, there is almost too much to do!
Flora Tea Rooms: Dunwich Beach Dunwich Suffolk, IP17 3EN
Phone: 01728 648433
103 seats maximum booking
Opens at 10 am, frying starts at 11 am: closes at 4 pm. Open from March to the end of November.