Orford Ness stood out as a must-see attraction in the National Trust handbook... 'Visit a World War Bomb test site!' and this is the same Trust that mainly looks after houses and gardens.
My Partner and I took a trip out on a wonderful summers morning in August 2012 to the village of Orford as this is where the boat leaves from to access the Nature Reserve.
The nearby car-park is 'Pay & Display' but on-road parking is free (The locals don't seem to like it though evident by the polite signs) and it's a short 5-minute walk from here to the quay at the end of the village. The National Trust office is easy to spot in the loading area and when we arrived there was a small queue going out of the door but it only took about 5-minutes to reach the desk.
The lady was very polite and booked us on a boat (the next one had just been filled) in 20-minutes time explaining that they could only take around 15 people across at a time. NT Members have to pay for the boat ride but access to the Reserve is free (Normally £4). The boat ride is a short trip across and on reaching the Ness we were greeted by a friendly volunteer who explained about the area and when to catch boats back. 'Don't stray off the path' was the main concern given to us as bombs still come to the surface as the shingle moves throughout the year... sounds scary!
We were given a map and sent on our way for what has to be one of the quietest and most peaceful walks in all my life. The main routes make for about 2-miles (and 2-miles back) with a small toilet block and information building but apart from that this is a real wilderness from start to finish. The first part of the walk was through long grass and small marsh areas but eventually the path reaches the abandoned war buildings and test sites which, aside from being deadly quiet and lifeless, made me feel a bit uneasy and spooked. This isn't a gimmick for the masses but a real example of just how serious the World Wars really were and one of the test centres is accessible to the general public. However, a large area of the buildings is only open for special events and booked tours but most of them are visible from the path.
We sat and enjoyed a picnic in the mid-day sun and the absolute silence in the air was magical... who said the UK was over-crowded?
On returning to the boat we had a chat with the friendly volunteer before heading back to Orford. This really is a magical place both for the peace and quiet but for the eeriness and spooky remains of the War camp. Do remember that the island has very few facilities and most of the walk is very open with no shelter so it could be easy to burn on a hot day. And also book ahead! the boat is very small and numbers limited so make sure you don't get turned away on your visit.
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