The Ghost of Dunwich

Roseanne Ganley explores the effects of coastal erosion on Dunwich, a landmark of the Suffolk coast, and the presence of the ghosts that haunt the land. 

 

The coast had been eroding for some time now.

Seas of parish churches and religious houses were no longer present. Looking over the cliff edges of Dunwich in Suffolk, you could get a sense of the horror of events that had occurred in the early twelfth and thirteenth century. Towers of parish churches could be seen floating underwater, out in the depths of the North Sea, their presence still haunting over us. On a cold and blistery afternoon in the heart of winter, her ghostly figure is said to have been seen, falling over the cliff edges and diving into the sea.

It was inevitable that the sea would eventually wipe out the entire town. More devastation would be caused, and more buildings would be lost to the ever-changing tide. The raised, cliff top edges held their posture well, staring down at the sea below, standing their ground. A narrow path leading from the beach car park, led its way up to the top of the cliffs, twisting its way round tall, pine trees and forestry intersections. The panoramic views at the top of the Suffolk coast were undeniably pleasant. I waited. The crowds of local dog walkers, wrapped up in winter coasts, edged their way past me as I looked over across the sea. As soon as they were gone, I was alone. I could feel her presence, waiting to make herself known to me. The stories were true. She was real.

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Strong easterly winds left me feeling uneasy about where I was, longing to be back in the warmth of my car again. She had been seen for many years, the locals had almost gotten used to her being here now, making the odd appearance every now and again. Crowds of tourists would flood in during the summer to Dunwich, to see the Ancient Roman Ruins, visit the local Museum and take great pleasure in spending their days on the beaches of Suffolk. The winter brought about a harsh setting. The village eerily quiet and void of tourists. The beaches absent of any human activity. The tide sweeping in and out without a cause. Dunwich Heath a few miles inland provided more comfort. Stretches of purple coloured heathland, bringing you away from the exposure of the coastline. It was impossible not to be drawn into the wilderness of Dunwich Forest and Heathlands, a national beauty. To pretend you are in a foreign land, wandering the paths less travelled and worshipping the trees and the surrounding natural world. I could walk for hours in this paradise. In the summer many tourists from around the world travel to this foreign land, take vacations here and live the life of a gipsy for weeks on end, living freely in the wilderness.

But back on the coast, the ghostly presence of the lady who once committed suicide on the cliff edges of Dunwich could still be felt. Her silent screams across the land, traumatised by what Dunwich used to be. Will Dunwich still exist in ten or so years down the line? Or will it be a ghostly presence of the village that once was, now stripped of its entirety taken by the coast, the sea sweeping in and taking every monumental aspect of this historical village. Only time will tell.

All I know is that it will never be the same again.

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Roseanne Ganley is a 22 year old MA Wild Writing student from Ipswich. She is an outdoor enthusiast, travel writer and mental health blogger, and is interested in the workings of the mind in relation to the outdoors and how walking can improve our wellbeing.

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