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Features and Habitats

One of the most noticeable features of Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is its diversity of land cover. 

Few places can match the sheer variety of habitats found: heathland; reedbed; ancient woodland and modern commercial forestry; saltmarsh; estuaries; shingle beaches and crumbling coastal cliffs.

It is this mixture of habitats and their proximity to one another that gives rise to the outstanding wildlife value of the AONB.

Almost 29% of the AONB is internationally and nationally designated for its nature conservation importance, with a number of different Designated Sites.

Landscape view of trees in some heath


River Ore at Hollesley


Group of people walking on river bank


View of Felixstowe docks from Levington Creek


Landscape view of Aldeburgh Marshes


Landscape view of pebble beach


Rows of conifers


View of fields and hedges


Dunwich Cliffs, view north from cliff top

Coastline and Seascapes

Covehithe cliffs


View of Aldeburgh from the air

Villages, Hamlets and Coastal Market Towns 

The towns and villages within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB have a quiet, unspoilt quality and have retained many fine old buildings, which give them considerable charm.

Even the largest towns, Southwold, Aldeburgh (pictured), and Woodbridge, are quite small, and there are many villages and hamlets within the area.  

11 ‘Conservation Areas’ (a district built heritage designation), are located wholly or partially within the AONB. 

Old photo of what Holbrook used to look like

Historic Environment 

The Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB is an area with a rich history and its historic environment records detail a fascinating account of land use. 

Hints to past landscape include ancient trackways and other earthworks, medieval peat cutting banks, post-medieval bridges, field drains, sand pits and sea banks.

Clues to the people who lived here are given through Bronze Age round barrows, impressive ancient Roman and medieval pottery finds and shipwrecks of unknown date.   

There are clearly visible and easily understandable relics from more recent history such as World War II pill boxes as well as those which may pass by the general visitor and require more interpretation, such as anti-tank cubes and silt trenches.  

There are 39 Scheduled Monuments within the AONB covering a total of 77 hectares. The largest is the rectilinear enclosures near Boyton Hall Farm. 14 of the Scheduled Monuments are bowl barrows.

There is also a string of Martello towers which indicate the past importance of the coast for defensive purposes. Orford Castle Scheduled Monument includes the 12th century tower keep as well as the buried remains of associated structures.

There are two Grade II Registered Parks and Gardens within the AONB:

  • Henham Registered Park and Garden (324.5 ha) near Blytheburgh that includes the remains of a pleasure ground. A large hall was built on the site in 1528 and was re-built after being lost to a fire in 1773.
  • Bawdsey Manor Registered Park and Garden (59.4 ha) at the mouth of the River Deben and characterised by a series of gardens dating from 1885, including an artificial Pulhamite cliff.  

There are 677 Listed Buildings in the AONB; 17 are Grade I listed, 43 are Grade II* listed and 617 are Grade II listed. There are clusters of Listed Buildings in and around the Southwold Conservation Area, Aldeburgh Conservation Area, Orford Conservation Area and the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook.

There is a total of 5,148 Historic Environment Records within the AONB and 316.2 hectares (1%) of the AONB is managed for archaeological/historic features through agri-environment schemes.