Although so different, there has long been a mutually beneficial connection between the inland town of Halesworth and Southwold, nine miles away on the coast. In the 18th & 19th centuries, they were linked along the floor of the Blyth Valley by the Blyth Navigation & the Southwold Railway respectively.
For much of its length, the Navigation made use of the River Blyth itself but to avoid tricky meanders, the last section into Halesworth, known as the New Reach, was freshly dug. Sadly for the entrepreneurs who used shallow-bottomed wherries to transport goods backwards and forwards (coal westward; malt eastward), the river mouth silted up. Modern navigation is unfeasible in anything other than a canoe.
Then, in 1879, a rail line was built to link the coast to the East Suffolk Railway at Halesworth. It provided an important link with the outside world but its eccentric locomotives, narrow gauge, unreliability not to mention financial depression, caused the line to close only 50 years later.
The rail line and intermediate stations may have disappeared long since too but It is still possible to walk its pretty route – you may need a Printed Guide as the exact pathway can be a little hard to follow all the way eastwards. Otherwise take a day’s Tour.
The nine miles of original trackbed is in good condition and local enthusiasts have ambitions to build a replica locomotive and to – perhaps – provide an occasional steam-driven link without disturbing the everyday serenity of the valley. To learn more about the past + present plans, visit the Halesworth & District Museum and the Railway Trust.