Walberswick, Suffolk, England: It’s a tiny village on the coast that checks off every requisite of the classic English hamlet — minus the murders solved by a clever vicar or spinsterly knitting instructor.
Eighteenth-century homes. Garden walls whose concrete is studded with ancient shells from the beach. A ruined church. A grocery store with a big, red, circular mailbox outside. A village green where the summer fete is held, and two pubs, the Anchor and the Bell. The ale is crisp and fresh, made across the river in the larger seaside resort town of Southwold, home to an old lighthouse, a pier and a long stretch of colorful beach houses for the London crowd.
You can drive to Southwold from Walbers, but better to take the ferry: a single rowboat oared by a member of a family that’s been going back and forth for generations. It’ll cost you a pound. The family dog sits in front as a lookout.
Walberswick is populated in part by refugees and retirees of London’s artistic circles, so you’ll find an extraordinary collection of talent meandering off to the beach. That fellow with the small dog in his bike basket? One of England’s best soundtrack composers, and a boy-band sensation in the 1960s. The amusing old lady at the Black Dog deli buying bread? Famed actress and director. (And one of the Freuds, you know.) Keira Knightley has a place here. That fellow there at the pub directed “Love, Actually.” And so on.
But that’s just a quirky thing. Such talent is useful when you want to put on a show at the Village Hall, but it’s not a place for stargazing. It’s a place for, well, real stargazing. You leave the pub at closing time, wander down the dark road to your house, and if you have the inclination you may head toward the church, take the fork off Palmer’s Lane, and just sit in the field and marvel at the innumerable stars above.
Just keep in mind that it’s regarded as one of the most haunted villages in Suffolk. George Orwell reportedly saw a wraith in the church cemetery while visiting. A ghostly carriage is said to ride the streets some night, hoofs clopping.
I was due to go back in June, but, well. You know. Perhaps at summer’s end. Two months isn’t long to wait — and time moves at a different pace there. It’ll still be 1690 at the church, 1960 at the pub, and 2020 in the chic shop with Wi-Fi. It’ll still be Walbers.
James Lileks • 612-673-7858