Shingle Street is a small coastal hamlet in Suffolk, England, at the mouth of Orford Ness, situated between Orford and Bawdsey. Part of the coast is also known as Hollesley Bay.


A community of fishing families and river pilots for the River Ore was established in the early 19th Century.


The four Martello towers south of Shingle Street were built in 1808-1809. Coastguard cottages at the North end of the beach housed coastguards who worked as pilots, lifeboatmen and excise men to control the smuggling.

Several buildings were destroyed during World War II, including the Lifeboat Inn, the hamlet’s only pub.


The beach is a designated SSI because of its rare vegetated shingle, little terns, saline lagoons and geology.

A report from October 2004 suggests that Shingle Street is at risk from the sea and could disappear within 20 years if sea defences are not erected.

North Sea windfarms can be seen in the distance on a fine days.


Was an important place for tourism in 1930s.

But destroyed in World War II.

Now a desirable elite hideaway.

Shell line

Line fishing by kayak in the saline lagoons
Melancholy summer oboe and piano meandering across the shingle far from Shingle Street itself until the end. Then some of the back footpaths through fields and allotments.

Drone Photography
January walk. 2013. Sunny. Lots of warning sounds. Electronic music. Shows steep shingle banks. Kayaking. Some quite interesting angles. End is misty.

For copies of the local news magazine Village Voices see:




Martello Towers

Originally 103 towers were built between 1805 and 1812 to resist a potential invasion by Napoleon. 29 were built between Aldeburgh and St Osyth Stone between 1808 and 1812 to protect Essex and Suffolk, the rest having been built a few years earlier across the Kent and Sussex coasts.

The four Martello towers south of Shingle Street were built in 1808-1809. Coastguard cottages at the North end of the beach housed coastguards who worked as pilots, lifeboatmen and excise men to control the smuggling.

Many are now for sale at over 1 million pounds or holiday lets:
Shingle Street holiday let:
Bawdsey for sale :

World War II

Several buildings were destroyed during World War II, including the Lifeboat Inn, the hamlet’s only pub.

See also: Petroleum Warfare Department: Burning seas

After World War II many strange happenings were reported to have taken place at Shingle Street, including a failed German invasion.Since the civilian population had been evacuated in May 1940, there were no eyewitness reports, although official documents remained classified until questions in the House of Commons led to their early release in 1993. These papers disclosed no German landing. In fact rumours of a failed invasion on the South and East Coasts were commonplace in September 1940 and helped to boost morale. Author James Hayward has proposed that these rumours, which were widely reported in the American press, were a successful example of black propaganda with an aim of ensuring American co-operation and securing lend lease resources by showing that the United Kingdom was capable of successfully resisting the German Army.

Short amateur video about a boy finding a German army badge. But civilians had been evacuated….


The beach is a designated SSI because of its rare vegetated shingle, little terns, saline lagoons and geology.

Sea Kale

Crambe maritima (sea kale, sea cole, seakale, sea colewort or crambe) is a brassica, related to the cabbage. Local people heaped loose shingle around the naturally occurring root crowns in springtime, thus blanching the emerging shoots. By the early eighteenth century, it had become established as a garden vegetable. The shoots are served like asparagus: steamed, with either a béchamel sauce or melted butter, salt and pepper.

Sea pea

Lathyrus maritimus (sea pea, beach pea, circumpolar pea, sea vetchling). The species’ pods and seeds are larger than many of its relatives’, and they have been used in years of crop failure as human food. Non-toxic, cultivated stands are the result of careful cross-breeding, and the seeds of wild pea plants should not be eaten: unprocessed sea pea seeds are poisonous.

Yellow horned poppy

The Yellow horned-poppy is a coastal plant that grows on shingle beaches, cliffs and sand dunes. The golden-yellow flowers appear in June and are followed by the ‘horns’ – curling seedpods that can be up to 30cm long. When it is broken, the plant exudes a yellow sap which is poisonous. The seeds of the Yellow horned-poppy are often eaten by small birds, such as Twite and Snow bunting.



little terns

Shingle Street survey website

Shingle Street Survey 2016

Shingle Street Ecology Report 2018

Touching the Tide project

A report from October 2004 suggests that Shingle Street is at risk from the sea and could disappear within 20 years if sea defences are not erected.

On fine days North Sea windfarms can be seen in the distance: Greater Gabbard windfarm 23km NE and London Array Windfarms to the South.

Hollesley Bay Colony

Hollesley Bay began in 1887 as a colonial college training those intending to emigrate. The land was originally purchased by Joseph Fels, an American soap-manufacturing millionaire and friend of George Lansbury, the prominent Christian Socialist who was also a leading member of the Poplar Board of Guardians.

The prison had housed a labour colony for the London unemployed. The aim was to train unemployed people for work, with a view to helping them escape pauperism. Hollesley Bay was typical in that it mainly involved exposing its inmates to a period of work either on agricultural tasks or in the kitchens and other relatively unskilled activities. Hollesley Bay had the largest prison farm in the British prison system, along with the oldest established stud for the Suffolk Punch Horse in the world.

Hollesley Bay opened on this site as a Borstal in 1938.  From that year and until 2006, the prison managed a 1800 acre farm on which the care of both crops and livestock, delivered employment for the prisoners.

There was a short-lived strike among the inmates in May 1922, partly sparked by dissatisfaction over the inmates’ levels of pay. It was said to hold around 280 men in 1923, rising to 366 in the late 1920s, and falling to around 200 in 1934. London County Council decided to dispose of the site in 1938.

In 1938 the Prison Commission purchased the site for use as a Borstal and Detention centre. The Irish writer Brendan Behan, arrested for IRA activities in 1939, was sent there, and subsequently described his experiences in Borstal Boy. Jeffrey Archer was also sent there. A major expansion took place in 1982 with the opening of Warren Hill Prison a 285 place secure unit.

In 1983 Hollesley Bay became a Youth Custody Centre this replaced the borstal system. This in turn was replaced by Young Offenders Institution in 1988. In 2002, the old borstal site became mainly for the use of minimum security adult offenders. The prison has been repeatedly criticised for the apparently large number of escapes, which has led to the nickname Holiday Bay.

The prison today

Today the establishment is an outward looking modern institution which holds sentenced adult males from 18 years and upwards without limit. The farm has gone, and a focus on resettlement and reducing re-offending is at the heart of our agenda. The establishment has developed a strong reputation in successfully preparing life sentenced prisoners for their final release. There are more than a hundred prisoners working in the community on a daily basis, and many partnership agencies work alongside prison staff, to deliver a most effective open establishment. The regime is demanding of its participants. A calm ethos of mutual co-operation, with total delivery of the sentence plan, and a commitment to the working week, are the essentials to continued occupancy at Hollesley Bay, in full preparation for release back to the community

2018 HMP Report


Waking up to views of the sea – what could be better? The magical setting of Shingle Street provides a wonderful backdrop for this Victorian seaside cottage, situated in an unrivalled spot. Simply wonderful.

The Shingle Street Shell Line

In 2005 stonecutter Lida Cardozo Kindersley and her childhood friend Els Bottema started to arrange a line of shells on the beach, beginning as a way of coping with their shared experience of cancer treatment. After regular visits to add to the line by 2018 it stretched for more than 275m and was made up of 20,000 individual whelk shells. 

A short documentary film about the work, entitled ‘C Shells’, was released in 2017, followed by a book ‘The Shingle Street Shell Line’ by Bottema and Kindersley in 2018

In 2005 two childhood friends, Els and Lida, spent a week in Suffolk after each had been through a year of cancer. On their first long walk along the beach, they picked up some white shells and, sitting down to rest, arranged them around a plant. From that day on, every walk added more shells to a growing line, symbolic of their slow day by day, shell by shell recovery. Twice a year they spend a week repairing and relaying the line and find that many people have added to it. Frail and transitory, like us and those who come and wonder at it, the line is a signal of courage and survival.


Cloudburst at Shingle Street

Shingle Street was the inspiration of the Thomas Dolby song , from the album The Golden Age of Wireless.


On Shingle Street
The summer’s sweet,
The stones are flat,
The pebbles neat
And there’s less rip
When tides are neap.
It’s fine to swim, or fine to try
But when the sea runs fast and high
And skies turn black and cormorants weep
Best watch your step on Shingle Street.

On Shingle Street
The shelving’s steep
With stones to skim
As if they’d feet
To hop and skip
Across the deep,
To pitter-pat and aquaplane,
Again again again again,
Not flip and flop, and splash and drop,
The opened trap, the hangman’s rope,
The cairns that mark where life gave out,
The muddy dark off Shingle Street.

From Shingle Street
To Bawdsey Bay
The sea-mews shriek
Above the spray,
The rolling seals
Are charcoal grey
As though burnt out or singed by grief.
Like ash-streaked mourners, half-possessed,
They duck and bob and stare to land
In hope that we might understand.
But nothing helps, we fail the test,
They hang and gaze without relief
Beyond the reach of Shingle Street.

For Shingle Street’s a single street,
A row of shacks in stone and wood,
The sea out front, the marsh out back,
Just one road in and one road out,
With no way north except the spit,
And no way south except on foot,
A cul-de-sac, a dead-end track,
A sandbanked strand to sink a fleet,
A bay, a bar, a strip, a trap,
A wrecking ground, that’s Shingle Street.

On Shingle Street
As sunset seeps
Across the marsh
The flocks of kale
Are grazing sheep,
A soft pink light
Sneaks up the beach
As if each stone were ringed with fire,
As if each pebble held the heat
Of past disasters, past defeats.
And in the dusk they tell a tale
Of burning boats and blistered flesh,
And you can’t help but watch and hear
And smell the oil and taste the fear
And feel your skin scorch in the heat:
You won’t sleep sound on Shingle Street.

On Shingle Street
The stones are neat
And warm as stoves
Beneath your feet
Like aga-lids
That store the heat.
But just an inch or two below
It’s sloppy-wet and cold as snow.
The lips are dry but not the mouth.
The tide’s come in though it’s still out,
The icy north’s migrated south.
The oven tops are just a cheat.
Beware the tricks of Shingle Street.

For Shingle Street’s a sneaky street,
That smiles and mangles, lures and wrecks,
Where water strips and wind dissects,
Where sea-kale bows its green-grey head
As waves wash up the new-made dead,
A bolt-hole built with ghost-white stones,
A charnel house for ancient bones,
A beach, a bitch, a crypt, a con,
A bight, a morgue, a scam, a tomb,
A sun-trap strand, a catacomb,
An angel with a nasty streak,
A seabird with a razor beak,
A double bluff, that’s Shingle Street.

From Shingle Street
To Orford Ness
The waves maraud,
The winds oppress,
The earth can’t help
But acquiesce
For this is east, and east means loss,
A lessening shore, receding ground
Where land runs out and nothing’s sound,
Just inches last year, this year feet –
Nothing lasts long on Shingle Street.

On Shingle Street
The grind goes on,
A churning bowl
Of sand and stone,
A watery mix that unbuilds homes,
Unearthing earth, unlaying land,
Tall waves that flash like silver spades,
And bulldozed buffs and quarried bays,
Not give-and-take but take-and-keep,
Just shingle left on Shingle Street.

For Shingle Street’s a sinking street,
The worn-out coast’s in slow retreat
With lopped-off bluffs and crumbling cliffs,
And empty air where churches stood,
And houses perched, and fields and woods,
And no known means to stop the rot.
A breakers’ yard of rusted hulls,
Where combers come and herring gulls,
A holding bay for washed-up trash,
A rest home for the obsolete,
A hole, a heap, a wreck, a wrack,
A nomad’s land, that’s Shingle Street.

On Shingle Street
The sea repeats
Its tired old tricks,
Its one-man show,
The drumrolled waves along the strand,
The bass-line thud and cymbal-clash
As stones are stoned and pebbles dashed.
Again again again again
The waves collapse, the flints resound,
The tide runs in and takes the ground,
The tide runs out, the ground slips back.
Variety is not the name
But that’s the point – the sea’s the same,
Unchanging grey, the one sure thing,
A flooded plain in plain disguise,
A level field that hides its rise
Through constant ebb and constant flow,
Unlike the earth, which shifts and shrinks,
Unlike ourselves, who have to go.