National Trust UK walk 3, best for history: once a top-secret military testing site, this rich nature reserve still bears signs of its darker past
Orford Ness is one of the most dynamic landforms on the UK coastline and the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe. A large proportion of the world’s rare coastal vegetated shingle is found here, which together with the marshland provides important habitats for a range of bird species, mammals and invertebrates.
In 1915 the arrival of the Royal Flying Corps ushered in a 70-year period of secret military experimentation, mostly working on aerial warfare. Between 1935 and 1937 the first experimental work on radar was conducted on the Ness, and from 1953 tests on Britain’s atomic bombs. The best thing about this walk is the strangeness of the landscape: the juxtaposition of wild remoteness and fascinating but disturbing history. After a welcome chat about safety, visitors guide themselves through the site. Allow at least three hours, carry plenty to drink and be prepared for sudden changes in the weather.
Duncan Kent, visitor services warden, National Trust