Orford Ness, Suffolk

I treated myself to a trip to the East Coast of England last weekend. My specific objective was an overnight stay on Orford Ness to experience all the weird shingle bound dereliction of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment both at sunset and sunrise.

The trip was courtesy of the National Trust, which organises one or two special events for photographers each year. Our hosts: John, Simon and Rob were extremely knowledgeable about both the history of the site and the wildlife, and also keen photographers, so the weekend was arranged around the best light.

The buildings of the AWRE are of course the biggest attraction as a photographer, but the open expanse of shingle and sea was also enthralling. I was surprised at the expanse of the place beyond the familiar images of the strange pagoda like structures.

This is not a trip for the faint hearted photographer. The bunkhouse is comfortable enough, but basic. Bunk beds are included but no bedding so bring your own, but you won’t want to sleep much as the light is amazing even well before dawn!

Bring plenty of warm and waterproof clothing as the wind whips across the exposed spit and the weather changes very rapidly. The team provided transport to all the main locations, but several of us chose to walk extensively to see more of this amazing place.

The trip starts and ends at Orford Quay, where overnight parking is available in the council carpark: typically these events are arranged over a Saturday and Sunday. Being part of an arranged trip means that you are not so constrained by the normal ferry operating times with crossing arranged by the reserve warden in their own boat.

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