Explore Eastbridge

Just 4 miles from Leiston, the picturesque village of Eastbridge is the gateway to birding heaven, the RSPB Minsmere Reserve, with the colourful heatherlands of NT Dunwich Heath just a longer coastal walk away. Nestling by woods and surrounded by marshland, its footpaths lead across ancient abbey acres and time-honoured smuggling grounds on the Minsmere Level to the beautiful unspoilt Suffolk heritage coast.

Keep a beady eye out for art installation surprises and WWII history too – and don’t miss the historic Eels Foot Inn – a popular watering hole with a strong folk music tradition.

Eastbridge village and marshes Suffolk Coast near Leiston

Don’t forget your binoculars!

The woodland, wetland and coastal habitats around  Eastbridge perfectly represent the amazing variety of wildlife and landscapes present of the beautiful Suffolk Sandlings and coast.

Pink drifts of summer wildflowers… amber autumn leaves… winter evergreens… wrap-around Suffolk blue skies – whatever season you visit the thatched and redbrick cottages of Eastbridge are framed in colour.  

And if wildlife is your thing, then this hidden hamlet is an ideal location to spot everything from marsh harriers, bitterns, butterflies and owls to deer, otters and water voles. 


Lost abbey lands – The Leiston Connection

As ruins go, the remains of the Old ‘Hermit’ Chapel perched on a gentle rise in the RSPB Minsmere marshlands – practically on the coast from Eastbridge – are highly intriguing ones.

You’ll find references to an abbey throughout the village, as it was here that monks first established Leiston Abbey in 1182. Continual flooding made them decamp to the higher ground in 1363 – the site now known as Leiston Abbey.

Abandoned for centuries, the Old Chapel remains were surely a smugglers’ hide-out, but they also conceal a wartime gun emplacement. Look out for bright colours catching the light as you pass by – Arabella Marshall’s beautiful stained glass artwork, installed in 2020, ‘A Wing and a Prayer’.

Old Leiston Abbey 'hermit' chapel, Eastbridge Suffolk
Murmuration at Eastbridge Marshes by RSPB Minsmere Suffolk

RSPB Minsmere

The renowned RSPB wetland reserve at Minsmere is just 4.5 miles away down little lanes from Leiston. So the town an ideal place to stay, whether you plan  being up with the lark to catch a dawn chorus, or just wish to enjoy a leisurely day out getting back to nature with friends, family or the little ones.

Minsmere’s marshes and scrapes attract an awesome array of overwintering birds and waterfowl. In the autumn, red deer rut on the heath and magical murmurations fill the skies as starlings return to roost. Look out in spring/summer for avocets and nesting terns, or marsh harriers above the reedbeds. This is the place to hear nightingales, warblers and the booming call of the elusive bittern.

With a regular schedule of fun and special interest activities for all ages, birdwatching equipment hire, a café and on-site shop, a trip to RSPB Minsmere makes for a great eye-opening day out for all.

Find out more

Did you know? 

The Abbots of Leiston Abbey are believed to have received income not just from farmlands, but from many other sources, considered less reputable by todays standards. These included his rights to shipwreck spoils, gallows money and tolls from local market tolls!


A sign of the times

The village sign at Eastbridge has many a tale to tell. Can you spot the smuggler with The Law in hot pursuit? Wonder where he’s off to hide! Fancy finding out more? Read on…

History by the barrel-load

Particularly around the early 1700s, many local folk kept starvation at bay by being involved in smuggling brandy, tea and tobacco.

The combination of haunting marshes and remote coast, made it ideal for boats coming ashore with contraband goods. There were some notorious gangs and the excise officers were often members of the community.

Boots & bridges

There’s no reference to a musician charming the eel out of the boot, but you’ll regularly find live traditional folk music sessions at The Eel’s Foot, that Eastbridge ale house at the heart of the village, dating back to 1533 and historically a favourite with smugglers and travellers alike.

The sunrise coast and the brick-built bridge speak for themselves, but these days the course of Minsmere River, which flows off the River Yox from Yoxford to the sea, is harder to follow, due to the network of drainage ditches and areas of open water.

But what about the windmill?

The Eastbridge smock mill wind pump lives on – just not on Eastbridge’s marshes! Following its collapse in 1977, it was put lovingly back together and given pride of place by the River Rat in Stowmarket at the Museum of East Anglian Life – now The Food Museum. Want to better imagine how the wind pump looked in its original landscape? Look no further than the parish church of St Margaret of Antioch in Leiston! You’ll find it in the stunning Arts & Crafts stained glass picture window by local 20th century artist, Margaret ‘Tor’ Rope.