Loveable Ed has set the bench very high for blog writing. Now I have managed to repair the keyboard from those touch typing paws, it’s Small-Soft’s (I ask you!) turn to try and match his wit, humour and dogmatic attention to detail.
A Beach Walk
We so love being by the sea and have both always enjoyed the wildness of the sea, especially in winter. This last week we have had a mixture of snow, mist, wind and clear blue skies. There was so much to see and learn but this is a brief run down of our beach walk
Martello Tower – We started our walk by joining a few footpaths that led us to the south of Aldeburgh along the edge of the River Alde to a Napoleonic Martello Tower. This has now been converted to holiday accommodation. We couldn’t quite see if there was a roof terrace but if there is the views would be dramatic.
Slaughden – The Martello Tower was originally part of a thriving ship building community called Slaughden. This village was on a precariously narrow spit of land between the North Sea and the River Alde. After the silting up of the River Alde on the west of this coastal village and erosion by the sea on the east, the village was finally abandoned in 1936 and the sea wall was built over any remains of the village. It wasn’t unheard of in the day for the residents to open both the front door and back door to let the sea wash through. From the map below it looks like the river could meet the sea at any point but it flows another 9 miles south before actually flowing into the sea.
Pebble Homage – this is an art installation at the The South Lookout on the beach. Opened in May 2015 and supposedly due to finish a year later in May 2016. It seems to still be going strong from the number of newly adorned pebbles. The idea is to take a walk along the beach towards the Martello Tower and then write your reflections on a stone from the beach and leave them for others to read. There were a couple of trestle tables bowing under the strain of the amount of stones completed and strewn with a few Sharpie pens to write your message. At some stage the stones will be distributed on the beach for others to read throughout the years until the messages wear away. Perhaps this is the only form of graffiti that we agree with and took part in.
Painted Boats – another project. This time to preserve the fishing boats of Aldeburgh. The idea being to paint the familiar sight of unused unloved fishing boats on the beach in an attempt to preserve them and make them a part of the landscape. They look really good and others must think so too if the number of photographs being taken is anything to go by.
I have struggled to call this place a town. It feels like a village in so many ways. Especially when you have retailers such as Baggot and Son the newsagents and Salter and King Craft Butchers. It seems that a concerted effort has been made to keep the larger chains of retailers out of town and it makes for a much more pleasant saunter down the High Street. I do love a coffee and cake shop and we are spoilt for choice but are rationing ourselves to trying one a week.
The town has more of a buzz this week as it is half term. Lots of families heading for the beach for a walk, children filling buckets with stones, dogs playing in the waves and Dads trying to hang on for dear life to kites. All of these activities necessitate a visit to the best fish and chip shop in Suffolk, The Golden Galleon.
St Peter and St Paul’s Church
Walking on to the far end of the High Street brought us to this impressive church with it’s large churchyard. Walking through the churchyard was like stepping back in time. The names, ages and dates on the gravestones giving us a glimpse of the impact of the sea on it’s residents. There were many memorials to “Trinity Pilots” which is what all pilots who completed their apprenticeships were called because they had to collect their licences from Trinity House in London. The Act to register these pilots of the sea was set up in 1514 by Henry VIII and some of the gravestones dated back to the 1700s and amazingly were still legible. There was also a large memorial to the crew of The Aldeburgh Lifeboat of 1899. Seven crew members were lost at sea when their vessel was overcome by a succession of huge waves. There are still two lifeboats stationed at Aldeburgh today and we have seen them set off once or twice. Hopefully just on training exercises.
In the churchyard there were little direction markers leading the way to the grave of Benjamin Britten, the composer, conductor and pianist. He obviously gets a lot more visitors that the lifeboat crew of 1899. It may sound morbid but I like to read as many gravestones as possible. It gives me the feeling that at least someone has remembered and uttered the name of some mostly long gone and long forgotten former residents and wonder what their life had been like. The older ones were probably the well off residents because they could afford a gravestone although some of the nautical ones may have been funded by donations.
After one of our long afternoon wintry walks, the wind suddenly dropped and the sun seemed reluctant to fall any further. This all sounds a bit deep but it made me understand what inspires painters to do their thing. Neither of us are artistic but there is something about the landscape here that calls out to be painted or drawn. I don’t think my stick men and stick trees would do it justice though. Maybe our charge, Ed, is not only gifted in the art of the written word and could knock up a mock Turner or Constable. Should we let him loose with oils or watercolours? Maybe not.
What is the best thing to finish a beach walk (that is apart from a visit to The Golden Galleon)? A beach sit down and throwing a few stones in the sea. Not forgetting to check to make sure that we weren’t condemning someone’s treasured Pebble Homage to the depths!