What a great, but exhausting day, in a new county. Suffolk. Trevor (may the gods of walking smile upon him) made the day very much better than I could have planned. To begin, he offered to pick me up in Aldeburgh and drop me back at Felixstowe, leaving at 7.45 from Aldeburgh, which saved me a long trip and a considerable amount of money at the end of the day. He also arranged the last, marvellous crossing of the Alde in a little tender owned by his friend, Alistair, without which I would have had to make a long cross country detour.
Tempted by the thought of multiple river crossings (and the promise of a bacon butty in Felixstowe, Chris was persuaded to join me again, despite having finished his duty of keeping me under surveillance in Essex when we reached East Mersea yesterday. So, an early departure from Colchester, creeping out so as not to wake Rita, brought us to Aldeburgh just before 8am.
We reached Felixstowe just before 9, and set out more or less from the point where the foot ferry from Harwich arrives. The ginormous cranes I mentioned in the Harwich walk looked even more impressive close to, and, in fact, remained visible for the most part of the day. The morning was bright, although we could see thick black clouds out to sea. The wind however was roaring in from the North East and howled all day, resulting in burnt faces and achey ears.
We stopped on the sea front for the promised bacon butty. It proved to be authentic seaside fare – white bread and marg (ugh), but good crispy bacon and excellent coffee.
Felixstowe sea front is an interesting mix of kiss-me-quick shacks and sheds, curvaceous 1930s architecture, and at the northern end, some Victorian splendour. We set off at a cracking pace, as with well over 20 miles to do and a tide to catch, we couldn’t hang about. The first excitement was the ferry across the river Deben. The river is some quarter mile across, and a ferry service runs in summer. As we walked inland, with the river to our left we speculated on which of the many craft could be the ferry. We followed the instructions at the tiny jetty to wave the ping-pong bat attached to a rope to call it in. Helpfully, a little boat with sign saying “ferry” in black hand-writing on white board was attached to the little cabin. The ferryman was unimpressed by our banter, but pulled himself together enough to wish us a good trip.
We crossed the choppy waters in a few minutes, and rang Trevor who was to meet us on the coast just east of Alderton. The walk round Bawdsey point was tough going. The path is on shingle which is very hard to walk on, the sky was lowering and the tide was coming in briskly. A number of signs saying beach impassable at high tide gave subliminal messages to go as fast as possible, which on shingle is much like running on the spot with weights attached to your thighs. We came to a narrow set of stairs up to the cliff top so decided to go up. The cliff top was covered with undergrowth, in particular Alexanders some 4 foot high. The whole of the inland side was fenced with a high mesh and stern MoD signs. The cliff top had eroded in parts, so some of the narrow bits were a bit unpleasant for someone who is not comfortable with heights. Still better than the shingle, though.
Far out at sea, we could see container ships, some so large we couldn’t believe they were ships and wondered if they could be gas platforms, but no, just ships.
We met Trevor on the sea wall just east of Alderton. The sea wall is not dissimilar from that which I have been following in Essex, but the countryside seems completely different – a much broader view all round, and the marshes are more like reed islands with much less mud.
An interesting feature along the stretch of coast is the prevalence of defensive military structures. Martello towers line the coast at half mile intervals, apparently there are 103 between Seaford (where I was last 6th April) and Aldeburgh, so I suppose I must have seen them all. There were pill boxes everywhere and mysterious other lumps of concrete.
After a further five or so miles, we met Sally, Stephen, Sarah and young Benjamin at the delightful Butley ferry. Run by volunteers it takes walkers across the river to Orford, saving a long trip inland. Overhead were egrets and even a couple of marsh harriers. The ferry was a rowing boat with no outboard, and our ferry man did a sterling job, taking us all over in one go. Sally crossed with us and a couple of miles through fields brought us to the chocolate box town of Orford, heaving with visitors. We stopped for excellent cake at the Riverside tea room (crunchy lemon for me – desperate for sugar by now as I had forgotten to bring my chocolate) and sticky date for Trevor and Chris. Sarah, Stephen and Benjamin then walked along with us, well, Benjamin rode in his father’s backpack, for another 4 miles along the sea wall. The wind was still frightful but the sky was blue and the views across to Orford Ness were lovely. Eventually, just opposite the Aldeburgh yacht club, where the Alde turns inland, Trevor’s colleague met us in his little tender and ferried us across. I was extremely grateful as 21.5 miles had taken it out of me. We were delighted to be reunited with Rita, whom we had missed at Orford, owing to the vagaries of phone signals.
I can confirm that my pedometer is nearly spot on – I measured it between two marker posts in Felixstowe, and am under- recording by a mere 1%, which I will adjust from now on.