008 Aldeburgh and close by...

Trips to Aldeburgh have been a part of my life since my childhood. So many memories of camping in site just outside of the town and right opposite the beach. Things like watching Star Wars A New Hope in the little cinema there. The hot freshly baked bread that my dad would nip into town for in the morning, in fact one of these hot loaves melted the engines of my Buck Rogers starfighter toy one morning on the way back to the tent. Then there’s the countless memories of days on the beach. A stony beach so you don’t get sand stuck in all the nooks and crannies. The daily journey of the herd of cows that were ushered through the campsite by the farmer. Oh, and not forgetting the time that my mum sank to the bottom of the boating lake (not too deep) at Thorpeness, much to the amusement of the rest of us.

Fast forward to today, and for the last 20 odd years and the parents have a caravan (in fact it’s the second one now) on the same site that we used to camp on. Aldeburgh has become a great little weekend escape (though sadly not this year yet, because of the current lockdown). As soon as you get there the stress just goes. Oh, and you have to join the queue for Aldeburgh Fish and Chips by far the best fish n chips in England, you might be there for a while as it’s an extremely popular little chippy. When ever we would holiday there as a family this was always a place we would visit, and that tradition has stayed with me for every trip there. I would usually arrive on a Friday, straight from work and first stop is the chippy and then off to the caravan to stuff my face!

For me, its also a fantastic base to explore Aldeburgh and the local areas of Suffolk with the camera. Here are some of my favourite places to visit while I’m there.

The obvious one is Aldeburgh...

I will usually do a loop walk that takes me to Thorpeness along the route that the old railway used to run. On this is a lovely walk, just along from the caravan site there is a field that has a herd of Konik ponies, these are wild ponies but very nosey. They are quite happy to pose for the camera

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As the land between the road and the path is an RSPB site there are a few hides along the walk that you can go into to see what’s about. You might even get lucky to see a deer as well.

One thing to watch out for are the Adders, there are a few about tho you will hardly see them and are more likely to slither away than confront you, its only when you walk into the long grass and ferns either side of the path that you might get unlucky and you will be very unlucky. I’ve only ever seen one as it quickly went back into hiding in all the time I have been there. But every time I step into the long grass I just hope that I didn't just startle one! 

If you move over to the right hand side of the path and look towards Thorpeness you will get a nice shot of the House in the Clouds and the Windmill. (more about those later)

The view along the path as you walk can make for quite a good photo as the path just works its way through the trees.

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You will get to a bench on the left hand side where you can sit and keep a look out for the marsh harriers. Hang a right at here and you will have the Thorpeness boating lake to your right and the golf course to your left.

When you have passed the golf course you will arrive at the windmill and the house in the clouds. The house in the clouds was originally a water tower and was designed to improve the looks of the typical water tower, disguising its tank with the appearance of a weather boarded building more in keeping with Thorpeness's mock-Tudor style. When it was no longer required it was converted into a house. It is now another place available to book as a holiday home.

The windmill opposite  was built as a corn mill at Aldringham in 1803. In 1922 it was dismantled and moved to where it now stands to supply water to the House in the Clouds, when it was still an active water tower, it did this until 1940 when an engine was installed to do the job instead.

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Keep walking and you will get to the main road. When you get there head to the right and you will get to the boating lake or the Meare. This is a great place for photos during the day with the boats and all the water birds,  and a cracking place for sunset photos, the boats pulled onto the shore make for great foreground objects. While being great for photos, its also great fun to hire a boat and row around to the various little islands on the Meare, but watch out for the crocs!

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From here I head over the road and onto the beach and begin the walk back towards Aldeburgh. As with all beaches there are loads of photo ops, waves stones, fish on the beach, driftwood basically and endless list. I would recommend taking some ND filter so you can smooth out those waves. On quiet days the beach looks like it goes on forever. 

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As you get back to where the caravan park is, you will find a sculpture that has divided people. It’s a huge scallop, this was created by Maggi Hambling as a tribute to Benjamin Britten. I can see both sides of the division, but I just love hose its been made, all the neat welds and how the thick metal has been rolled into shape. It can be quite a powerful subject depending on the light and the weather. You might have to wait a bit to get your photos tho as the kids love to climb all over it.

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Keeping on the beach we now get to one of my favourite bits. Where all the fishing boats are, both the ones still working and the old ones that are memories of how the industry used to work. Its incredible to think that these were the boats the fishermen went out to see in thru the breaking waves on the beach. I have a favourite of the old boats and always take a photo of it when I am there, can't think why... The boats, heavy equipment and the nets give an almost endless number of photo ops. I am really in my element here. But again be mindful that this is a working part of the beach so there is fishing gear all around the boats. Like the lifeboat these fishing boats are launched and recovered from the beach. If you like fish, then you have to buy some of the fresh fish from these shacks on the beach.  Some of the old dozers on the beach really have character, one actually seems to have a look of shock all the time…

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With some of the old fishing boats there is a real opportunity to get creative. Its always worth looking for that different view. These boats have been photographed thousands of times so its good to find a perspective of view that is different to what others may have thought of in the past. 

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Then you get to the lifeboat house. (The inshore boathouse is just a stones throw from the main one) This has changed so much from when I started to visit Aldeburgh, but all for the better for the RNLI crews. You can visit the lifeboat in the boathouse, but if you are lucky you might catch them heading out and back on one of their exercises, it really is something to watch. The first time you see them coming back in might shock you as they run the lifeboat onto the beach to be recovered. It’s always worth popping into the shop and buying something as you never know when you or someone you might know needs them, so every penny helps.

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The walk continues to along the beach and you will see the flocks of seagulls hanging about waiting for someone to bring their chips onto the beach and then they go into attack mode. And you will go past the watchtower. When you get right to the edge of the town there's what looks like a windmill, it was. Its called Fort Green. It was built in 1824 and could turn out 20 tonnes of flour per week. The mill stones were powered by 4 twin sails, sadly these sails were the reason its life as a mill ended when they snapped leaving the mill useless. In 1902 it was converted into a house. It was then adapted again in WW2  with the addition of a gun tower to serve as a battery observation post to guard its stretch of coast from German invaders during the war.           

I head up to the Martello tower at the end of the beach, another example of how important the defence of this part of the coast has always been. The Aldeburgh one is a unique quatrefoil design and is the largest and northernmost of 103 English defensive towers built in 1808–1810 to resist a threatened Napoleonic invasion. This is a great subject for photos, but be mindful as this is a building that is rented out so there might be families staying in it.

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From here I start to head back towards town. On the left you will see the River Alde with the yacht clubs. There are some good shots to be had here and it is another good location for sunset photos. I then take the path off to the left along the river wall. There has been a lot of working going on with improving the river wall. For my usual walk I head down to the first left hand turn and down the steps to cut across the marsh area. Again watch out for those adders. there are some great shots here of the marshes and the views towards town.

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This takes me back towards the town. If you take the roads behind the high street you end up looking out over the roof tops towards to the sea, another good view for the photos.

One thing I would recommend on this walk is to pop in to Munchies for a coffee and some food, their black pudding scotch eggs are awesome, if you fancy a cooked breakfast while in the area this is also the place to go, all local produce and gets you fuelled up for the day.

Its always good to have a wander thru town as there are sometimes classic cars and bikes parked up. There are also some lovely houses, and not forgetting the tiny cinema where I watched Star Wars A New Hope all those years ago. Walking back thru town you will pass the boating pond. And right next to it is the Moot Hall.

Then it’s back to the caravan for me and a nice cold Adnams while I download my photos. This is an easy walk, the hardest part is trudging thru the stones on the beach.

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Here are a few of my favourite places to visit outside of Aldeburgh.

Rendlesham Forest.

A nice drive thru the Suffolk countryside gets you to this amazing forest with a unique story… I love walks thru here as it really is peaceful. The trees are quite incredible as it’s a managed forest they are all in neat lines with some great views when you look down the lines of trees.

What’s the unique story… the forest lies between what were two USAF bases back in the Cold War days. In Dec 1980, strange lights were spotted in the forest by some USAF personnel. They were given permission to leave the base and enter the forest, during which time they encountered a UFO. One of the walks thru the forest takes you on the route that they took following the lights and past the “East gate” till finally you reach a large model of what the UFO apparently looked like. Sadly, as is common with things like this a small element of people think it’s acceptable to spray grafitti over it. You might also have to bide your time because the signs saying not to climb on the UFO seem to be ignored by the parents of the kids crawling all over it.

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Snape Maltings

This is about a 15 to 20 minute drive from Aldeburgh. Situated beside the river there are usually a few boats moored that make nice photos. There are also some nice walks to take with some of them boarded out to make it possible to walk thru the marshy reed. You will also find some quite unique sculptures around the Maltings, giving a multitude of options for you and your camera. Away from the photos there are also some nice shops, a pub and places to eat.

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Orford Castle

This was built in the 12th century to keep the feisty East Anglian barons in check. Its nice to take a wander inside the castle, but if you can catch it at a quiet time you can get some fantastic photos of the castle and the cannons in the foreground.

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Orford Ness

This is a national trust site, and it only accessible via boat from the quayside at Orford. Now an important nature reserve with international importance as It contains a significant portion of the European reserve of vegetated shingle habitat. It is also the site of a former military establishment with an extraordinarily rich and varied history. When you are on the Ness there are designated routes to follow, not only to protect the fragile habitat but to protect you, as with the site being used for munitions tests and such like, including work relating to atomic weapons research the routes are clear of any potential booms… The lighthouse that you will see in my photos below might not be there for much longer due to the seas relentless encroaching on the shingle beach. There are many buildings that you can wander around to and explore, with some only being open on specific open days. It is a nice way to spend the day wandering about.

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Sizewell

The main draw here for me are the two decommissioned cooling platforms for the nuclear power station. These have become a very popular roost for the sea birds. 

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Southwold

My main draw here is the pier. It makes for fantastic photos, but especially if you can get there for sunrise and get the sun rising behind the pier.

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