Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Aldeburgh and Thorpeness

The Moot Hall, Aldeburgh

We started this lovely walk along the Suffolk coast at Aldeburgh's Moot Hall, strangely located just behind the sea front. It dates from 1520-40 and the ground floor was originally an open market. The term "Moot Hall" dates only from the nineteenth century as part of the Victorian restoration - building is referred to in earlier documents as the "Town Hall".

We walked along the path at the back of the beach past the profusion of fish shops and headed north. It was so misty that we could scarcely see the sea. Soon we reached the wonderful Scallop - a four-metre high steel sculpture conceived by Suffolk-born artist Maggi Hambling, and made by Aldeburgh craftsmen Sam and Dennis Pegg. This photo comes of course from an earlier visit. The Scallop was intended as a memorial to the composer Benjamin Britten, who spent much of his life in Aldeburgh and nearby Snape. When it was first unveiled in 2003 a 500 signature petition was gathered to support its removal, but it seems to now be accepted as a fine piece of public art.

As we neared Thorpeness a straggle of houses appeared at the back of the shingle beach in a whole miscellany of styles. We rather liked this glass and wood one with its oddly shaped roof. We were momentarily concerned when someone came out seconds after I took this photo - was he coming to complain about invasion of privacy? Happily not, he greeted us cheerily and proceeded to fly a kite.

A bit further on, having still not seen the sea, we turned inland along a wooden path into Thorpeness. This has a remarkable history and is one of only two planned seaside resorts in the UK (Portmeirion in North Wales is the other) developed by Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie from 1910 onwards. The first building you see, The Boathouse, was one of the first to be completed, in 1912

Behind The Boathouse is the Meare. This was once a muddy marsh fed by the Hundred River. Ogilgy stopped the river and had the Meare created as a man-made lake by hand-digging to a depth of 2.5 feet. It is still used for boating.

We headed onto into the village and were transfixed by the huge Westbar in Westgate. The top section conceals a water tower. The other houses in the street are in a sort of mock-Tudor / arts and crafts style.

We went through Westbar and turned left and left again the reach the Margaret Ogilvie Almshouses of 1928, built originally as accommodation for workers. The central section jars rather with the half-timbered wings.

Almost opposite is the Workmen's Club, which makes sense given the original function of the almshouses. A sign revealed that it has recently been converted into five separate dwellings under the collective name of Thorpeness Hall.

We returned to the lake along The Whinlands and turned right into Lakeside Avenue which led indirectly to the amazing House in the Clouds (1923). Like the Westbar, this too once concealed  a water tower, but after mains water arrived, it was converted in 1977 into a wonderful dwelling, which can now be rented as holiday accommodation.

Nearby is an old post windmill, moved here from Aldringham in 1923 and converted to pump water, which it continued to do until the advent of mains water.

We headed now towards rather strange gold club building ...

... and walked along a path parallel to the coast back towards Aldeburgh. There were woods to our right and marshland to our left. On reaching Aldeburgh we passed a holiday home site and headed towards the town centre passing All Saints church. The base of the tower, the south aisle and the unusual porch all date from about 1300.

At the bottom of the hill we turned right into the long High St: charming and full of character, although no single building is especially distinguished. At the end on the right, we enjoyed this charming and fairly typical group, although the steps up to the door of the former Customs House were rather unusual.

We carried on to the edge of Aldeburgh, in sight of the Martello tower at Slaughden and concluded by retracing our steps to the Moot Hall.

Conditions: grey and misty.

Distance: 5 miles.

From: a new site for me, Go for walkies (though it lacked a map).

Rating: five stars.

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