A Coastal Town’s Mystique

The old and the new sit easily side by side in this beautiful town on the east coast of England. Established as a borough in 1529, Aldeburgh was formerly a Roman settlement, then a small fishing village before prospering when the coastline opened up and brought trade and shipbuilding to the town. The North Sea connects across time, lapping now, as then, along the undulating shingle shoreline. 

Nature’s Art – Large piece of driftwood upon the beach.

I was here with my family for a quick break during school half-term and we were blessed with unexpectedly warm sunny days. It was heavenly and rejuvenating to enjoy this blissful weather, to feel so alive. 

Aldeburgh is famed for its music, literature and arts and it is the birthplace of the composer Benjamin Britten. He founded the famous Snape Maltings, ‘- a place of energy and inspiration, one of the world’s leading centres of music’ –  which is located nearby but we couldn’t seem to tear ourselves away from the sea views! 

No fears, there was more than enough to enjoy along this unique coastline. The hotel was a few steps from the beach, and it was fun to slip-slide along the shingles as we explored the area! From the waters edge we had a tantalising view of  the picturesque houses in all their various colours. Two-thirds are now holiday homes for private or rental use which must have an impact on the town as a whole.

The Mill Inn

‘The Mill Inn’ is a local pub dating back centuries and its dark beams and low ceiling provided an atmospheric setting for lunch. I sat back and imagined the shenanigans of the smugglers who frequented this establishment!

The Front of the historic Moot Hall

Opposite the pub is the striking and historic Moot Hall, which now stands proudly near the beach but at the time of being built would have been a mile from the coast. This wonderfully striking 16th-century building was the town hall and amazingly this is still its main purpose, as well as housing the town’s museum.

Set to one side is a stone seat, perfect for reclining and enjoying the view. My husband noticed the rusty sign above; the alcove was a place for people in the stocks to take a break before activities resumed! Luckily I could enjoy the long distance views in the knowledge that a calm and peaceful day lay ahead of me! 

Me enjoying a break in the sun on the stock stone seat.

The unusual clock on the building is actually a sundial and the motto translates as ‘I count only the sunny hours.’ Sounds ideal to me! 

Two incredible landmarks flag the most northerly and southerly points of Aldeburgh; one a magnificent historic relic from the Napoleonic era (1799-1815), the other very much of the modern world.

The Martello Tower marks the southern point of Aldeburgh beach and is one of 18 towers built along the Suffolk and Essex coastline to keep Napoleon out. This is not the first such tower I’ve encountered from visits to the coast and they are always an awesome sight, sitting by themselves, standing forty feet high with thick walls and wide roofs. I am sure they would have been an impressive sight to any potential invader.

The Martello Tower

In sharp contrast is the gleaming white dome just north of Aldeburgh.  The dome is a nuclear reactor – named Sizewell after the village nearby – and is one of 15 nuclear reactors in the UK.  I am in equal measure awed and unnerved whilst looking at the power station!

In between are the coastline and its treacherous waters. Here the sea harbours miles of sandbanks which are often swept by fierce gales which present a real danger to shipping and particularly so during the town’s heyday of its busy seaways in the 19th and 20th-centuries.

 Therefore it’s no surprise a lifeboat station has existed on the shore for over 150 years and its existence still plays a major part in the lives of the inhabitants. It was awe-inspiring to learn about the brave deeds of the men and women (all volunteers) of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). In the early years the wooden boats were powered by sail and oars and in 1899 one such rescue ship was overturned by a giant wave soon after being pushed out to sea. Tragically seven out of the eighteen crew died as they were fatally trapped beneath the hull. 

The aft of Aldeburgh’s Lifeboat ‘Freddie Cooper’

The modern-day lifeboat is an All-Weather Lifeboat (ALB) named  ‘Freddie Cooper’. This remarkable boat has been launched out to emergency situations seventeen times in the past two years whilst the inflatable lifeboat has been on thirteen missions. The courage required cannot be underestimated as the weather is often appalling and the crew face massive waves, reaching an incredible and daunting ten metres (thirty foot). Since its inception the lifeboat crews have saved the lives of nearly 700 people!

No travel post would be complete without a mention of the replenishments along the way and we treated ourselves to several  culinary delights throughout our break. As well as the pub, we enjoyed the first ice-cream of the year outside. Resting against the edge of a small wooden boat we enjoyed the delicious and rather large small scoop of maple and walnut ice-cream. The evening meal at the hotel was sublime; a delectable feast and we savoured every morsel. For dessert I could not resist the Crêpes suzettes with Grand Marnier, oranges and vanilla ice-cream

There are of course always gulls by the seaside and Aldeburgh was no exception; their evocative call creating a rush of happiness within me. I felt at home! At exactly the place I was meant to be!

Black-headed Gull – winter plumage
Black-headed Gull – Summer Plumage

Beaches are a haven of discarded objects, and the nautical theme from the array of boats around us continued as we came across this huge anchor resting on the shingle; the red and golden hues of its rusty exterior blended in perfectly with the coloured pebbles.

Thank you very much for joining me on this brief tour of my visit to Aldeburgh and I hope you found it enticing and enthralling; as you can tell I was, and am, thoroughly smitten with the town and outstanding coast! I will be back!  

THE MANY LIVES OF LV18

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How long does it take to bring a ship to her moorings? Seventeen years in the case of lightship LV18!

A request for a permanent berth at Harwich docks for this grand old dame was turned down repeatedly in a protracted battle wth the local council; a fight only won once the original councillors ‘left’.

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Who knew that a lighthouse boat turned film star could cause such a furore?

By chance my husband and I happened upon this vessel whilst walking along the docks in Harwich one sunny Saturday. How could we refuse the kind invitation issued by 93-year-old Lord Bill of Sealand to climb on board and explore! (He later told us his amazing life story which I may recount in another post.)

Scanning the various signs I was reminded of the start of Superman – what is it? A lighthouse? A Pirate Radio Ship?  A museum? LV18 is a unique combination of all three.

Not knowing what to expect I eagerly trod the board to the deck … one unexpected discovery can be read in my earlier post Flowers Ahoy!

Stepping warily, mindful of the odd sway from the sudden swells, I headed to the top deck, past the helicopter pad, right up to the giant light on the top.

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The view across the Orwell estuary was beautiful, looking towards Felixstowe on the other side.

LV18 was launched in 1958 and sailed with nine crew and anchored along the coast as a lighthouse boat protecting mariners through the dangerous waters.

 

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This unique historic ship, decommissioned in 1994, is the only surviving light vessel with all its original accommodation still intact, including the crew quarters, galley, mess room … all visible to view but with an additional surprise!

In 1999 a man with a vision, Tony O’Neal, chartered the boat for restoration and LV18 started its second life. This time recapturing the era of the famous Pirate Radios moored in international waters off the East Coast of East Anglia in the 1960s. A couple of you in the comments have already picked up on the Radio Mi Amigo twitter to whom I credited the last photo in my previous blog — the name of Radio Caroline’s ship.

With streaming, youtube, DAB radio readily available with a click, it’s hard to believe there was a time when music, all variety of music, was not easily or widely available. Or even banned and illegal. Try to imagine only three radio stations in the UK which were tightly monitored and served the ‘establishment’ and only permitted up to an hours pop music a day.

In a country hungry for the latest pop songs, the general populace turned increasingly to radio stations outside the country. First Radio Luxembourg, then pirate radio ships. These became the starting ground for many famous DJs including John Peel & Tony Blackburn, all who would embark on small launches from Harwich to take them to the pirate radio boats moored three miles out to sea. At one stage these stations had around 15 million listeners altogether. A very worrying figure for the government of the time. The last pirate radio station was closed in 1967 as pirate broadcasting was declared illegal. BBC Radio 1 started soon afterwards, ironically staffed with a number of ex-pirate radio DJs.

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In the first decade of this century LV18 was moored off Harwich and the Radio Mi Amigo days were recreated as well as being a Community radio station for the area. In 2002 its ownership transferred to the Pharos Trust whose patron is Johnnie Walker, ex-pirate DJ from Radio Caroline who was subsequently on Radio 1.

Only in 2011 was LV18 granted a permanent mooring in Harwich and it became home to a permanent exhibition of Pirate Radio memorabilia.

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And what about the film star reference? Well, LV18 made a brief appearance in the DVD version of ‘The Boat That Rocked’. Of course, once back home I just had to watch the film. It gives a fantastic exposition of life onboard this wild, on the edge, lifestyle where music played until the very end!

My husband would not forgive me if I did not finish this post with the last song to be played on Radio London which was ‘A Day in the Life’ by the Beatles.

Finally, no day trip in Harwich is complete without a meal at The Pier Hotel & Restaurant where we enjoyed a delightful, early wedding anniversary meal. It was special to look out to the LV18 on which we’d just spent a wonderful couple of hours!

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Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Gothic Enlightenment by Annika Perry

Once again it’s a pleasure to take part in Sally Cronin’s ‘Posts from Your Archives’ and in this second of four instalments I revisit the mystical Whitby Abbey and join some monks on the Path to Paradise.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the second post from the archives of Annika Perry who shares an atmospheric visit to Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire.

The purpose of this series is to encourage you to head over and follow Annika’s blog and check out her more recent posts.. I hope you will do so.

Gothic Enlightenment by Annika Perry

Self-consciously I traced my way around the grassy labyrinth. Glancing up I caught the eye of a fellow pilgrim and sheepishly we exchanged wry smiles as I wondered, “Does he think I look ridiculous? Do I?”. The answer was an emphatic no, as I took a deep breath and continued on my way.

Arriving earlier at Whitby Abbey the cement bunker where we bought our tickets had been gloomy and disappointing, however on walking around the corner and up we were transported in time as chanting Benedict monks beckoned us forward across the sunny…

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AN ENCHANTED HAVEN

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Last weekend I fell a little bit more in love with life.

Every journey I set off on, I feel a flutter of excitement, a bundle of palpable nervous energy, never quite knowing what to expect.  A short weekend break booked on the spur of the moment a few days ago was no exception! For our first trip away on our own in fourteen years, my husband and I decided our anniversary was a perfect opportunity for some time-out; June had been, for various reasons, a hectic stressful month with little opportunity to just stop and be together.

North Norfolk proved the perfect haven; a blissful retreat from our busy schedules and our brief sojourn there seemed to last a week as the peace and tranquility washed over us, tension headaches easing, laughter and lightness returning.

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How could this vast empty beach fail to soothe? Trudging through the slip-sliding shingle, the bracing wind playing havoc with my hair, my brain cells vibrating under the onslaught  – I felt alive!

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Hints of fishing were evident from the odd boat pulled up far on the beach, however, it is hard to believe that this was busy port until it silted up in the 19th Century.

20170701_111833Nowadays tourism is the biggest industry in the area – although Cley proved to be quiet, with visitors dotted around the town, coast and visitor’s centre.

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Isn’t nature our greatest artist, I wonder, standing for the longest of time looking at the waves crashing on the shore, hypnotised by the wondrous displays with each roll.  I’m mesmerised.

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Cley-next-the-Sea is protected from the vast and powerful waves of the North Sea by a steep shingle bank, behind which there is saltwater marshland separated by the narrow New Cut; on the south side of this is a huge expanse of freshwater marsh.

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Both areas are alive with the flurry of unusual bird life and it was a joy to celebrate the natural environment; a bird-hide providing helpful reminders of the names and characteristics of the avian visitors.

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Here though we were the outsiders, the intruders. We stepped with ease, avoiding the fenced off nesting area and viewed in awe the terns and skuas as they majestically claimed the skies; the egrets reminding me of my trip to Florida, the geese almost hidden in a patch of distant marshland.

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Pausing by the reed beds I close my eyes and just listen…the music of the wind drifting into my soul, the rustle of the leaves creating their own rhythmic sound, soothing, in harmony with the bird calls.

20170702_103741Whilst others muttered at the lack of mobile signal I celebrated the return to ‘olden’ days and scouring my purse for coins I headed to the red phone box to call home. Memories of university days flooded my thoughts, my whirlwind of emotions as I recall hours spent calling from these tardis-style contraptions!

The village has a lovely quaint feel to it; many buildings are reminiscent of its former Flemish trading partner with gabled roof lines and many built using the local Norfolk flint. The main road, although narrow, winds its way through the centre of the town with lots of mysterious alleyways leading around the back of the village, often into people’s gardens!

Gourmet meals punctuated the end of our days and at one restaurant we were welcomed on our special day with complimentary champagne, a strawberry slice resting at the bottom of each flute. The food was sublime, an ecstasy of tastes and occasions that will long live with me!

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As always I admire the strength and vitality of the flora as even in these somewhat inauspicious conditions flowers flourish; particularly striking is the yellow horned-poppy, native to the area.

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It’s been a long while since it’s been this hard to leave a place – one of those times when all elements of a trip conspired to offer us an exquisite time filled with joy every moment. On the car drive home, I sit in silence, savouring the sense of contentment and resolve to carry this harmony forward into the everyday, letting the lightness shine brightly into the days and months ahead.

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Finally, many thanks to Klausbernd and Dina (Hanne) at The World According to Dina for inspiring me to visit Cley-next-the-Sea – their photos and description of the village and surrounding area caught my imagination a while ago. Alas, we didn’t have time to arrange to meet up…next time hopefully!

PROMISED PICTURE POSTCARDS

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What do Ingrid Bergman and Camilla Läckberg have in common? Fjällbacka! This is a beautiful town on the west coast of Sweden about two hours north from Gothenburg. Ingrid  Bergman spent every summer here with her third husband and Camilla Läckberg was not only born in Fjällbacka but also set nine of her hugely successful novels in the town. It is one of my favourite places to visit with spectacular views from the huge rocks of Vetteberget. Below it are nestled the houses, shops and restaurants. It has over 100 steps to the top and en route courage is required to traverse under Kungsklyftan –  the three gigantic rocks trapped in the chasm above ones head.

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It was renamed the ‘King’s Cleft’ following a visit by King Oscar II in 1887.

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After the long walk a relax by the harbour front cafe is a must – even on a chilly sunny Spring day! Ah…perfect serenity.

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Forests! Years ago travelling by car across Sweden I felt the landscape was mainly the green corridors of forests.

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Only later did I discover I was not far off the mark with nearly 70% of the land being forested.

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Where we live is no exception; forest views all around as well as stunning walks amongst the trees; birches and firs growing side by side as well as the odd hunting tower!

Believe it or not, this photo is the genuine article. Sunset on a glorious evening as seen in reality. No photoshopping required!

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Mystery is embedded in the very heart of all forests and this one is no different. During one walk we came across this unusual stone built rectangular wall. Low in height, with no obvious entry point. We are still musing over its possible usage / meaning. Any ideas would be very welcome.

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This is view of the nearest lake to where we stay whilst in Sweden and this particular lake is one of over 95,000 lakes across the whole of the country. 

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I hope you have enjoyed my snippets of information and photographs from my latest trip to Sweden this Easter – posted by popular demand!! Thank you for all your interest.

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PS. This is my 100th post – Yippee!!

For among elk, we dwell. *

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This wasn’t the first time we had to brake suddenly. Not the noisy tyre screeching stop; rather a quiet sedate halt before a hushed ‘ahh’ filled the car. We all leaned forward. I glanced back and forth, desperately seeking out the cause for this joyful expression.

‘There, just there. Amongst the trees. Do you see them?’

Them? I had been looking for perhaps one deer, camouflaged amongst the dark brown tree trunks, the green of the forest sucking the clarity of shapes into itself.

‘There.’

Abruptly I sit back into my seat. A young elk calf had just skittered its way across the road directly in front of the car. By the tree line it turned around and looked back to the other side. Just then I saw ‘them’. Another calf, hidden deeper amongst the trees, then Mother Elk stepped forward towards the road.

photo 3-3This was my ‘Northern Exposure’ moment! For years I’ve watched the starting credits of this show, always amazed as the elk nonchalantly wandered through the town. Here I saw the giant beast close up. Totally still as it weighed up the situation; its two off spring trapped on opposite sides of the road. We didn’t move. No one said a word. Feelings of awe and majesty flowing over us.

Then with a few wide strides the elk passed in front of us – to the lone calf.

photo 2I’ve never seen such a sad forlorn expression as that on the remaining calf. Its bewilderment and fear complete. We waited for the scenario to play out –  it was obviously the language of stares. Which luckily went on for minutes so we could relax in the close proximity of these animals.

photo 2-5 (1)As suddenly as Mother Elk had crossed the road, so it did again – back to the shyer, more fearful calf. Rejoined they looked back at the original calf. One minute. Two minute. The game of dare. One, two careful steps and then it walked, sauntered across. The Brave. The Fearless. The Adventurous. A hushed cheer in the car and the animals scarpered into the forest, the cowardly one turning away from the others before bolting back to them in a hurry.

photo 3So many lovely bloggers have asked about my trip to Sweden and for some photos and so I am only too happy to oblige. I will return to the book reviews in my next post. However, I will be posting more photos about my Sweden trip during the next couple of months.

* Copyright A. Kathy Moss

VIKINGS – CREATIVE ARTISTS

The Oseberg Ship. Photo by Mårten Teigen of Museum of Cultural History, Oslo

The Oseberg Ship. Photo by Mårten Teigen of Museum of Cultural History, Oslo

Like subterranean explorers we travelled for miles along the network of tunnels approaching Oslo. This was quite unlike any city approach I had experienced.

The occasional car swished past on the cavernous carriageway of Bjørvika Tunnel and soon we made our exit from the urban roads. Within minutes we arrived on Bygdøy, a small rural island which boosts an array of tantalising museums. Among them is the Kon-Tiki Museum. Thor Heyerdahl’s book made a huge impression on me as young and one day I must return for this pilgrimage. For now our destination was The Viking Ship Museum which was  easy to find with the aid of the long-suffering SatNav struggling on with the Norwegian pronunciation.

Overhead shot of The Oseberg Ship

Overhead shot of The Oseberg Ship

On seeing the Oseberg Ship I initially gasped in awe and immediately felt a humbling stirring in my soul. Over a thousand years old and our fore-fathers had not only created a vast sea-worthy craft but had done so with great sense of beauty and elegance. This was no clumsily constructed vessel, rather the wonder of craftsmanship shone from every angle, the soft planed oak boards with the carved keel, the perfect round-headed iron fastenings, then looking up to the bow I spotted the magnificently carved snake head spiral.

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The ship, the largest intact Viking ship in the world, was built around 820 AD and could be either sailed or rowed with 30 oarsmen. Fourteen years later The Oseberg Ship was used as a burial ship for two women, one in her 70s the other in her 50s.

Burial Chamber

Burial Chamber

They were placed in a specially made burial chamber which resembled a small log cabin and with them were placed various items to help them in the after-life, including kitchenware, sledges, clothes, as well as horses and dogs. The remains of a peacock was one of the more exotic and unusual animals discovered. There would have been jewellery and weapons but these were looted within a hundred years of burial.

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The artistic wonder continued as we wandered further into the museum. To be so aesthetically delighted was totally unexpected. We looked with awe at the beautifully carved sledges, a wagon, animal-head posts as well as the paraphernalia of the every day. The perfectly formed spades would not be amiss in a local B&Q; I could just imagine the price tag dangling on the top.

My wonder at these explorers of the past shifted to admiration of the early 20th Century archeologists whose care and dedication strove to rescue and persevere the finds which had been buried in the blue clay. Seeing the collapsed nature of the buried boats – oh yes, I forgot to mention the shock and amazement of discovering two further complete Viking Ships at the museum; The Gokstad Ship and The Tune Ship, tucked into opposing sides of the large cross-roads shaped museum.

Buried boats and artefacts were discovered tumbled to the side like giant wooden dominoes. All askew. All topsy-turvy. Looking so fragile in the photographs from the era, now the power and force resonated from the ships, silencing the large crowd mingling around us.

Our experience at the museum was tinged with sadness and poignancy as we learned my son’s generation might be to last to view the artefacts on display. The seemingly perfect objects were preserved with alum and they are slowly corroding from the inside out whilst scientists are working hard to find a solution to the chemical disintegration.

Replete in spirit and mind we left in mutual silence, our musings loud in our own heads, our hearts full of raw emotions from our millennium journey in the previous hours. It was time to leave this island of tranquility and head to our next destination – our hotel in Oslo city centre.

http://www.khm.uio.no/english/visit-us/viking-ship-museum/

http://www.kon-tiki.no