Click on any image to scroll through the gallery…
Fishing Boats set sail from Aldeburgh but there is no port, the boats are hauled onto the beach when their work is done. The catch is sold fresh from the sea from wooden sheds that line the shingle beach.
Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…
After a visit to the seaside resorts of Southwold and Lowestoft we travelled a little further south today to the town of Aldeburgh, famous most of all for being the home town of the English composer Benjamin Britten.
I wondered if my grandchildren would like it because Aldeburgh is a genteel sort of place where people of a certain age (mostly my age, I confess) visit to walk along the pebble beach. The objective for most is to pass judgment on the scallop sculpture which seems to be the most controversial thing about the place (half the town love it, the other half hate it) and later find a tea shop for a cucumber sandwich and a slice of Victoria Sponge cake.
Aldeburgh is that sort of a place, a bit upmarket, a bit fond of itself, snobby really. In 2012 the residents fought an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to prevent Tesco from opening a supermarket in the town because they didn’t consider it appropriate, they probably would have preferred Waitrose.
I confess that I like the sculpture (I also like Tesco) and it seems that a lot of other visitors do also because they are drawn to it like moths to a flame. Local people claim that it spoils the beach and regularly petition to have it removed. When I say local people I wonder just who they are because according to official statistics second homes make up about a third of the town’s residential property. This is an attractive and sought after location for people with lots of money that live in London. This is the sort of thing that local people should be campaigning against.
So we visited the sculpture and the children climbed on it and used it as an alternative playground and then we walked with some difficulty along the blue flag beach with pebbles crunching under our feet and occasionally leaking into the space between our feet and our sandals requiring several stops to remove the offending sharp articles before we could comfortably continue.
Along the way we passed the fishing boats drawn up onto the shingle, rugged craft with peeling paint, rusted rig and knotted nets, their work done now for the day and undergoing basic maintenance and essential repairs and the overnight catch being sold in the simple wooden huts with chalk board signs along the side of the road. I bought some smoked fish filo pastry parcels and looked forward to them later with my tea.
Eventually we reached the town, the children had ice cream and we stopped for tea and cake at the Cragg Sisters Tea Room which served a mighty fine cup of tea and some excellent cake and scones. As I anticipated the children were tired of Aldeburgh now and anxious to get back to the swimming pool at the Kessingland holiday park so while they went back without us I found myself in a street of expensive shops with Kim and my Mother, both determined to return with an unnecessary purchase.
I left them to it and wandered the High Street until I came across a long line of people all patiently queuing for something, rather like a line of Russian housewives lining up for bread in a time of shortage.
It was a fish and chip shop, a famous seaside fish and chip shop that is regularly voted the best in England and clearly a lot of people agreed with this judgment. I would have liked some fish and chips but I am not very patient in a queue and I had just had a cheese scone and tomato pickle at the Cragg Sister’s Tea Room so I declined to join the end of the line and went instead to the beach to photograph the boats.
But I couldn’t get the desire for batter and grease out of my head so later I had fish and chips in nearby Lowestoft because few things capture the spirit of the English seaside quite like the furious sizzle of a fillet of haddock in a deep fat fryer.
No other country in the World has this special relationship with potatoes fried in beef dripping, or fish served entombed in batter, showered in salt, doused generously with vinegar and eaten out of paper wrappings with a fork so small, blunt and wooden that it is scarcely fit for purpose.
Some time ago I wrote a post about chips because I had been interested to discover that there is controversy about the origin of the humble French Fry, frite or chip and there are conflicting claims to how it came to enter the culinary traditions of so many countries.
Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…
The Belgians claim that they invented the fried potato and there is a rather unlikely tale attached to the story. It claims that the local people rather liked eating small deep fried fishes but in the Winter when the rivers were frozen and fishing became hazardous they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer instead. I can’t believe that this was going to fool anyone but then again take a look in a supermarket freezer section today and potatoes are cut into all sorts of different shapes to amuse the kids.
In Spain they say that this is nonsense and the potato wasn’t even grown in (what is now) Belgium at that time and some claim that dish may have been invented in Iberia, which might make sense because this was the first European country in which the potato appeared via the New World colonies. It goes on to back up this claim with the assertion that ‘patatas fritas’ were an original accompaniment to fish dishes in Galicia from which it spread to the rest of the country and then to the Spanish Netherlands, part of which only became, what we now call, Belgium more than a century later.
Belgium however still stubbornly clings on to its claim and dismisses the assertion of the French themselves by arguing that the description ‘French Fries’ originated due to a linguistic misunderstanding because in old English ‘to French’ meant ‘cut into sticks’ and then US soldiers in the Second-World-War called them French Fries on account of the fact that the official language of Belgium at the time was French.
While researching this I half expected to find a German claim with the fried potato strips no doubt invented by someone called Fritz!
Of course we don’t care what the Belgians, the French or the Spanish think because we know that they are an English invention and that we make a better job of cooking them anyway. According to legend, the first chips fried in the UK were on the site of Oldham’s Tommyfield Market in 1860.
You can read my post about chips right here…
Later we went to the beach for a swim and to enjoy a glorious end to the day…
Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…
Earlier in the year my daughter invited us along on a camping holiday. Not being a fan of tents I turned the opportunity down but offered the alternative of a modern luxury caravan.
She didn’t take a lot of persuading, it turns out that she is not such a big fan of camping either!
Over time I calculate that I have visited forty-seven of the forty-eight traditional (ceremonial) English Counties (often for pleasure but sometimes for work) but I am fairly certain that I have never visited the County of Suffolk and my travelling companion was rather astonished to hear this admission and saw it now as his personal responsibility to fill this glaring geographical gap in my UK travels.
We drove south almost as far as Essex and the plan was to start at Sutto Hoo and then work our way back north.
I don’t want to be accused of exaggeration but Sutton Hoo is perhaps the most important archeological site in the whole of England – an Anglo Saxon burial ship for King Rædwald of East Anglia who was in his day the most powerful chieftain/King in all of the South-East of England.
It is a great Indiana Jones/Howard Carter sort of story. The initial excavation in 1939 was privately sponsored by the landowner Edith Pretty and carried out by a local freelance archeologist called Basil Brown and a couple of estate workers who could be spared for the task. Unsurprisingly when the significance of the find became apparent national experts took over.
The most significant artefacts from the burial site are those found in the burial chamber in the centre of the ship, including a suite of metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, shield and sword, a lyre, and many pieces of silver plate from Byzantium.
I was pleased to visit but I have to say that the story is a whole lot more interesting than the site.
There is a pleasant walk through the gentle Suffolk countryside to the site of the excavation but the reality is that there is very little to see except for seventeen burial mounds which look rather like giant mole hills. This is a place that requires some considerable imagination to appreciate it and it really doesn’t take long to view. The point I suppose is this, some places we visit to spend time and see things, a museum for example but some places we visit simply for the significance of the place and the Sutton Hoo burial mounds fall firmly into the latter category.
There is an interesting exhibition hall and interpretation centre but there are no original artefacts on display because these are all in the British Museum because although it was decreed that the treasure belonged to Edith Pretty she promptly presented it all to the nation which was at the time the largest gift made to the British Museum by a living donor.
It seemed somehow that we should be staying longer in such a significant place but two hours was quite enough and so just after midday we began the drive back towards Norfolk and Great Yarmouth.
More or less following the coast road we stopped first at the seaside town of Aldeburgh famous mostly for being the home of composer Benjamin Britten and which is a genteel sort of place where people of a certain age (my age, I confess) visit to walk along the pebble beach and pass judgment on the scallop sculpture which seems to be the most controversial thing about Aldeburgh (half the town love it, the other half hate it) and later find a tea shop for a cucumber sandwich and a slice of Victoria Sponge cake.
I rather liked the sculpture but we didn’t stop for cake and moved on intsead to nearby Southwold. Southwold is ridiculously picturesque and quintessentially English, a town of Tudor houses and thatched roofs, so English that it is high on the list of filming locations for English film and television.
The fictional Southwold Estate, seat of Earls of Southwold, is the country estate of the family of Lady Marjorie Bellamy in the drama Upstairs, Downstairs and the town and its vicinity has been used as the setting for numerous films and television programmes including Iris about the life of Iris Murdoch starring Dame Judy Dench, Drowning by Numbers by Peter Greenaway, Kavanagh QC starring John Thaw, East of Ipswich by Michael Palin, Little Britain with Matt Lucas and David Walliam, a 1969 version of David Copperfield and the BBC children’s series Grandpa in My Pocket.
There isn’t much else to say about Southwold except that George Orwell once lived there and so after only a short stop and a drive around the busy streets we continued our drive planning to stop next at the Suffolk port town of Lowestoft.
I didn’t find Lowestoft that thrilling I have to confess, it looked much like Grimsby to me where I live, a run-down sort of a place urgently in need of some investment and a make-over but there was one interesting place to visit while we here – Ness Point, the most easterly place in the British Isles.
For such a significant place I would have expected it to be something special, a bit like Four Corners in the USA but not a bit of it. Rather like Sutton Hoo, I thought there should be more. There is no visitor centre, no souvenir shop and it is difficult to find located as it is on the edge of an industrial estate and close to a sewage treatment works and a massive wind turbine called Goliath (it was once the biggest in England). There is only a circular direction marker known as Euroscope, marking locations in other countries and how far away they are. Rather like Sutton Hoo I just enjoyed being there. I felt like an explorer about to set sail.
I was reminded that a couple of years ago I was at the most Westerly point in the British Isles on the Dingle Peninsular in Southern Ireland where we were staring out at two thousand miles of water and next stop Canada and the USA.
The ‘Visit Lowestoft’ web site proclaims that, “No trip to Lowestoft is complete without a visit to Ness Point, the most easterly spot in the United Kingdom” As far as I could see this is about the only reason to visit Lowestoft so with nothing to detain us longer we headed directly back now to Great Yarmouth and the Cherry Tree Holiday Home Park where we squandered the rest of the day in the unexpected evening sunshine.
I liked Suffolk but I have to say that I won’t be rushing back and this probably explains why it has taken me over sixty years to go there in the first place.