Monday, 15 December 2008

Beyond the Muddy Island, Part I

It is good to remind oneself, occasionally, that there are plenty of jolly nice places beyond these muddy shores - and not very far away, either.

I explored a few of them over the weekend. The weather was absolutely atrocious, however, and therefore the camera was kept under wraps for much of the time.

First, the Suffolk Yacht Harbour near Levington on the River Orwell. Lunched at the Haven Ports Yacht Club - a lovely old lightship - and delightfully cosy below decks while wind and rain lashed relentlessly outside.

A warming steak and ale pie, served in a huge dish with some pleasantly al dente winter vegetables slid down very well, aided by the (for me) inevitable Guinness. It was quite difficult to galvanise oneself afterwards into facing the stormy outside world again.

Onward to the next river up the Suffolk coast, the Deben, and Woodbridge - too wet for the camera, so no pics. Enjoyed tea and vast wedge of delicious cake in Browsers Bookshop .

And thence to the mouth of the Ore to investigate the strange, isolated village of Shingle Street - a small collection of cottages (together with a Martello Tower, now a private dwelling) abutting an inhospitable bank of shingle, beyond which the river runs parallel to the sea, separated by another spit of shingle. It is supposedly the site of a foiled German invasion during the Second World War - but the facts won't be made available under the Official Secrets Act until 2021, so one can only wonder. I can't quite believe that I was persuaded to venture forth into the howling storm to walk a few hundred yards along the shore in such weather, but that is what happened. My ears took some hours to recover from the effects of the bitter wind and needle-sharp rain.

My family and I spent the long hot summer of 2000 living in Dedham - renting a characterful and spacious cottage on the High Street between selling one house and completing the purchase of another. It was an interesting experience, living in such an old established village, which retains a vice-like grip on social hierarchy and doing things 'properly'. It was a privilege to call it home for a short while, although I don't think I should have liked to settle there for good.

Still, it is always lovely to go back as a visitor. Continuing the east coast river theme of the day, Dedham sits on the river Stour, which forms the boundary at that point between Essex and Suffolk. We caught the glorious fifteenth-century Church of St Mary the Virgin still open at dusk - the ladies who arrange the flowers were busy preparing the Christmas decorations and kindly let us in for a quick look around. (There's an online tour here - scroll to foot of page and click link.)

Repaired to the splendid Sun Inn, opposite the church, for - guess what? - yep, more tea - and the opportunity to dry off in front of a (unfortunately as yet unlit) fire in the attractive sofa-strewn, wood-panelled lounge. A relaxing way to end a blustery, cold and wet but nevertheless perfect day out.

1 comment:

monix said...

I love watching foul seaside weather from the comfort of a warm, dry interior. I'm not sure whether to admire your grit or frown at your foolishness in walking out in those conditions.

I love the pictures of the lightship's fittings. They bring back memories of twenty years of joining my husband on his ship in various ports. The children had their most exciting Christmases on board ships and I didn't have to cook. Bliss.