Adventure 9: Suffolk Coast Pt 1

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Saturday 1 – Monday 3 May 2004

The start to our 2004 adventures was a welcome relief from endless partying in the big city. We took a three day Bank Holiday tour of the Suffolk coast. It’s an area we’d never even thought of until it was recommended to us. The route from London is easy and direct along the A12, though not so fast. There are lots of traffic lights out of London and too many roundabouts around Ipswich.

On Saturday lunch-time we puttered through Woodbridge and parked up across the river at Sutton Hoo. The viking burial ground at Sutton Hoo is run by the national trust and doesn’t look to be much to make a fuss about, but while Egypt has the pyramids we have these earth mounds where Anglo-Saxon kings were interred in their ships full of precious things. The exhibition displayed some of the beautiful artifacts excavated from the mounds over the last century.

We drove onwards for a short stop in Orford to look across the estuary at the huge sand spit know as Orford Ness . We decided the Ness would be worth a proper exploration another time. We made a quick stop at Orford Castle on our way up to Southwold. We skipped several places so we could visit them on the way back down. Camp was pitched at the Harbour Campsite in Southwold . It’s in a great location just outside the town; situated between the marshes and the beach. The site had a nice atmosphere and while the two shower cubicles in the tourer field block were pretty mucky, there were some nicer ones in the static field. A quick pasta meal and a couple of bottles of wine later we were ready to turn in. Maybe all that wine was the reason I slept so badly!!

On Sunday the early haze burnt off to blue sky. This was a perfect ‘beach day’, to relax, no driving for Mark. After a bacon and egg breakfast we strolled across to the largely empty shingle and sand beach for a spot of frisbee. Later on we visited a tasteful new town pier , and had a not so tasteful cream tea in a tea shop. A leisurely pint overlooking the sea was a perfectly chilled moment. We headed back to camp via wind festival on a breezy hillside over looking the marshes and beyond that our site. An evening BBQ was just the trick, rounded off with a sunset beach stroll and an early night.

Monday dawned wet. And it stayed wet. Very wet. But what does that matter when you have everything you need in your van? We called by Walberswick, and stopped in Dunwich to see in the town museum how most of the town had slipped off the crumbling cliffs over the preceding centuries. Back on the road south we stopped at Leiston Abbey. Dissolved by Henry VIII, a farm house was built into the ruins and is now a music school.

Out on the coastline, 3km from Leiston, is the surreal Sizewell B nuclear power station. The rain was still steadily falling on the expansive shingle beach, where we stood for a while looking at the blue cube and white dome of the reactor. Back in the van, we saw on our map a road/track marked between Sizewell and Thorpeness 4km to the south. As we progressed into the heathland, the track grew increasingly pot-holed. We began to get concerned when the rain stepped up a level and the road seemed to be mostly liquid mud. We could feel the van’s wheels slipping beneath us. At points the road was just brown water and we had no idea what we were driving into. Our anxiety peaked when the road became inclined. There was no way the Devon 21 could make it up even a gentle slope with this lack of traction. We willed him on. Wheels slipped and span but we slowly crept forward. Suddenly we got grip back. We’d made it through to paved roadway again. Our relief was immense.

Unfortunately after the near disastrous struggle to get to Thorpeness there was very little to the place (at least in this weather) so we decided to forge on to Aldeburgh. It seemed like a quaint place from what we could make out from behind the misted windows and sloshing wiper blades! What we can say was that we had very nice fish and chips in the Upper Deck cafe (i.e.. not the award winning ones I’ve read about since).

Our journey was almost over. It just remained for us us make it back to London the way we came. The bank holiday rush home had begun and the traffic frequently ground to a halt. But eventually somewhere in Essex the sun broke through and warmed us up. We arrived home to find a bottle of champagne left for us by our flat-sitter/guest. A sparkling end to a laid-back adventure.

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