April 22 – A Visit to Aldeburgh and Aldringham

Some interesting places in Thorpeness

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

It is a lovely fine spring/summer day today and 22 C so I thought it would be a great day to visit Aldeburgh. It is not far away but is off the beaten track a bit so for some reason we have never quite got there. There are various ways to get there from here but we went up the A12 which is a bit pointless as the speed limit goes from 50 to 40 to 30 miles per hour all the way. We might as well travelled a more picturesque route.

Our first stop when entering Aldeburgh was St Peter and St Paul church. It was a lovely church with a fantastic wooden reredos in gold and painted with St Peter on one side, then three shields, Jesus in the centre then three more shields and St Paul at the other end. The sanctuary rail had two wonderful carved wooden angels either side of the gate. There was also a beautifully carved pulpit from 1632. The kneelers made a visual impact and were embroidered in mustard with cream and blue patterning. There was a Charles II royal coat of arms and shields on the nave ceiling. In the Trinity Chapel, there was a lovely reredos of Christ and a huge wall monument dedicated to Lady Henrietta Vernon (1786). There was also a funerary hatchment for the Vernon family. Also in the chapel was a window by A.K.Nicholsen of Lady Saints and includes Katherine of Alexandria, Ursula, Margaret and Cecilia. There was one partial monumental brass on the nave floor but all the rest of the brasses have been lifted leaving only there outlines. There were some lovely stained glass windows including a stunning modern one dedicated to Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976) who was born in Aldeburgh, lived there and was buried in the churchyard.

One of Benjamin Britten’s works “Noyes Fludde” was performed in Orford church two days after I was born. I played violin in the orchestra (or did I sing) when our school performed it in my sixth form (1974). For some reason, this felt very meaningful that I should now visit the place where he was born. We walked around the churchyard afterwards and visited Benjamin Britten’s grave alongside that of Peter Pears, an English tenor whose career was closely associated with the composer Benjamin Britten, his personal and professional partner for nearly forty years. With Britten, Pears was a co-founder of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1947 and the Britten-Pears School in 1972. Buried behind them is Imogen Holst, a British composer, arranger, conductor, teacher and festival administrator. The only child of the composer Gustav Holst, she is particularly known for her educational work at Dartington Hall in the 1940s, and for her 20 years as joint artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival.

Another of Aldeburgh’s famous resident was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson who was an English physician and suffragist, and the first woman to openly qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon. She was also the first woman mayor in England when she became mayor of Aldeburgh in 1908. Her sister, Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, was a British feminist, intellectual, political and union leader, and writer Her father, Newson Garrett, was responsible for building Snape Maltings.

We found the church micro cache quickly and as the box was big enough we left a travel bug. Then we had a walk around the neatly laid out churchyard. It is a well-loved church and churchyard.

Next, we drove down into Aldeburgh parking down the far end and walking along the beach towards the town and then back along the main road looking at the shops. As it is a fine warm day there are lots of people out enjoying the sunshine with their families and their dogs. One family was flying kites as the wind was perfect for that too. We walked around the RNLI lifeboat station with its exhibition of the lifesaving experiences and storms that they had been part of. The boat seems enormous when you are standing underneath it. Two queues fascinated us, one for fish and chips and the other for icecreams. There are two fish and chip establishments which were both owned by the same people. Each lists their frying times and there was a queue outside one when we drove down. By the time we were walking past, that shop was closed and the establishment further up the road was frying and the queue was formed there instead. It is renowned for the best fish and ships around and it certainly smelled delicious. There was a geocache in the main street above the menu board for one of the eating places. Luckily it wasn’t open and Mike was able to reach the cache without anyone taking any notice of us. It was called “Dogs drinking hole”. It had a very explicit hint which meant that we weren’t searching around and looking conspicuous.

Next, we drove down a very potholed road along the seashore to a martello tower. It is a huge thing and gave the impression that it was rented out to people for accommodation but as it only had four small windows, one on each side, I imagine it would have been a bit claustrophobic. Great views though. I was surprised that there wasn’t a geocache here but later we collected the numbers for a multi by the seashell on the seashore and the final was actually here. We didn’t come back but maybe will another time.

We drove up along the beach road as there were some interesting buildings in the distance. After we parked the car in Thorpeness we realized we were only 30 metres away from a cache which also had good instructions and a rather surprising cache in about five plastic bags and finally a good sized box. It was supposed to have four travel bugs in it but there were not any so we left one of ours. Later I realized that two travel bugs had been placed in 2015-2016 and two in August 2017 but none had been logged so obviously taken by someone who does not understand that travel bugs are not for collecting but for moving on. I feel bad that I left a travel bug there now and hope it does not go missing in the same way. We walked up the same road to Westbar which is five stories high and a very impressive looking tower and is now holiday homes. It is right next to the Thorpeness Country Club.

The other thing that you can see all around the area is “The House In The Clouds” and as luck would have it there is a geocache there, who would have guessed? We walked up the pathway and there was this ex-water tower. In the tower, there were five different levels and then another two-story house on top. It is now rented out as a holiday home. The House in the Clouds, one of the country’s most famous follies, provides spacious accommodation for the family holiday having 5 bedrooms, 2 with double beds, 3 with twin beds and an additional double sofa bed. 3 bathrooms, drawing room, dining room and the magnificent “room at the top” giving the finest views of Suffolk. “Exceptionally well fitted the house provides a dishwasher, microwave, fridge, freezer, washing machine/dryer, colour television, full gas fired central heating, table tennis, lawn tennis, and boules.” Not sure I could handle all those stairs. But it is a really fascinating structure. Across the bridleway is a white windmill and it looks like it is still in working order.

In Thorpeness, there was also a lake, Thorpeness Meare, with swans and boats which were rented out. Around it was a walkway with seats to sit in the sun and enjoy the view. We talked to a local man who has been fishing in the lake since he was eight years old. That was a day or two. He had been fishing since 5.30 am and had caught lots of fish though you cannot eat them so it was all catch and release.

On the way back to Aldeburgh I realized that there was another church micro showing up on the GPS so we drove three km to St Andrews church in Aldringham. It was a bit tricky finding the access to the church so just as well we had the cell phone too as we had to drive right past the village and then turn back on ourselves. At the end of the road was a series of terraced houses and the church. The church was still open. It had an octagonal font with a wide base with lions all around it. The reredos had a wonderful Decalogue and a beautifully carved wooden altar table. The Victorian wooden pulpit was made by Alexander Gibbs as was the stained glass window in memory of Letitia Gannon from 1896 and the altar table. It was quite unlike any other we have seen. At the back of the church, there were four rows of pews raised as in a cinema.

The church micro was a multi and we had to find 9 different headstones around the churchyard. One in each section of the churchyards and some we had quite a bit of trouble finding. It was a lovely evening so we persevered and eventually found the angel with Little Andrew and the list of men from Aldringham who had died in WW2. I sat down and worked out the coordinates and it was still 250 m away. Our feet were pretty tired from so much walking today but as we had come this far we thought we should keep going. We walked off down the footpath and soon came to the spot only to find there was no hint. There were two obvious spots and it was not in either of those but then Mike saw the box. We would have left our last travel bug but this cache is not done very often so we kept it for a more used geocache as it is a pain when travel bugs get left in caches too long.

We were getting hungry now so it was time to return home. We had a great day out, warm, sunny and five geocaches too.