Landguard Fort is rendered miniature by the passing container vessel headed into the North Sea. We are on the Landguard Peninsular, northernmost point of the Greater Thames Estuary, and the ghost of a bulwark; nature reserve, bird sanctuary, vegetated shingle beach, bespattered with gun emplacements, pill boxes, and a fortress museum, all hard against a global, mega-container logistics centre, tailing into the North Sea from Felixstowe Port. The spirit exuded by the spores of several centuries of military archaeology ensure that here, vigilance never sleeps.
Felixstowe is two-faced. There is Felixstowe Port, west-facing, dominating the estuaries and surrounding countryside, a fucking huge great logistical solution. Directly adjacent, Felixstowe Town, a seaside resort with an eastern prospect, in bracing confrontation with the open sea. I came here last in 1989, and today had expected something lurking, as Tilbury Town lurks, like a burst abscess beneath its dockside gantries; instead, here is Felixstowe beaming seaside promise with all the gleaming confidence of a man with a new gold tooth. It looks like a place that is gearing up for the coming season assured of its own attractions, and rightly so. For it has an amusement arcade that is a positive phantasmagorica, with wonderful details for the eye to linger on, and then, blow me down, within a few hundred yards, here’s another one! Not only that, but there are donkey rides and two crazy golf courses (Master F. and myself are tempted to abandon the walk there and then, it is Ebb Tide’s Aberdonian spirit that keeps us on the straight and narrow). It’s like the swinging ‘50s all over again, inviting people to escape from post-war austerity and rationing into a fun-filled fantasy . I can’t imagine how any work gets done in Felixstowe with such temptations on the doorstep.
Heading out of Felixstowe, pausing at a kiosk to buy a cheese sandwich, Marsh Samphire rings to say she will join us at Hemley on the River Deben. It is surprising challenge to hand-eye-brain coordination to field a call on a mobile phone whilst buying a cheese sandwich, and I urge readers to practice at home before trying it. The coast curves towards the mouth of the Deben shored by brand-new sea defences and a promenade with not so much as a muddy footprint on it. We are pitched onto a golf course – Links, if you are being particular- laid over the landscape like a gigantic green Pringle sweater. Much more interesting are the kite surfers who are doing their stuff at the mouth of the estuary. One is either waving or drowning out at sea, floundering to regain his board, whilst another is effortlessly leaving the water and doing aerial turns at 30 second intervals.
Walking up the Deben proper we come to the cluster of buildings around the Felixstowe Ferry which takes you across to Bawdsey. The late Victorian gothic pile that is Bawdsey Manor (available for weddings and courses) sprawls on the other side of the river. In one of its incarnations, this was the home of Sir William Cuthbert Quilter, Liberal Unionist M.P. for Sudbury, which reminds us that today county council elections are taking place.
Sure enough, outside a café near the ferry, we come across a party political poster;
I am impressed with the clarity with which the poster sets out the party’s domestic policy, clearly costed and in good, plain English, and I think the other parties could learn from this. I would like to have seen a more robust rebuttal of the current politically correct, trendy dogma that insists that the earth is a sphere which travels around the sun, but this poster is a very good start. Writing as I am, some weeks after the event, the results are known and of course UKPC won a record number of seats which is one in the eye for those communistic broadsheets which attempt to portray the party as a fractious bunch of cranks led by a drunkard.
It takes us longer to walk up the Deben than anticipated on account of creeks and loops in the sea wall. We are ¾ of an hour late meeting Marsh Samphire, but she has checked out the area, and established that the sea wall is down at Hemley, and also that there are seals basking there, taking advantage of the isolation. We cut inland past Hemley church, across fields where we meet a group of walkers who are very excited by the presence of the seals We actually see a small black dot on the sea wall 500 yards away which, we are assured, is a seal. I would, however, advise people to go to Blakeney in Norfolk, for a more fulfilling seal-related experience.
We finish at a convenient waterfront pub, where Master F and Marsh Samphire discuss the finer details of digital photography for about half an hour. Thoroughly intimidated, I am resolving never to take a picture again, when I notice a sign which I can’t resist;
English pubs are renowned for being grudgingly child-friendly – a pub near my home has a sign which reads ‘’unaccompanied children will be given a double espresso and a free puppy.’’
I return home, and casting my vote, I am disappointed that UKPC are not on my ballot form.