Continued from previous
We have followed the Suffolk Coastal path , which, cutting through the Tunstall Forest and across the top of Iken and Sudbourne Marshes, links the estuary heads of the Butley River and The River Alde in a line that is not purely coastal. It could probably be described as a short cut. We emerge from the forest, our vantage of 10 metres above sea level giving us a view of the Alde as it stretches over Long Reach toward Black Heath and the Cliff Plantation close to somewhere near where we expect to finish walking in a couple of hours time. My previous encounter with the river was at the point where the it meets the neck of Orford Ness, and does a sharp southerly turn toward Orford. I am surprised at how wide the estuary is at its upper reaches. I am also impressed by the diplomacy inherent in the River having two names. It is The Alde until Aldeburgh, after which, as it heads towards Orford, it becomes the Ore.
The footpath is by now becoming popular; the estuary is pretty –to the right Iken church sits on its promontory – there is a car park and there are more walkers about. We pause to admire a striking, rusted cast iron mechanism which emerges from the undergrowth at the side of the path. Our favourite interpretation of this is as a mechanical fence post with inbuilt, heavy-duty wire stretchers for keeping the fence wire taut. It might also be a device for supporting fishing nets across the width of the estuary. Anyone know??
Malt is a grain, usually barley, that has been allowed to germinate, the germination process then halted by drying, which causes the starch to be modified into various sugars. Malt was extensively produced in East Anglia, the malting process being carried out in buildings called Maltings, which had large floor areas on which the grain could be dried. When this practise was superceded in the mid twentieth century, these large buildings became obsolete, and were converted to other uses, often housing, and in the case of Snape Maltings in the 1960s, under the supervision of Benjamin Britten, into a concert hall which now it has an art gallery, shopping centre, pub, coffee shop, etc etc in close proximity.
As we approach Snape,the footpath becomes duckboard across watermeadow, and there are more people about, but we are completely unprepared for the crowds thronging the maltings area itself. We’d driven through the maltings on our way out in search of a coffee (not available here at 8.00 a.m.), and it had been deserted, but now, at 12.30’ish, the car park is packed, and there’s barely room to swing a conductor’s baton. Snape Maltings is the spiritual home of Benjamin Britten, home of the Aldeburgh festival, and August is the month of the Snape ‘Proms’, we walk past some fairly nondescript artwork, and Banners proclaiming ‘Britten Lives Here 1913-2013’ .
We escape the crowds and walk down the road a half mile to another pub, where we surreptitiously eat sandwiches in the garden. It is a very pretty garden with a beautiful salad bed which seems to have been designed for viewing, as much as eating, pleasure. I am puzzled by a sign;
Where would James Brown’s horn section have been if they had taken that advice? What would the Godfather of Soul have made of the Snape proms?
We walk back toward Aldeburgh along the north side of the Estuary, and finish for a quick de-brief over foaming pints of Old Tory Bastard. We reckon we are within striking distance of the end of our walk; Aldeburgh to Dunwich, Dunwich to Kessingland , then Kessingland, through Lowestoft, and, if we emerge safely from there, the Norfolk border, wherever that might be. We could then finish with a ceremonial visit to Orford Ness.
On the way back down the A12, we see the slogan Today’s Waste for Tomorrow’s World emblazoned on a large rubbish truck in front of us. Can’t wait until tomorrow.