Still Sightseeing

27 Jul

Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, East Sussex

We arrived in Great Yarmouth in the early evening and just drove quickly through the town looking for a suitable place to park up for the night.  The city didn’t look very attractive but we thought we would not judge it too harshly on first impressions but really get to know it the following day.  

Great Yarmouth Gasometer built in 1884 and still in use! You see these gas holders all over the country but this one is particularly ornate. They have a moveable cap that collapses or rises depending on how much gas is coming in.   I haven’t seen one in NZ in years.

We found a good parking place opposite a power station at the start of an industrial area on the waterfront.  It is a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine type of power station that runs on natural gas. It has one gas turbine with the exhaust gas heating a heat recovery steam generator, leading to a steam turbine – all very technical I know but it looked so odd that I had to look it up on Wikipedia to understand what it actually was.  The sign said it was a power station but I was confused as there wasn’t the usual array of high voltage power lines coming out of it.  A couple of blocks away there was a huge substation but that was all.  Anyway,we parked on the other side of the road and after making the dinner we sat down to enjoy it when all of a sudden huge jets of steam came billowing out of this building, with an awful noise to go with it and we soon realised that if we wanted to sleep that night we would have to move back down the road away.  

An example of a hurdle fence, made either of hazel or willow. This one is unusual as it sits atop a brick fence.

In the morning we did indeed return to the centre of town and proceeded to walk around the shopping area, set back from the waterfront, and through the ghastly entertainment area along the waterfront.  All English seaside resorts seem to be very proud of their beach pier which is full of dodge-’em cars, candy floss sellers, ferris wheels, cafes, crazy mirrors and all sorts of “entertainment” parlours, in short all the fun of the fair.  My guess is that as the weather is frequently inclement the holiday makers need somewhere to entertain the kids while waiting for a patch of fine weather, but they are all very similar and so tawdry.  Wandering through the actual shopping precinct, we were confronted with so many oompa loompa girls dragging their heavily tattooed males around the shops and so many heavy, older folk in mobility scooters, it got to the stage that we couldn’t look at each other for fear of laughing out aloud.  I don’t know if that particular day was special but we got to see an extraordinary array of not too pretty people!  No doubt they were staring at us as well in wonder!  It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that we mentioned this to other English people and they thought it was a great joke as Great Yarmouth is well-known for these features.  It was as if the whole town should have been on the pier.

So many of these awful

amusement arcades.

After walking the length of the tacky amusement and eating establishments along the waterfront for probably 2 miles we arrived at the tacky Pier that all good British seaside resorts must have.

That little boy who looks like he’s about 3 has just changed his money to a container full of 2p pieces so he can feed them into the vast collection of gambling machines in one of these colourful and noisy arcades! That is so sad…

We called into various other small beach settlements as we travelled back down the coast.  One of these was the tiny village of Dunwich.  In the Anglo-Saxon period Dunwich was the capital of the Kingdom of the East Angles and had a busy harbour and population of 4000 but all this has since disappeared due to coastal erosion.  Today there are three or four houses, a church and a shop/cafe on the shingle beach!   We had a walk along the beach and ended up being thoroughly entertained by a group of older people who were busy doing an interpretive dance, maybe impersonating the sea(?), for a film.  The producer was very intense and everyone other than the Bartletts took it very seriously!  As with all filming, they had to do many takes of the same thing, before she was satisfied.   A good bit of free entertainment!  

The seaside dancers on Dunwich Beach

Beaches on this coast are pebble ones, which makes them very difficult to walk on

We carried on and finally came to stop the night in Aldeburgh.  What a beautiful, little village,   it turned out to have enjoyed quite a history. Back in the 16th century it was a leading port and famous for ship building.  Sir Frances Drake’s ships, Greyhound and Pelican were both built here.  This town had suffered from severe erosion as well.  Moot Hall had been built in the centre of town back in 1520 but is now standing just a few metres from the beach, they have reportedly lost 2kms of land over the years.  It’s still a fishing village, though they have no port anymore, they just winch the small vessels up the shingle beach.   Each boat owner has a small fish shop on the beach where they sell that day’s catch.   All along the waterfront the houses are either hotels or available for holiday rentals.

This sculpture on Aldeburgh Beach celebrates the life of Benjamin Britten, one its famous citizens. “I hear those voices that will not be drowned” is carved on one shell and is taken from one of his operas.

Moot Hall. A Grade 1 listed building used for Council meetings for 400 years so far.

Good to see that Aldeburgh wasn’t afraid of splashing the colour around. Almost all of the seaside properties were hotels or self-catering houses for let but few were being used as the summer hasn’t really kicked in yet!

Aldeburgh Beach South Lookout is home to a artist-in-residence program

Yellow Horned Poppies (named for their foot long seed pods) thrive in the shingle

Pretty – looking out to the North Sea.  One of the small fishing fleet and the fish shop.

Actually the erosion continues still today, in fact in the last week two people have been killed due to this fact.  One woman was standing on the edge of the cliff with her husband admiring the view (where we had been a few weeks prior to this, at The Seven Sisters) and fell when it gave way under her and she plummeted 100 metres and then another young woman, walking along another beach had the cliff fall on top of her, the searches found her body just yesterday (at the time of writing) under 400 ton of rubble!  
The Martello Towers up and down this coast are amazing, altogether 103 were built in the years 1808-12, to resist a Napoleonic Invasion.  A typical single Tower has over 700,000 bricks brought in by sea from London (in places the walls are 8 ft thick)!  Nowadays, the majority of them have been sold and people live in them, which I think must be quite weird as they only have two or three windows!  We also walked past one which was used by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and they had added another level that was completely glazed for the ideal lookout.   

A more typical Martello Tower.   This one sits beside a golf club so maybe it’s wise not to have too  many windows!

Martello Tower, this one is the only example of one in the shape of a clover leaf. It has been turned into holiday apartments!  It is the only building left of the old village of Slaughden the rest having been washed away entirely.

When Dennis realised that Sutton Hoo was in the general vicinity, he got quite excited and proceeded to explain what was so interesting about it.  He knows so many things that I have never even heard of!  Sutton Hoo is the site of 20 6th- and early 7th-century burial mounds, one contained a ship burial.  They have built an extensive Visitor Centre there, which is great for me because it means that before I walk around the site outside, I can learn all about the significance of the finds at Sutton Hoo.  Just before WW1 started the then landowner, a widow named Mrs Edith Pretty, invited Basil Brown, a self-taught Suffolk archaeologist to come and investigate one or two of the bigger burial mounds on her property.  With the help of her gardener, game keeper and farm worker the four of them began to excavate.  What they found there was so unusual and precious that the dig was eventually taken over by Museum officials.  As it was found on Mrs Pretty’s land and the original owner never had the intention of recovering it, she was legally entitled to own all the treasure but she did the decent thing and bequeathed it all to the British Museum, where we saw it months ago, but I had forgotten.  When war broke out in September 1939, the grave-goods were put in storage and things were covered up.  Sutton Hoo was used as a training ground for military vehicles and it wasn’t until 1956 when they went back and completed the dig.  What was found in most of the mounds were cremated remains of humans and artifacts, as well as one buried man alongside his horse and more artifacts but most interesting of all was in the tallest burial mound.  There they unearthed the shape of a sailing vessel, the timbers had not survived but had stained the sand to reveal the exact shape and outline of a timber built ship, the rivets were all still in position.  Under the ship a body of a king, probably that of Raedwald, had been laid out along with vast amounts of treasure.  The whole thing had been covered with a timber frame and then the earth mounded on top.   All this is reminiscent of the old English poem “Beowulf” written somewhere around 8-11 century, though that tells of a similar burial but in Sweden not England.   Evidence here shows that this site was occupied from around 3000BC.  It was fascinating!

The replica burial chamber: a body and all the treasures were laid inside this then it was covered with soil, on top of this the ship was laid and then the great mound of  soil covered the lot.

A photo of the excavation that revealed the presence of the ship which is 27 metres long!!

An ornamental lid covering a dissolved leather pouch, hung from the waist-belt of the “king”.  Another replica of course.  1,526 inlays, mostly of garnets, with the smallest only 1 mm across!  Each stone is perfectly cut and set in a gold cell.  To think they did this all without our modern-day equipment and tools!

Such exquisite workmanship.  A buckle that weighs 412gms.  13 animals are depicted within the design.

They think this might be a Sceptre made from Greywacke.  Could have been used to give the final sharp edge to a sword.

The reinstated mound where the ship burial was originally found

What a sight for sore eyes! Walking to the carpark at Sutton Hoo we saw this sign. It did seem a bit odd as around this area, as in many places in England there are no fences, it’s either hedgerows or nothing in this agricultural land.  I suppose he had a good spot for advertising – on your way back to the car.

Beside the head of the corpse, which had completely dissolved into the acidic soil, they found a helmet wrapped in cloths. The original tarnished one is in the British Museum and they made this display model for Sutton Hoo

Next stop Felixstowe was another lovely seaside town.  Since leaving Great Yarmouth we have been so surprised with all these other places that are so completely different!  Some of them do have piers and the like but nothing quite as garish as Great Yarmouth.  We walked for miles along the beach, using the concrete path provided rather than on the pebbles, until we came to the largest container port in the UK.  Two rivers converge to create this wide deep water port, which boasts 25 container cranes.  We had seen several large ships “parked” out in the North Sea, different ships each day, and wondered why they were standing still and now we had the answer.  They were waiting their turn to come into port to unload and then load more containers.  Amazing!   On the far bank of these rivers is Harwich, which has the ferry terminals that go to Esbjerg, Denmark and the Hook of Holland.  All along this stretch of coast were elaborate schemes to contain the erosion: wooden groins, large boulders and concrete defences.

Beach huts were popular in Felixstowe. There are 100’s of these small huts, all along this beach. They basically have a small kitchen and dining area in them, not even long enough to accommodate a bed, some could be hired for $NZ40 per day! Even though the weather wasn’t marvellous, people had come to beach and were sitting outside their privately owned hut enjoying a cuppa on the concrete terrace.

What a busy place….  The small vessel is a foot ferry between  Harwich and Felixstowe

And so we slowly made our way south, back over the Thames and down through familiar territory aiming for Uckfield once again.

My kind of sign!

Sea kale growing in the shingle

We really noticed how the crops had grown on since our last time in this area.  Barley in the fore and background and cut hay in the middle paddock

Broad beans for miles across this land! I have finally found out that this is used for animal feed and turned into silage.


One Response to “Still Sightseeing”

  1. Chris and Richard July 30, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    Hi guys, what an interesting blog, I have said before I do love reading your history lessons, you make them very enjoyable reading .
    Love to you both Richard and Chris

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