Suffolk Jewels –Heritage Coast
Whether you go for a day or make a weekend of it Suffolk’s aptly-named Heritage Coast offers a variety of treats, whatever the weather may bring.
Get there early enough, at the crack of dawn, and you may be able to buy some fresh fish caught by Aldeburgh’s beach fishermen from one of their stalls on the beach.
If that is too much like hard work try Aldeburgh’s famous “best in Britain” fish and chip shop and a stroll along the shingle beach to the famous, some would say infamous, Shell Sculpture designed by artist Maggi Hambling for the Benjamin Britten Centenary in 2003.
Or stroll along the pretty High Street to indulge in some retail therapy in the town’s independent boutique clothes shops, art galleries, antique stores, bookshops. This is the home also of one of the area’s two independent small cinemas; the other is in nearby Leiston. Perhaps an early film and finish the day with a lovely meal in one of several excellent restaurants.
This is an area full of interesting history.
Most people know of the connection to composer Benjamin Britten but did you know that Snape Maltings, the home of many now world famous Aldeburgh Festival that he founded and takes place every June, was built by a member of another famous local family?
The Maltings started life as exactly what its name suggests, a malting, and was built by Newson Garrett, father of Britain’s first ever female doctors, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. The Garrett family had a long connection with the area, starting with an engineering works founded by Richard Garrett in 1778 in Leiston. The Garrett family rapidly became principal inventors in the field of agricultural machinery and benefactors to the town.
For anyone who has an interest in engines and machinery the Long Shop Museum in Leiston is an excellent way to while away a few hours especially if the weather is not encouraging walks along the beach.
Another place that is absolutely not to be missed is the village of Thorpeness, a few miles walk or drive along the coast from Aldeburgh.
At first sight the village seems to be full of historic buildings, but actually the story of its creation began in the early 20th Century.
The former small fishing village that became the Thorpeness of today with its mock Tudor and Jacobean houses was the brainchild of Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie, who saw it as a unique holiday village and playground for wealthy families.
He was a barrister and the son of a Scottish civil engineer called Alexander Ogilvie, who made a fortune as a railway engineer around the world. He and his wife Margaret bought Sizewell Hall as a holiday home in Suffolk in 1859 and developed an estate that stretched from Dunwich further up the coast to the outskirts of Aldeburgh.
Many people have heard of the famous House in the Clouds, originally the water tank for Thorpeness and now available as a holiday home. But the other treat for the children particularly is the shallow artificial lake, nowhere more than 3ft deep, that starts in the centre of the village. You can hire boats or have tea at the boathouse next to the Meare, as the lake is called.
The Meare covers some 60 acres and was partly themed around J.M.Barrie’s story of Peter Pan, with islands and places created such as the Pirates’ Lair, Wendy’s House, Crocodile Island, Peter Pan’s Island and the Fort. The author was a family friend of the Ogilvies.
This is just a selection of the things to see and do along part of the Suffolk Heritage Coast, whatever the weather should bring.
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