Thursday, September 04, 2003

Walk 81 -- Iken, via Snape, to Aldeburgh

Ages: Colin was 61 years and 119 days. Rosemary was 58 years and 261 days.
Weather: Warm and sunny, with a slight breeze.
Location: Iken picnic area to Aldeburgh.
Distance: 10 miles.
Total distance: 598 miles.
Terrain: Marsh with DUCKBOARDS for us to walk on! After crossing the river, we walked on a track through woods which was lovely, then alongside a road which was not! Through a recreation ground, across fields (where we made a “navigational error”) and along a river bank with tall prickly plants – quite a variety today!
Tide: Coming in.
Rivers to cross: No.26, the Alde at Snape.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: Nos.81 and 82 at each end of the forest track – though the first one had its gate missing and Colin tried to make out it didn’t count!
Pubs: None – Colin was too keen to get back in time to go to his ‘Speedway’ meeting even to think of it!
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We drove, with bikes on the back of the car, from our camp at Shottisham to Aldeburgh where we found a free car park next to the Yacht Club. We then cycled mostly uphill and along main roads to the picnic area at Iken. There we chained our bikes to a fence exactly where we ended the Walk last time.
At the end we had our tea, and decided not to walk down to the Martello tower and back because Colin was anxious to get back. (We regretted that decision the next day, and there would have been time.) Then we drove to Iken where we had a second ‘cuppa’ overlooking the beautiful view, collected the bikes and returned to our campsite at Shottisham.

We started our walk at a fairly reasonable hour today because Colin had an incentive to get himself going – he planned to go to a Speedway meeting in the evening, and wanted to get back in time for it. It was mid-morning when we locked up our bikes in the Iken picnic site with its glorious views northwards across the river. We had a look at the wooden memorial cross which had recently been put up there – what a pity wood was chosen, because it had already cracked with drying out. It bears the legend:
Here Lived a Saint
This cross commemorates St Botolph, who founded
a monastery at Iken in AD654.
A fragment of an earlier, 10th century cross
set up in his memory, is in Iken Church.
Once more, we regretted not going to Iken Church two days ago, but there simply hadn’t been time. One day we will come for a relaxing holiday in Suffolk, a county that we had hardly visited before this trek, and which is proving to be very interesting and beautiful.
We departed westwards along a path across the marshes towards Snape. Since the original path – which still partly snakes its way along the old river bank and is visible at low tide – was breached in so many places, salt water has been allowed to encroach where we were walking. We passed a number of dead silver birch trees, their bare white branches stark against the brilliant blue sky. In contrast, we came across a field of pigs who didn’t seem to mind digging up the salty earth at all – bet their meat will be delicious! We had boardwalks to tread on where it was really boggy, and there were a lot of people out enjoying the sunshine, unusual for a Thursday and the day many children were returning to school for the new academic year.Just before Snape, we came across a building where thatchers were at work on the roof. They had almost finished, and very nice it looked too. I wouldn’t like to live in a thatched house – I believe it needs renewing every twenty years or so, and the fire insurance is horrendous – but I do like to look at them. We both take pleasure in finding out which animal the thatcher has left in straw as his trademark, but these men hadn’t yet made theirs because their work was unfinished.
Snape Maltings has been turned into an upmarket tourist centre. We came to the road, and turned right to pass it. They certainly are impressive buildings, especially the large one at the back which has been converted into a concert hall with fantastic acoustics (apparently). People come from all over the world to play in there and listen to musical concerts, but it is surrounded by a plethora of craft/antique/quality-tat shops which looked rather expensive to us. The accents we were overhearing reminded us of Chichester Festival Theatre audiences, and suddenly we felt somewhat scruffy in our hiking clothes. So we used their posh loo – and left!We crossed the river (at last! at last!) and immediately turned east to walk back to Aldeburgh along the northern bank. About a hundred yards further upstream is a tidal barrier, and beyond that the River Alde is a mere stream. From this bank we could clearly see the remnants of the original south bank with its footpath atop, and the many breaches by the tides since it has been abandoned. We didn’t keep to the bank for long because it turns into a marsh, and further on it is private. We took one loop of the path into the marsh (where we nearly got run down by two huge dogs out ‘walkies’ with their owner), but we didn’t take a dead end path because we don’t have to (additional rule no.2), it was too hot and we have had enough of marshes.
We turned north over a stile, joined up with a mainer route further on, and found a shady spot under some trees to have our lunch because we were too hungry to wait another mile or so until we got to the wood. Then we continued until the path just touched on to a tarmacked lane. There we turned east again, and after a while the track led us into a blissfully cool wood. It was really lovely in there with the sun speckling through the trees giving a mottled effect to everything. We both find walking through woods in any season of the year to be most enjoyable.Further on we were walking with the wood just to our right and a barbed wire fence to our left separating us from a field. Clouds of dragonflies reared up as we passed, some of them landing in a row on a strand of barbed wire! They didn’t seem to mind us being there, and Colin took several superb photos of them.Next we had to cross a boggy area, but again duckboards had been provided to make our going easier.
We came out on to a track where some men were repairing the wires on a telegraph pole, and there we nearly went wrong thinking we had to go straight on. When we realised that there wasn’t a real path, we had another squint at the map and verified that we were supposed to turn slightly left at that point. It was the workmen and their van that had confused us because we had to squeeze past them on the track. We were more out in the sunshine then, and it was hot – we idly wondered if that barmaid in the pub back in Orford had lit the fire!
The track opened out, and then (horror of horrors!) it joined up with a road – the main A1094 into Aldeburgh. This was the official ‘Suffolk Coast & Heaths Path’ that we were walking, yet crossing the golf course we had to dodge cars, vans and lorries on a narrow section of this pavementless highway! The road was quite busy with most vehicles exceeding the speed limit, as traffic does in this day and age. What disgusted us more was our view through the window of the golf club itself – when we were able to snatch a moment to glance, in between crouching in the gutter and flattening ourselves against grassy banks. There they all were – wearing jackets and ties – laughing and joking as they sat around white-clothed tables littered with empty wine bottles. “How the other half live!” I sneered. “Yeah, the unhealthy half!” countered Colin.
We survived death alley, and entered Aldeburgh where we were able to get on to a pavement at last. It may have been possible to turn right at a choice of places and gain access to the river bank through industrial units, but I wasn’t prepared to take the risk of having to retrace our steps. So we carried on to the roundabout where we turned into a recreation ground and sat under a tree to eat the last of our food. We watched a couple of lads playing an informal game of tennis on the grass, and in our exhausted state we wondered how they could do so in the heat.
The path to the river bank led us through a thriving allotment site – always a pleasure to see – and across marshes where the signposting left a lot to be desired. We crossed three footbridges, just planks really, but didn’t seem to reach the fourth marked on our map. I realised we were going parallel to the river bank when we should have been making our way towards it. A good look at the map, and I announced that we had gone several hundreds yards along a track which was leading us nowhere, and that we should have struck out across the field at the last footbridge even though we hadn’t seen any path there. Colin – who was getting very edgy about his Speedway excursion – wouldn’t believe me. He couldn’t accept that we had gone so far out of our way, nor that we would have to go back. He kept saying (shouting?) that there “must be a way through further on!” to which I countered, “There may be, but we can’t be sure that we can get across the drainage ditches, and I’m not prepared to crawl through the mud!” So I left him, retraced our steps and found the right way on to the riverbank. He followed, of course.
The path up there obviously wasn’t walked much – it was horrible! Tall prickly plants stuck into our legs, and they all looked a bit dead which was strange. We met two ladies walking the other way, and commented on the nastiness of it all. Further on it was smoother and the going was easier, but we didn’t meet any more people. We saw some cormorants, a kestrel and some immature finches that were ‘thistle-hopping’ – at least, that’s how Colin described their behaviour. We could see our mangoldwurzel field of the last Walk across the river, and were heartily glad we weren’t over there. Colin walked on ‘to make the tea’ because he was in a hurry. Eventually I came out on to a gravel road just a few yards north of where our car was parked.

That ended Walk no.81, we shall pick up Walk no.82 next time on the narrow shingle bank which separates the River Alde from the sea at Aldeburgh. We had a cup of tea each, and decided not to walk down to the Martello tower and back because Colin was anxious to get back for his Speedway. (We regretted that decision the next day, and there would have been time as it was only half past four.) He wasn’t even 100% positive that there was a meeting at Ipswich that evening, so I suggested we stop off at the library so that he could look in a local newspaper. For once I said the right thing, and five minutes in Aldeburgh library confirmed the date and time. So we drove to Iken where we had a second ‘cuppa’ overlooking the beautiful view, collected the bikes and returned to our campsite at Shottisham. As we were driving through the woods we saw some spotted deer. One was a stag with a beautiful set of antlers, and another was an albino.
Colin rushed off to his Speedway, and seemed to be back quite early – it wasn’t a very long meeting and had cost him £13 to get in, just when we are strapped for cash. I asked him if he had enjoyed it, and his reply was – “It was OK, a bit processional.”

I think I am going to scream ! !

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