Adventure No I : 9th June ~ Slaughden @ Aldeburgh on the Alde Estuary
This is an online residency. The idea is to drop in snapshots of local landscapes that give a glimpse of Suffolk and its extraordinary beauty. Suffolk is a fair county. Many of its most remarkable qualities are fleeting by nature. They are gone in an instant – but often return.
Each month will present a selection of images from different parts of Suffolk and East Anglia. Many will be from the Alde Valley – one of the least developed of the river valley systems in East Anglia. Curiously, the Alde Valley is also superstore-free from the source of all its tributaries [the Fromus near Saxmundham, the Upper Alde Valley near Badingham and the Ore by Framlingham] to the sea. One consequence of this quirk of local planning policy is that the Alde Valley is also home to one of the UK’s most vibrant and innovative local food economies. [Visit www.aldeburghfoodanddrink.co.uk , www.snapemaltings.co.uk , www.aldevalleyspringfestival.co.uk for some tasters and more information].
The first collection of images come from Slaughden. There was a pub and a small settlement here until 1953, when a storm surge swept most of the buildings away. A martello tower survives, standing firm on the edge of the land. It is the last in a long line towers and fortifications that stretches round the coast as far south as Rye and Winchelsea in Kent. This northernmost outpost stands like an old molar tooth, buttressed by brickwork, concrete and Scandinavian boulders against the relentless erosion of the North Sea.
As is so often the case, a weather front was rolling overhead. To the west, a long lip of broken clouds was curling along above the river and shoreline. Its underside was a bundle of soft tufts of cloud, darkened by half-fallen rain. To the east, over the sea, the sky was lighter and more open. In the distance two rain storms were drifting southwards over a shipping lane, heading towards Felixstowe.
Along the shore waves were coming in on a rising tide, staining dry stones a deeper brown as they reached higher and higher up the beach. Between the groynes, the action of the sea was piling stones up into mounds on one side and scouring them away on the other. Looking low out to sea over the shingle, the teak timbers, bolted tight to heavy uprights, seemed to be spouting water like the sides of a leaking galleon. The wet surface of the wood was the colour of rusted iron, but was reflecting the light of the sea like a mirror. Above, as always, seagulls roamed and wheeled on the wind. Some were gathered around cars, waiting for chips and morsels of battered fish to be flung from opened windows. Others, perhaps already full, were riding an evening breeze back to Orfordness. They do this when the wind is in the right direction, catching a sheet of updraft as it rises off over the river wall.
Jason Gathorne-Hardy, White House Farm, Great Glemham. 9th June 2011.
Drawings of seagulls from the Alde at Snape are currently on show at Snape Maltings Gallery and by appointment at the farm.