Loving the seaside
Lesley Dolpin’s glad she moved to fun filled Felixstowe
‘Here fishermen and leisure sailors share the slipway and jetty, and families enjoy crabbing’
IN May this year Mark and I moved to Felixstowe, and we are so pleased we did. It wasn’t something we’d dreamed about for ages. In fact it all happened rather quickly. On New Year’s day we’d had a rather blustery walk along the prom and commented on how lovely it would be to be able to do that every day, but only if we could actually walk to the beach. I didn’t really think any more about it, but once Mark has an idea that’s it. We looked at two properties. The second was our dream house, and here we are.
Felixstowe seems to be having a renaissance. There’s always something happening. In the few weeks we’ve been here we’ve seen Armed Forces Day commemorations, the historic vehicles run, the three-day carnival, and open air cinema, two firework celebrations and the new smart pier building has opened, with a cafe and boardwalk that takes you right round the building over the sea.
I love that Felixstowe is so different from one end to the other. At the south end, the Orwell and Stour estuary, there are the awe inspiring sights of the Port of Felixstowe. There’s always something to see from the View Point, whether it’s the pilot boat heading out, a beautiful Thames barge under sail, or the world’s biggest container ship. Among all this 21st century activity is 17th century Languard Fort, and the nature reserve. It’s a surreal experience wandering around the reserve, as huge ships glide by.
At the northern end is the River Deben, with its marshes and quirky houseboats sitting in the mud, and wooden buildings on stilts for when it floods. Here fishermen and leisure sailors share the slipway and jetty, and families enjoy crabbing. The Ferry Cafe has been here for many years serving passengers for the Bawdsey foot ferry, and more recently, it has been joined by Winkles cafe. There is also a wonderful fish shop. In between sits the town of Felixstowe. In its heyday it was a top resort for Edwardian holidaymakers arriving by train. Today there is still lots to see and do - stroll through the restored gardens, enjoy a show at the Spa Pavilion, eat at one of the restaurants and bars. And from north to south is a beach which, every weekend in summer, is filled with families enjoying a trip to the seaside. What more could you ask for?
A couple of weeks ago there was an exciting launch of the Two Sisters Arts Centre at the former St Mary’s Church in Trimley St Mary. This is an initiative from Felixstowe Creative Arts Trust, a small group of arts practitioners who share a vision for an arts hub for the Felixstowe area. They are in talks with the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich to transform the redundant St Mary’s into a centre for the visual and performing arts. There are plans for a short autumn season building up to an official opening in the new year. Watch this space!
It seems local playwrights are scrambling over each other to tell Felixstowe’s fascinating stories and bring to life some colourful characters. This summer Suzanne Hawkes promenaded Felixstory 2, a vintage bus ride with stops for storytelling at various sites. This month Landguard Fort is the venue for a play performed by Woven Theatre Company, Friend or Foe: the life and Times of Philip Thicknesse, Governor of Languard Fort 1753-1766, written by Peppy Barlow and Sally Wilden. I have to admit I’d never heard of Philip Thicknesse. He was, by all accounts, a notorious character, author and eccentric friend of Thomas Gainsborough. Peppy and Sally tell me I won’t forget him after seeing their play.
So, although Mark and I have been residents in Felixstowe for just a few weeks we already know it’s the best decision we have ever made. Mind you we’ve been lucky with the weather - wall to wall sunshine. It’s probably a good thing that I also love being beside the sea when it blows a gale and the seas pound the beach.
Below: The new frontage of Felixstowe Pier
Top: Sun shining on the new Boardwalk Cafe Bar along Felixstowe Pier