Lov­ing the sea­side

Les­ley Dolpin’s glad she moved to fun filled Felixs­towe

EADT Suffolk - - Inside - Les­ley Dol­phin CON­TACT les­ley­dol­phin@bbc.co.uk

‘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

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