Sandy toes and salty kisses
Walking the dog at Felixstowe Ferry
Is that a Clumber spaniel?” With just 265 Clumber puppies registered with the Kennel Club in 2017, compared to 35,068 Labradors, and 23,317 Cocker spaniels, no wonder people are not sure what Farley is, as we walk along Felixstowe’s promenade.
We have come to Suffolk’s garden resort to walk north to Felixstowe Ferry. This saunter, from the war memorial to the mouth of the River Deben, takes in historic seafront gardens, sand and shingle beaches, a classic golf links, a timeless boat-building hamlet and, for some, arguably the best view in Suffolk. Inevitably, for part of our walk, there are some restrictions.
“Felixstowe is a great place to come for all the family, including with our fourlegged friends,” says Steve Gallant, Suffolk Coastal District Council’s cabinet member responsible for community health. “It’s important however that we balance the needs of all. In the centre of the resort of Felixstowe, there’s an area of beach that is designated as dog-free between May and September.” Steve, a Felixstowe resident and dog walker himself, says that at Landguard Point dogs are welcome but must be kept on a short, fixed lead to protect the valuable wildlife and habitats in this area. There are no restrictions on the rest of the beach, other than for owners to clean up after their dogs.
In the year that we’ve been walking Farley around Suffolk his manners have improved. At three years old, he walks beautifully for the short distance where
dogs are to be kept on a lead on the promenade, and are not allowed on the beach. Once we leave the restricted zone he’s off into the sand heading straight for the sea. It is mid-summer, and although there is a gentle southwesterly breeze, the sunshine between fair weather clouds makes for a pleasantly warm morning. Holidaymakers, day visitors and residents are making the most of the ice cream kiosks, chalets, beach huts and windbreaks.
But among this delightful essence of English seaside there is, at least for me, an aberration. As an islander and keen sailor I love all things boating, and believe there is dignity in a vessel coming to the end of its life as scrap or a wreck. But to end up as a flower bed? I loathe rowing boats and sailing dinghies filled with soil and plants. I call them ‘Dead Boats’, and there’s one here on the seafront at Felixstowe. It will be the first thing to go, if in my remaining years, I ever become Prime Minister.
There is no denying, Felixstowe waterfront looks rejuvenated and feels alive. Behind us, the redeveloped pier is a vast improvement, and the Fludyers Arms Hotel ahead looks every inch a fashionable and popular boutique hotel and restaurant. Steve agrees.
“There is a real buzz about Felixstowe at the moment. The town is really on the up and attracting more and more visitors. In recent years it has benefited from significant investment from both public and private purses. The Seafront Gardens are a real magnet for visitors and residents. The new pier head building and boardwalk is an impressive sight and the Spa Pavilion provides a diverse range of entertainment from pantomime, summer specials and tribute bands.”
High above us on the cliff line, the former Felix Hotel, now luxury retirement apartments, looks out majestically over the approaches to Harwich and the River Deben. Below, a Thames barge under full sail, silhouetted against a bright horizon, pushes gently against a rising tide. We pass