We live near Aldeburgh on the Suffolk Coast. We play on the beach, swim in the sea, drink coffee in the cafes and eat (some) local fish in the restaurants. There’s a long pebble beach leading to the grey expanses of the North Sea. This corner of Suffolk is my world and its a reminder of the state we are in.
On the horizon you can see huge container ships (some containing 20,000 containers) on their way to Felixtowe bringing stuff from China that most of us don’t really need. On their return, the same ships take the empty plastic and packaging back to China to be recycled. Rising to the North, the jolly giant golf ball of the Sizewell B nuclear reactor tries to obscure its ugly block concrete sister Sizewell A nuclear reactor. Another sibling (as yet unformed) is expected with the next ten years – Sizewell C nuclear reactor. Far out to sea, to the SE and just visible on a clear day are the massed ranks of offshore turbines. A world of clean renewable energy is out of sight and out of mind whilst Sizewell impresses on the landscape.
To the south, a cunningly modified Slaughden Mill is the only remnant of Slaughden village finally washed away in the great flood of 1953. At the other end of town, the 16th Century Moot Hall stands isolated on the prom. Yet this was once at the heart of the town, its neighbouring buildings long washed away by a shifting coastline.
When we first moved to Suffolk nearly ten years ago we lived in an old fisherman’s cottage at the south end of the High Street. On this strip there were about 20 houses and at that time over half of them were permanently occupied by older residents. Now almost all are holiday cottages or second homes. The average house price on Saxmundham Road leading out of town is £800,000 – that’s the fourth most expensive street in the East of England
To the west of the town are the marshes which lie below the river Alde as it wends its way up to the malting at Snape. The salt-marsh lamb is excellent, but the land is fragile but a major breach of the river wall would partially flood the land with fresh water, potentially destroying the habitat. The land around Aldeburgh is intensively farmed with pigs, fodder crops like mangle wurzels and vegetables. The Sandlings Heathland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty sustains Tunstall and Rendelesham forests. The place is beloved of ramblers, bird watchers, cyclists, walkers carriage drivers, riders and motorists.
This beautiful landscape is exposed both to the weather, the sea and the numerous competing and complimentary interests of human beings. There’s no better example of our global and local attempts to tame nature, exploit limited resources and pursue the human desire to have it all.
I still drive the children for a play on the beach, I’ll still buy the odd take away coffee and I’ll take advantage of the line caught fish on sale. But nothing lasts for ever, does it?