Anyone familiar with the composer Benjamin Britten will no doubt have heard of Snape Maltings, an old malthouse and collection of other associated buildings which have been turned into a large concert hall, art galleries, studios, shops and apartments; I'm not into opera or art in any way but as this place was one of Suffolk's popular attractions and it was on the way to Aldeburgh I thought I may as well take a look. The Maltings complex itself was situated by the River Alde on the outskirts of Snape village, and even though it was a weekday it was still busy with holidaymakers. Parking the van in the shade of a large tree I went for a quick look round the complex; the art galleries and studios didn't interest me but I did have a look in the largest shop there. This seemed to be a more classy version of a Dunelm Mill and there was some really lovely stuff in there but the prices were rather OTT; I took a liking to a rather nice dressing gown but £75.00?? No way!
Back at the van I clipped the leads on the dogs and went for a wander along the riverbank; with large grassy areas and boats moored alongside the wall it was a very pleasant place and I got a few good photos, though I had to admit that I couldn't figure out the significance of the road sign 'sculpture' - unusual to say the least, but it looked rather incongruous stuck right by the river.
Once I'd seen all I wanted I went back to the van and headed the few miles to Aldeburgh; driving straight through the main street I made my way towards the river estuary and was pleased to find that I could park for free on top of the built up bank which separated the estuary itself from the shingle beach. Right at the far end was a strange-looking and oddly-shaped Martello tower; somewhere to explore I thought, but when I got there I was disappointed to find that it was a private property used for holiday lets and therefore not accessible to the general public. It wasn't a particularly attractive building so I didn't bother photographing it but with hindsight, and when it was too late to go back, I somehow wished I had done. I was also disappointed to find that most of the lower riverbank was given over to the local sailing club and was therefore private, so any photo opportunities along there were somewhat limited; with a heat haze over the estuary itself I only managed to get a couple of decent shots.
Staying on the beach side of the riverbank I headed towards the town and the narrow road which served as a promenade. There were some lovely houses along there, painted in many different colours and shades, and I could have got a really nice photo but the line of parked cars and vans rather spoiled the view. I think maybe the only time I would get a photo without all the cars and vans would be at 8 o'clock on a Sunday morning with no-one around, unless of course they were all residents' cars in which case I'd have no chance whatever time of day it was. I did find a row of cottages down a side street though which I thought looked quite pretty so I took a shot there and was happy with that.
After wandering along the main street I made my way back to the van and headed out along the seafront road to my third stop, Thorpeness; my visit there last year had impressed me so much that before I'd got home from that holiday I'd decided that I would be going back for another look round. Managing once again to find a parking space in some shade I collected a ticket from the nearby machine then as dogs weren't allowed on the beach I went for a walk along there first. I'd gone quite a distance and was just about to turn round and head back to the van when I came upon a row of quirky and brightly painted houses - well worth a photo and I snapped a couple before heading back the along the shingle.
Back at the van I released the dogs, gave them a drink then set off to explore the village itself; there aren't many roads and lanes round there and I think I went up, down, and along near enough every one in my quest to find something to photograph. Up near the 'house in the clouds' I came across a very strange looking place - a square-shaped bungalow with an apex roof and what was possibly the upper part of an old grain mill 'balanced' at a slight angle on top of it. There was no indication of the house being occupied or what the bit at the top was for but it was certainly a very quirky-looking place and worth a photo.
Continuing my wanderings I explored the area round by the almshouses and the country club then worked my way back to the village green and the Meare. By this time the breakfast I'd had hours ago was just a distant memory - time for coffee and cake so I found a table outside the cafe where I could sit and watch the boating activities on the lake and ordered a slice of jam and cream sponge and a latte coffee, both of which were very nice, then satisfied that I'd got all the shots I wanted I made my way back to the van. It was only 3.45pm and I could have quite easily stayed in that quaint and lovely little village for longer but there was somewhere else I wanted to go to and I didn't want to leave it too late.
My last stop of the day was a visit to someone who I've kept in contact with in the years since my partner disappeared off the scene. She lived in a cottage near Beccles but had a static caravan on a site which wasn't far from my route back along the A12 so I thought I would take a chance at calling in; if she wasn't there I could always drive over to the cottage. Now I'd only ever been to her caravan once before, five years previously, and I didn't even know the name of the site, but my memory and good sense of direction found the turning off the main road and took me straight there. The car parked outside her caravan told me she was in and after she'd got over the surprise of seeing me she put the kettle on and made a brew. It was good to chat, and though I'd only intended staying for an hour or so she invited me to have a meal with her and I ended up staying for three hours. I could quite easily have stayed longer but I still had a long way to drive back to California and I wanted to get most of the journey done before it went completely dark.
When I did finally get back to the camp site I parked up in front of the tent, went across to John's van for a quick chat then fed the dogs and took them for their last walk of the day. When they finally got into their bed they curled up straight away and were asleep within minutes; all the walking and wandering had obviously tired them out and apart from the occasional snore from Sugar I didn't hear a peep out of them for the rest of the night.