Text and photos by Patrick Meehan
On the first IOG outing of 2023, walk leader Glen Richards offered members (and would-be members) their very first opportunity to stick to the likeliest of New Year’s resolutions: to get out more!
Steering clear of one of the regular IOG walks – along the seafront from Landguard Fort to Felixstowe Ferry – Glen opted instead for a different route encompassing urban, rural and seaside environments.
On this cold but sunny morning, we proceeded eastwards towards the coast from our meeting point at the Grove car park, (near the Grove Medical Centre) on what would be a roughly circular ‘Felixstowe Fervour’ walk of approximately 9 miles, with a shorter 6-mile option available.
Wikipedia tells us that Felixstowe is named after Felix of Burgundy, a saint and the first bishop of the East Angles in the seventh century. At the time, the Kingdom of East Anglia comprised a small independent kingdom consisting of what are now the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk and perhaps the eastern part of the Fens.
Once through a wide, rolling, rural landscape of crossing trails and woodlands that opened onto open fields, we made our way through the urban landscape of Old Felixstowe, then headed south-west along the seafront promenade with its famed beach huts (pictured at top).
Shortly after midday we stopped for a packed lunch at Cliff Gardens, where, closely watched by parents, a number of children were still learning to ride their new Christmas bicycles, some still on training wheels, and others – “Look Mum! Look Mum! – who had already graduated to two.
Cliff Gardens is one of eight Grade II listed gardens which give the town its title, “The Garden Resort of East Anglia”. These beautifully landscaped and magnificently planted gardens were created more than a hundred years ago, resulting from the fashion in late Victorian times for visiting coastal locations in pursuit of improved health, wellbeing and relaxation.
Along the way to the Gardens, we spotted a valiant cohort of lady swimmers (and their dog) braving the frigid waters of the North Sea. In fact, the (wise) canine remained on the beach, lending enthusiastic moral support with raucous barking – and such a furious wagging of its tail that we thought it might fly off (the tail) into the ether like some errant helicopter rotor!
The latter part of our adventure saw us leaving the seafront behind, and taking a northward return march through a mixture of semi-urban, rural and farmland environments. Along this particular route, there were a number of fine old Victorian cottages and gardens, still inhabited, but showing varying levels of decline and decay: stark evidence of the inexorable toll the march of time imposes on all things.
The final intended leg was frustrated by a large tree fallen across our intended route; however, intrepid walk leader Glen swiftly plotted an alternative route – and our safe return to the start point.