Miles of seaside magic

IN the first of a series of features looking at all aspects of the resort's coast, Felixstowe editor RICHARD CORNWELL looks at why he loves living by the sea and five miles of varied coastline.

By Richard Cornwell

IN the first of a series of features looking at all aspects of the resort's coast, Felixstowe editor RICHARD CORNWELL looks at why he loves living by the sea and five miles of varied coastline.

ON clear blue mornings, before everyone is up, when the sea is calm as a mill pond and clouds hang on the horizon like distant misty mountains, there is nowhere quite like Felixstowe.

There is a cool crispness in the air, and the only sounds are the scrunch of your footsteps on the shingle, and the gentle lapping of the waves, pulling at the pebbles, and the mewing of hungry gulls whirling overhead.

In one direction there are ships at anchor, lurking like huge beasts waiting to berth at the port.

In the other the fine century-old promenade stretching two miles, with views across to hazy Walton-on-the-Naze and the monster cranes of the port standing guard over the harbour and town.

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Living by the sea is a constant joy.

Many people in the town say they hardly ever see the sea - looking to Ipswich for their jobs and leisure, perhaps visiting the beach or market on a sunny Sunday.

But I have to see the sea every day.

It's constantly changing: moods, colours, waves. From the calm, warm blue of a summer's day to the drama of a dirty brown or steely grey winter sea as it pounds the shores, huge concrete-breaking waves smashing against the prom, shooting spray into the air, it is never dull.

Twenty-five years ago when I arrived in Felixstowe to work on The Evening Star and Felixstowe Times it was catching sight of the sea from one particular viewpoint which told me this place was special. I was at that point in Maybush Lane where the road drops away, to leave nothing but water at the end of the road.

It may have a shopping centre like every town, countryside on its doorstep, but the sea will always be Felixstowe's greatest treasure and what makes it stand apart.

My earliest memories of the resort stretch back to daytrips to the seaside in the 1960s - the excitement of a journey by train or the moment the sea came into view at the bottom of Hamilton Road.

I recall falling in while exploring the rock pools at the bottom of Bent Hill and my stricken grandparents having to take me, dripping wet, up to the town to buy me a complete new set of clothes.

Happy days riding the little train than ran around the gardens in Sea Road, and - even better - the larger train ride on the land where the Forum now stands. Visiting to Charles Manning's funfair, with the helter skelter always my favourite, was another eagerly anticipated highlight of the trip to the seaside.

There was frustration that the beach just didn't have enough sand back then - the pebbles would hurt our feet and we would have to build sandcastles close to the water, where the majority of the sand was, watching them forever being swept away by incoming waves.

Felixstowe was about the yacht pond, paddling, penny machines and rides, rock, candy floss, ice cream and toffee apples, and tea in the Pier Pavilion gardens. I never knew Landguard or Felixstowe Ferry existed - these were delights I would only discover once living in the town.

Felixstowe has changed little over the years. The old Pier Pavilion has gone - replaced by the much-needed leisure centre - and so has the Herman de Stern, Beach Station and Cliff Gardens Shelter.

The gardens are as beautiful as ever, but the main beach has been suffering and seeing it littered with rocks - which make a shore walk more interesting, great for climbing over - is a great shame when it was once an excellent beach.

But for me Felixstowe is not just the area between the Spa Pavilion and Charlie Manning's - there is so much more for people to explore.

Landguard itself is a real gem. Walk across the nature reserve on a spring morning, on a carpet of colour, butterflies fluttering everywhere, the brooding mass of Landguard Fort on your right and the waves on the left, down to the southernmost point of Suffolk - where the giant container ships pass within feet, great behemoths of the seas.

At the other end of the resort's coast there is the Ferry - a tiny hamlet, best reached by walking from the Clifflands car park along the sea wall, past the two Martello Towers built to ward of Napoleon.

Fishing vessels still come in and out, occasional seals can be seen bobbing in the water, and the only sound is the chink-chink of the yachts' halyards whipped by the breeze.

In fact, the area is great for walking - not just along the five-mile coast, but on the paths across the marshes and fields around the peninsula.

'My Felixstowe' is definitely its coast because it packs in so much in such a short space between the rivers, and few other places have such variety.

What's 'your Felixstowe'? What do you love about the town? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

Councillor Doreen Savage: “I just love the sea. I think the prom and the sweep of the coastline at Felixstowe is absolutely beautiful. The people are also lovely and always so friendly.”

Campaigner Ian Heeley said: “The community of Felixstowe is a very special place. I have made friends for life here and I love it. I wasn't born here but it's the place I call home.”

Historian Doreen Rayner said: “I still love Felixstowe today but my Felixstowe is missing - I loved the Dooley and Fagbury areas now covered by the port, hiring pedaloes and those side-by-side cycles for two on the seafront, the funfair in its heyday. I know the visitors are essential, but I love it best when they have gone home and Felixstowe is ours again.”

Mayor Joan Sennington: “For me Felixstowe is the sea - whenever we go inland I miss it so much. I just love its drama, moods and colours and it is always changing and there is so much to watch.”

Chamber of Trade chairman Shaun Rudduck: “I moved away for two years and didn't realise how much I would miss Felixstowe. It's really got something special - a lovely atmosphere and an environment which is a unique combination of port, town and resort, which makes it different.”

Fundraiser Richard Bradshaw: “Everybody is so friendly and the town is still just small enough to be able to know lots of people. I love the seafront, too, and am always impressed by how the port doesn't impinge on the coast the way strangers might expect it to do.”

Landguard Fort - the last place England was invaded by a foreign force and open daily most of the year.

John Bradfield Viewing Area - alongside Felixstowe port's Landguard Terminal, an excellent place to sit and watch the world's biggest container ships visiting Britain's biggest boxport.

Felixstowe Ferry - unchanged for a century, visitors love the peace and tranquillity of this hamlet by the Deben with its two pubs, famous café and fish and chips, fish sellers, ferry to Bawdsey, and walks.

Seafront - the main seafront with its Blue Flag beach and flat two-mile prom, is backed with hotels, restaurants, Sunday market, gardens, leisure centre, plus children's rides, arcades, crazy golf and funfair among its traditional attractions.

Spa Pavilion - the third biggest theatre in the region, putting on a range of shows throughout the year from plays to pantos, stand-up comedians to rock and roll.

Landguard Nature Reserve - a 58-acre haven for birdwatchers, but also those who enjoy windswept isolation, and rare fauna and flora, with more than 375 different species of plants and one-third of all British grasses found there.