Category Archives: Seaside Piers

Felixstowe Pier

The logical next step after Southwold seemed to be Felixstowe. We arrived, had fish and chips (to be covered later), visited Landguard Point, photographed a Martello Tower and, finally, parked by the pier. This was not because I had a plan to accommodate a lot of sight-seeing in one trip, but because I couldn’t remember how to get to the pier.

I don’t have overly fond memories of Felixstowe Pier. We used to go there when visiting Julia’s parents in Suffolk and my clearest memories are a stony beach and architecture that always makes me think of a barrack block in the 1950’s.

It’s all changed now. Apart from the beach – that’s still stony. I don’t mind stony beaches myself but they are cheerless places when you have kids, and I did ache a bit the morning after  I threw myself full length on Hastings beach to stop a shot on goal from one of the kids. Competitive? Me?

The new pier has been open less than a year and cost £3 million. It seems like a bargain for a lovely new amusement arcade, which includes a new carpet, with appropriate logo. Compared to the old Felixstowe Pier this is a magical place, but compared to Southwold it’s a bit basic. An Arcade, some food, a carpet and some railings cannot compete. Even the gulls on the fenced-off  section aren’t enough to raise the game – without people to walk the boards a pier is merely a method to collect guano.

It was once 2,640 feet long, one of the longest piers in the country. It had an electric tramway and a pleasure steamer service operated from the end of the pier, with services to Yarmouth and London.

All went well until 1939, when the Army took a section out of the pier to stop it being used by invading Germans. I’m not really clear why piers were seen as such an important factor in the German invasion. It was probably like the metal collections that resulted in the loss of my grandparents’ garden railings. Rumour has it that we didn’t need all that ironwork, but that it was a way of bringing the reality of war home to the population. The breaching of the piers on the east coast was probably similar, being a propaganda measure rather than a serious military necessity.

After the war the pier was never repaired.

The tramway never ran again and the detached seaward end was eventually demolished. The only reason there is anything running out to sea is because it is too expensive to demolish. Eventually I suppose the whole lot will fall apart, which will be a shame, but despite all the regeneration of the seafront Felixstowe seems destined to be more famous as a container port rather than a holiday destination.

There’s a picture on the internet showing a Short 184 seaplane on the pier after crashing in 1920. Having been a seaplane base in the war Felixstowe was no stranger to aircraft accidents.Though it’s virtually unknown these days the Short was a notable aircraft in its day, with a number of records to its credit.

Felixstowe also saw the crash of the Felixstowe Fury. Having missed the chance to fly the Atlantic non-stop when the Air Ministry decided to leave the attempt to commercial interests, the Fury was being prepared for a record-breaking flight to South Africa when it crashed in the sea off Felixstowe, killing the radio operator. At the time it was the largest seaplane in the world and the largest ever British aircraft. With a wingspan of 123 feet it was 21 feet wider than an Avro Lancaster.

I’ll leave it there because, although I’m fascinated by early aviation, it’s not really anything to do with the pier.

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Felixstowe Pier

 

Southwold Pier (Part 3)

There’s not much more to tell, but I do have more photographs to use, so you’re getting part three whether you like it or not.

The miniature bandstand in the header picture is part of the pier furniture. There’s quite a lot of it about – chairs, tables, booths and the previously mentioned waste bins. It all adds up to quite a stylish place with some serious attention to eating. I didn’t make notes of all the eating establishments – I really must get more professional about these things.

 

The end of the pier is formed by a group of concrete-filled posts that have been used as unconvincing wishing wells. It’s amazing what people will do if they have some change and a target. If I was in charge I’d rig up some buckets and collect my winnings regularly.

 

And at that point it’s time for a look back…

 

It’s a fine view but, as you can see from the walking stick picture, not a view achieved without a certain amount of personal danger. You need to be careful with the stick, though the spacing on Southwold isn’t too bad. It still feels a tad perilous, despite knowing it can’t actually go through. That’s a new ferrule by the way – I wore the last one out and bought some new grey ones from Amazon. I may buy a new, wider, stick to make sure our future pier trips pass safely.

Finally, on the return trip, you get a good view of the George Orwell mural.

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George Orwell with quotes – he spent quite a lot of time in Southwold, as this article shows

The Artist - Charlie Uzzel-Edwards

The Artist – Charlie Uzzel-Edwards – aka known as Pure Evil

There are about 60 piers in Britain, so there only 59 more to go. The problem is that I’m worried we’ve done the best one first and the rest are going to be a let down.

Next post – we visit Pier 2, which leaves just 58 to go.

Southwold Pier (Part 2)

After the cream tea we went to…

I’ve just realised I didn’t give you a proper report of the cream tea. I don’t seem to have photographed the fully assembled tea either. Sorry about that. The scones were nice and light, the cream unbranded (but none the worse for that, and it used less packaging) and the jam was the equal of any we’ve had recently. Having said that, most jam is just fruit and sugar so it’s hard to get it wrong. What made it better than most, was the view of Southwold in the sparkling summer sun.

I’ve been reading about how things like description and presentation can make food taste better. It seems wrong, and suggests humans are weak-minded, but it does seem to be true. It also seems to suggest that an average cream tea in a cafe with a great view can become a great cream tea.

I also forgot to tell you about the grandmother/mother conversation about beach huts. You can get one for about £10,000, which is small change for a millionaire, but a lot of money for a £500 garden shed built where gales tend to blow. They agreed that some beach huts were ridiculously expensive, which is true – some of them are. They also agreed that beach huts would be better with showers and toilets. This is probably true too, but really misses the point of the beach hut, which is really a throw-back to the 1950s.

From there we moved on to the Under the Pier Show, an arcade featuring the work of mad inventor Tim Hunkin.

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The Under the Pier Show

You may remember him from various TV programmes and Sunday magazines. He’s clearly unhinged but very funny.

In many ways it sums up the pier – inventive, funny and original.

The theming of waste bins, food carts and cafe lamp shades is another nice touch.

 

Looks like this is going to run to three parts. Here’s a taster of what comes next.

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Eric Blair lived in Southwold – he liked Suffolk so much he took the name of the River Orwell as his pen name. As a Socialist he probably looked into the future and decided being called Blair was just too embarrassing.

Southwold Pier (Part 1)

In which our heroic duo actually manage to visit a pier, see a very rude woman, eat a cream tea and have a jolly good time. Despite a sunburned head.

Built in 1900, Southwold Pier was originally 270 yards long. During the years of its existence it has, due to several storms and a drifting sea mine, varied from 20 yards to its current 208 yards. Compared to some other piers this is considered a relatively trouble-free history.

It is, to be honest, 208 yards of excellence. It starts well, and is good right to the end. When you get to the end it is also good when you view it in the reverse direction.

One striking aspect of the pier, apart from the signs to tell you where you are, is the bright, clean appearance of the place. The plaques are also a very noticeable feature – they commemorate all sorts of things, and the prices start at £195. It’s not cheap, but it would make a very unusual present. I mentioned this to Julia, but she seems unimpressed by the idea.

This is a selection of plaques – I’ve deliberately chosen some that are related to piers and the pier construction. There are others, including, those to public figures from the town, school pupils, teachers, the town crier and many happy holidaymakers. It adds up to the idea of the pier as a community facility, and makes it a happy place to be.

I’m sorry about all this unseemly positivity, but it’s that sort of place.

The first stop was in the cafe for a cream tea. It wasn’t planned, but we fancied a cup of tea and the rest of it just happened. It was clean and bright with excellent scones but appalling company.

There were three generations behind me, a baby, a mother and a grandmother. It started off slowly with a discussion on breastfeeding and weaning. The baby, to be fair, didn’t contribute much to the discussion.

The mother didn’t get much chance to contribute either.

However, the grandmother made up for this. The woman could talk. She didn’t however, always talk sense, and she kept stressing that she would be willing to donate some of her “organic cooking apples” for the child’s food. I think that’s what we mere mortals call “cooking apples”. We don’t use chemicals so our fruit is organic, we just don’t refer to it as “organic”. I can’t help feeling you should have it certified by the Soil Association before you start calling your fruit “organic”.

That just makes her irritating. What made her appalling was the hand gesture.

A young waiter approached them and asked if he could take their order. The grandmother dismissed him brusquely, telling him they had ordered outside but moved inside out of the wind.  That was bad enough, but as she did it, I saw Julia stiffen.

She told me afterwards that the grandmother had made a dismissive flicking hand gesture to send the young man on his way.

I suppose it’s appropriate that a fine old pier in a traditional old resort should be the last bastion of epic rudeness and disdain for the lower classes.

I hope she gets earwigs in her organic cooking apples.