Shingle, not sand, shapes Aldeburgh’s beach. Lit by the sun, the stones have a warm, welcoming glow that counters the discomfort underfoot and beneath the towel. The texture and colours beat sand on a sunny day – at least through a photographer’s lens. This is still a working beach, and the summer months bring together the unlikely pairing of sun-seekers and fish-finders. For all of its pebble-dashed glory, Aldeburgh isn’t a tidy beach, as parts are draped and decorated with the detritus of small-scale commercial fishing. The shingle is strewn with nets, lines and plastic rollers to help with launching and landing the boats, crab pots, crates, coloured buoys and rusting chain. All of this provides welcome character and the promise of fresh fish sold from the shacks or supplied to the town’s eateries. The glory of Aldeburgh is that it offers so much more than just boats and beaches. Heading south past masts and hulls at the yacht club brings visitors into contact with a slice of Napoleonic history as they encounter the four-lobed Martello tower designed to keep the French at bay and nowadays a holiday retreat.
Due north, past Maggi Hambling’s loved and loathed Scallop, there is a land of make-believe that pays tribute to fictional child hero Peter Pan. Thorpeness is a fantastical playground that is quite different to its more genteel neighbour, but is no less loved for all its eccentricities. Aldeburgh’s proud musical, literary and visual arts heritage provides the town with a rather refined air that mingles curiously with the unique atmosphere of its upstart manmade neighbour.
This photographic expedition also ranges inland to explore Snape Maltings, a musical and spiritual suburb of Aldeburgh thanks to the link welded by one of the country’s most celebrated composers. Sir Benjamin Britten’s compositions migrated just a few miles from the town’s Jubilee Hall to the magical concert venue farther up the River Alde that breathed life into an industrial ruin.
All of the photography in this book is the result of visits made during one week of one summer. A week is often all that a single visitor, couple or family will get to spend in and around Aldeburgh. The collection of images therefore provides a taste of what can be seen on this small patch of Suffolk without too much planning or thought.