diamond geezer

 Monday, May 18, 2015

Seaside postcard: Harwich

You'll find Harwich in the top right corner of Essex, at the end of a peninsula overlooking the River Stour. It boasts the finest natural harbour between the Humber and the Thames, hence has a long and esteemed maritime history, although today is overshadowed by the container port of Felixstowe across the estuary. You get there via the A120 or up the branch line from Manningtree (from which, if you look out of the window for the right couple of seconds, you can see Grayson Perry's A House for Essex at Wrabness). And Harwich turns out to be a bit of a jewel, overflowing with old streets, pubs and museums, plus as a vantage point it's hard to beat. [Visit Harwich] [Visit Harwich] [Harwich Society] [24 photos]

Harwich Maritime Trail: One good way to explore the town is via a Discovering Britain audio walk, where you can listen to your history on the way round with the added bonus of an accompanying 36 page booklet from the Royal Geographical Society. Or there's the Harwich Pub Trail, if that's more your thing, and assuming you have no need to remember the rest of the day. But I plumped for the Harwich Maritime Trail, picking up a leaflet courtesy of the seemingly ubiquitous Harwich Society, which weaved for a mile and a bit through the old streets. Including the following...

Redoubt Fort This Napoleonic fortress was built just over 200 years ago, in case the French came calling. A two-storey circular building, it now sits inside a moat, inside a ring of allotments, inside a housing estate, so is nigh impossible to see from the rest of the town. Restored and staffed by volunteers, it was the best value three quid of the day. Circuit one takes you round the ramparts past the big guns, then you descend to view the ring of damp arches within which the soldiers slept, worked, exercised and ate. Today these arches contain an eclectic museum which tells the fort's story but also that of the town, including a collection of Sealink memorabilia, a second hand bookstall, and lots of old objects that Harwich Society members were reluctant to throw away. Make sure you get the 50p leaflet to explain stuff on the way round. (entrance £3, open daily)
Low Lighthouse A squat 200-year-old wooden light by the riverside, now home to the town's Maritime Museum. (entrance £1)
High Lighthouse Visible across town, its light lined up with the Low Lighthouse to guide sailors into the harbour. It also marks the end of the 81 Essex Way, an 81 mile footpath from Epping. It was recently reopened to allow visitors to enjoy the view from the top (and ignore the lady who says it's more than 200 steps to the top, it's less than 100). (entrance £1, Saturdays only)
Treadwheel Crane A 350-year-old hoist attached to big wooden hut containing a wheel operated by men walking round inside. Now there's a modern welfare idea, eh Minister?
Lifeboat Museum The town's not short on museums, even if most are small. This one houses an old Clacton lifeboat, the Valentine Wyndham-Quin. (entrance £1)
Electric Theatre Opened in 1911, closed in the 1950s and restored in the 1980s, this is one of the oldest operational cinemas in England. Its facade is glorious, and its daily film programme appropriately not-quite mainstream.
Mayflower Project The Captain and crew for the Mayflower came from Harwich, and the captain's house still stands in Kings Head Street. There are currently plans to recreate the boat in time for the 400th anniversary of its 1620 sailing. So far they've only built the keel frame, but you can have a look at that, and their plans for the next five years, on site by the station. [website]
Ha'penny Pier At the tip of the town, overlooking the river, this is a stumpy dog-leg jetty with a cafe and a tiny tourist information hut (where the Harwich Society will hope to sell you some of their many publications).
Light Vessel LV18 It's big, it's red, it's the last manned lightship in the UK, and it's moored up beside the Ha'penny Pier. Oh and of course it's a museum, containing Pirate Radio memorabilia. (entrance £2) [website]

That's a lot more than most small towns have to offer. And if Harwich doesn't hold you, here are three neighbouring places to escape to.

Dovercourt: Harwich's Essex twin is a former seaside resort fractionally down the coast, now coalesced with its northern neighbour. Its long bay is dominated by two wooden lighthouses, one by the promenade and one out to sea, installed by Trinity House in 1863, again to guide in sailors through careful alignment. It's also a great place for watersports, hence the bay was thronging with windsurfers at the weekend, watched over by spouses and family while they circuited offshore. The council's attempt at a cliff garden seems somewhat worse for wear these days, with crumbling concrete and no attempt at planting, and the beach huts are a motley bunch (numbered in an entirely illogical order). A couple of hotels survive overlooking the breakers, but alas you're too late to visit Dovercourt Bay Holiday Park, once dressed up as Maplins for the filming of Hi-De-Hi, now demolished and replaced by a housing estate.

the Harwich Harbour Foot Ferry: From May to August (and weekends in April and September) a pedestrian ferry crosses the Stour linking Essex to Suffolk. It's only small, seating no more than 12 paying passengers, but that was no problem on my visit with loadings extremely light. The custard-coloured lowloader sets off from the Ha'penny Pier a few times a day (be sure to check the timetable) to negotiate the shipping lanes where there might be a yacht, there might be an ocean liner or there might be a massive container ship. You might also get a bit splashed or you might not, depending on conditions, and there's a loyalty card in case you make ten journeys (which, let's be fair, is unlikely). Oh, and there's a choice of destination...

Shotley: At the end of a tongue-shaped peninsula, sandwiched between the Stour and Orwell estuaries, lies the small village of Shotley. It's most famous as the site of the Royal Navy's training school for boys, based on the Navy's last sailing ship, with recruits numbering 500 before WW1 but 2000 after WW2. The boys lived and trained in a complex on the hill, now almost entirely demolished and awaiting rebirth as housing, but the mast of HMS Ganges (which they used for rigging practice) remains on site. Various artefacts from the naval colony are preserved in a museum by the marina, free to enter, and containing the ship's original figurehead. Or, while you're waiting for the ferry to come back, you can go for a walk up one or other arms of the estuary. The Stour side is prettier, with a strip of communal woodland atop the cliffs, an important bird habitat along Erwarton Bay, and fine views over the peninsula from the adjacent farmland tracks. Meanwhile the Orwell side is busier, with yachts aplenty off the salt marsh, and the amazing sight of the Port of Felixstowe on the opposite bank. I couldn't take my camera off the miles of cranes and containers, so beguiling is the import/export theatre played out on the Suffolk shore. I counted 34 cranes in total, their automatic shuffling servicing a sequence of giant international ships piled high with wares from abroad. A lot of what you buy comes through here, out of mind and out of sight, unless you live in Harwich or Shotley, that is.

Felixstowe: And the ferry also runs from Harwich to Felixstowe, which I suspect is a busier run, but that's for another day.

My Harwich gallery
There are 24 photos altogether [slideshow]

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards