Felixstowe Rocks and Docks – Who Knew?

Landguard Point, Felixstowe, England

Landguard Point, Felixstowe

Felixstowe, Suffolk, England

There are some things in life you just can’t predict, such as which people or places will capture your heart.

As regular readers of this blog know, my partner, Clive, grew up in Felixstowe, a coastal town in the county of Suffolk, in England. Since our first visit there together in 2006, I have developed a deep affection for this place.

As the saying goes, who knew? Of course, the first reason I’m interested in Felixstowe is because it’s Clive’s place. It’s where he went to Langer Road Infants School, Maidstone Road Infants (after Langer was rendered inoperable by the devastating 1953 North Sea flood), Causton Primary, then Felixstowe Grammar; was active in the Bethesda Baptist youth group; rode his bike through the fields of Grange Farm to play with his friends at Fagbury Fort, worked summers on Searsons Farm in Trimley, and helped his mother and stepfather with their fruit and vegetable shop on Grange Road.

Rocks = Shingle Beaches

When Clive’s hard-working family took a summer vacation, they didn’t travel far. The family rented a beach hut right there in Felixstowe and after working in the morning, they spent afternoons at that most English of locations, the family seaside resort.

Felixstowe beach huts

Felixstowe beach huts

Before meeting Clive, I never could have imagined — me, a (New) Jersey girl who grew up with white sandy beaches and now lives in Sydney, Australia, with really white, sandy beaches — falling in love with a place whose beach is a mix of imported sand (from the Thames estuary) and small rocks, or as Clive would correct me, shingle. The full term is a clean shingle beach.

Close-up of shingle beach, Felixstowe

Close-up of shingle beach, Felixstowe

It’s been a slow process, adjusting to shingle beaches (I wrote about the shingle beaches at Aldeburgh in Walking in Suffolk, Part 3: A Musical Influcence’). But somewhere along the way, I’ve grown to accept and, to my surprise, even like them.

Clive and his Felixstowe friends describe how you ‘smooth your towel’ over the stones so they perfectly fit your body as you settle down into the shingle. I still prefer a sandy beach, but on our walks now I usually pick up a few stones as souvenirs. There’s a certain beauty in their different colours and shapes, and they really are clean, thanks to their daily washing by the North Sea.

Several stones from Felixstowe Beach are now alongside the conkers on the mantle in Paris.

Shingle and conker souvenirs

Shingle and conker souvenirs

Docks = the Port of Felixstowe

One of the short local walks we do in Felixstowe is around Landguard Point, starting on the Victorian-style beach side and ending at the state-of-the-art docks of Felixstowe port on the other. In between, there’s a nature reserve and sometimes a fierce wind; other times the sun shines and the water sparkles.

Nature reserve, Landguard Point

Nature reserve, Landguard Point

We’ve visited Landguard Fort before, site of the last opposed invasion of England in 1667, and still want to explore the Felixstowe Museum, housed in a submarine mining building at Landguard Point.

I always find it amazing, to round the point and come upon the old fort and the modern docks all within metres of each other.

Docks in view, Felixstowe

Docks in view, Felixstowe

That Funny Thing that Happens

Isn’t it a funny sometimes, when:
1. You’ve never heard of a person, place or thing;
2. Someone mentions it or your read about it;
3. Then it seems you see or hear of it all the time.

On our first date, Clive told me he grew up in Felixstowe, a place I’d never heard of. A couple days later, on a business trip to Singapore, I turned on CNN Asia in my hotel room to find a report about — you guessed it — Felixstowe, the busiest container port in England.

Two weeks ago, a good friend from Connecticut currently living in London took the train to Felixstowe (only 75 minutes from Liverpool Street Station) to spend the day with us. She’d never heard of Felixstowe before, either. A few days later, we received an e-mail saying she’d just been out with a group of professional people in London, one of whom owned a firm that develops software to manage international container shipping. One of his big clients was the Port of Felixstowe; they had a great chat about it.

AAFelix6

Peaceful evening - crane at dock viewing area

I can’t say it was love at first sight. On my first visit to Felixstowe, I thought the trucks rumbling in and out of town on the A14 were somewhat unfortunate, as was so much port activity encroaching on what was once a quiet seaside resort. Fagbury Fort, Clive’s childhood playground, is now buried under the port’s concrete.

But I was taken from the start by Felixstowe’s location, on the Suffolk coast and between two rivers, the Deben and the Orwell. I had to admit the A14 provides a fast, direct link to and from the town. On repeated visits, I found myself more and more entranced by the fascinating, unique blend of peaceful English resort on one side, buzzing global transport on the other.

AAFelix7

Felixstowe beach near Landguard Point

I love being by the sea; visiting quiet, rural areas; and experiencing the vibrant, cutting-edge lifestyle of Shanghai, the city that for me most represents the unstoppable force of globalisation.

But I can’t think of anywhere else in the world, other than Felixstowe, where you can experience a healthy dose of all three on the same day: spend the morning walking across a meadow and visit an 1100 year-old church; eat lunch sitting on a bench at the edge of the North Sea; and finish the afternoon with a coffee from the kiosk at the docks, watching a delivery of containers unloaded from China Shipping Lines.

AAFelix8

Sunset at dock viewing area, Felixstowe

There is much more to do in Felixstowe, let alone the rest of Suffolk. We made a few new discoveries this trip and I’ll try to post more about them soon.

  Wikipedia Felixstowe

13 Responses

  1. Bonjour Carolyn & Clive,

    I’m just so touched by your post. Ins’t that all about Love? We end up going to places,doing things & meeeting people that years back would have perplexed the imagination !

    i completely follow you my friends.
    This is so poetic…

    Take care and stay safe.
    XX

  2. Bonjour Carolyn..I have never read such a description about Felixstowe..in all my years of living in England…Very moving and would make anyone fall in love with the place, or at least make them want to visit.

    I remember the towel trick with shingle too!! What a pain though walking on them..sorry Carolyn..give me a lovely sandy beach….but then other people would moan that sand “gets” everywhere..you cannot win.

    i haven’t been over that side of the country for years and years, ..maybe one day. Take care xx Anne

    Bonjour to Clive too (sorry clive)…

  3. Barbara, thank you and yes, I guess it really is all about love. You are so poetic, too!

    Anne, funny you too remember about the towel on the shingles 🙂 One day you’ll have to come to Felixstowe again.

    Cheers and thanks, mates 🙂

  4. I too went to Felixstowe Grammar School (1960 – 67) and attended Bethesda Baptist Church 3 times on a Sunday. Does anyone remember me? Was Clive about at that time?

  5. Hi Martyn and thanks for your comment.

    Clive says yes he does remember you. He was in the same youth group as your sister Susan and they were both on the annual Bible quiz team in 1959!

    If you’d like to exchange e-mails with Clive, you can send him a note via the ‘Contact’ page at the top.

    Cheers and thanks for visiting 🙂

    • Hello,

      Well imagine my surprise to hear from my brother Martyn and see the wonderful article about Felixstowe. Yes I remember Clive very well from our days at Bethesda Baptist and still have the photo of the team receiving the cup for the Bible quiz.

      I live in the USA and have been here for over 30 years, I actually live in Connecticut.

      I love the article about Felixstowe and it brings back alot of wonderful memories. I also visit from time to time with friends who have been in my life since I was a teenager and still live there.

      Give my best to Clive and thanks again for the memories.

      Sue Cooper (formerly Sue Croft)

  6. Sue thanks for your comment and kind words..

    What a small world (and thanks to Martyn for connecting us!). I left Connecticut for Australia, where I met Clive from Felixstowe, which you left and ended up in Connecticut … it seems a lovely circle.

    I’ve seen the famous photograph too 🙂 We’ll have to get it out again when we’re back home in Sydney.

    Felixstowe is a special place and it’s great you also continue to visit your friends there.

    Maybe we’ll all meet for coffee on the Prom one day.

    Cheers and take care.

  7. Hello,
    I came across your article ‘Felixstowe Rocks and Docks’ whilst searching information on internet re: the ‘Felixstowe Amateur Dramatics and Operatic Society’! I thoroughly enjoyed the article which brought back fond memories of Felixstowe. As I read it, I could almost hear the sea crashing against the shingle (or ‘rocks’ as both you and my Canadian husband would say!) .
    My family moved to Felixstowe in the late-1950s and I attended Grammar School in the 60s. My father was a member of the above-mentioned FADOS and also Fisons Drama Group. Even though I didn’t find the information I was looking for, I so enjoyed connecting to your article.
    I am now planning a trip to visit Felixstowe again to wander down Memory Lane. Thank you for having posted such an inspiring article!
    Jan

  8. Jan, thanks for your lovely comment! Clive and I were both fascinated to read about the ‘FADOS’ and it seems you were just behind Clive and his classmates at the Grammar School. (Following this post, we met with Sue C. in the U.S. which I posted about here: https://mysydneyparislife.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/a-felixstowe-sydney-darien-circle/)

    How interesting your hubby is Canadian — and yes, that shingle is ‘rocks’ to some of us 🙂 I hope you do visit Felixstowe again. I’ve fallen in love with the place and can’t wait to get back there myself.

    Cheers and thanks again for your comment – happy travels!

  9. Lovely to read about Felixstowe on the web. My name is Carolyn too. I know a Clive who went to the Grammar school – Clive Wilson. Are we talking about the same person? I knew Martyn too.I live in Greece now but visit Felixstowe every year to see my mother.

    • Carolyn,
      I was in the same year as Clive Wilson (1960-67) – I think his dad owned an electrical shop (Wilson’s) on the Triangle in Felixstowe.
      Is Haward your married name?
      Martyn

      PS Would love to see any former contemporaries from FGS.

  10. Maybe we can all meet up in the summer

  11. Carolyn H, welcome and thanks so much for your comment. How interesting you now live in Greece!

    I wrote a post about ‘my’ Clive and me reconnecting with Martyn’s sister Sue in Connecticut – the post contains a 1959 Felixstowe photo which includes Clive Wilson – the post is here:
    https://mysydneyparislife.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/a-felixstowe-sydney-darien-circle/

    Martyn, hello again and thanks for your comment.

    It would be great to meet you both in person sometime when we’re all in Felixstowe!

    Cheers.

    Clive remembers a Carolyn with t\he surname Todd (she was but isn’

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