Orford Landscapes

The sou’westerly whips the water and ruffles the couch grass sward along the sea wall.  The halyards hammer the masts of the anchored dinghies and yachts in a tinny percussion. The early morning sun breaks the cloud and briefly transforms the grey coast into molten light and stark silhouettes.  The flat grazing marshes are a rich brown and distant white gulls float behind the plough at the back of a huge tractor; herons stalk the reed-filled dykes and drains; and Canada geese run down the coast in small, skeins honking above the wind.

The old town of Orford look outs over the river Alde and its collection of bright boats across to the ness, which is a littered landscape of concrete buildings, sheds, warehouses and a solitary lighthouse. Here bombs, radio and radar were tested in top secret in the splendid isolation offered by the barren shingle that runs like a raindrop on glass from its narrow neck at Aldeburgh miles up the coast. Orford was an important medieval port but the shifting shingle created the quiet backwater. The weathered sandstone church and castle stand aloof the motley coast and speak of this different age.  The landscapes are an essay on human ingenuity, the juxtaposition of genius and madness and the rapid redundancy of every new technology.

The sea is washing away the lighthouse and the other brick and concrete artefacts will go the same way in the next few hundred years as the coastline shifts, the sea level rises and the shingle is swept into another configuration. A handful of redshanks and avocets feed on the shining mud exposed by the falling tide; they fly on approach to leave an empty shore.

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