Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

A Walk by the Alde to Snape Maltings

Snape Maltings was one place we both wanted to see on this trip - but would it match up to the walk to it?

We went there on our first full day in the area. It was perfect walking weather, and the hedges were full of May blossom. We both had read about Snape Maltings, and its musical connection with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, so were keen to see it ourselves. I'd found details of the walk along the river on the internet, so armed with these and an Ordnance Survey map of the area, we headed out to find it.

The path

View of the Alde to Iken Church, tide outAfter taking the detour to visit Iken Church, we walked a short way along the road, found the footpath sign on our right, and were soon walking along the river bank. The tide waqs out anbd a variety of birds were wading in the shallows and on the mudflat at the waters' edge, and we had our usual conversation about the fact that yet again, the binoculars and bird book had been left in the 'van.  So we spent some time just standing, watching the birds as they busied themselves in their search for food before the tide turned. It was a relief to be out of range of the agricultural machinery that had disturbed the peace on the walk up to the church. We took some time to just stand and stare… (in the spirit of the poem, Leisure, by W. H. Davies), and listened to the silence.

The path goes along the edge of fields, the base of a car park and picnic area, a beach (very close to the water), across reed beds and then a couple of fields to Snape Maltings. You could see how man and nature can work together harmoniously for their greater good, if each respects the other, in these different areas. There were things to photograph  and look at every time you turned a corner, or could see out over the reed beds to the river. I found myself frequently looking back, to make sure that I wasn't missing something. It all felt very timeless and unhurried, and incredibly restful.  Most of the time we were on our own, only occasionally meeting other walkers coming the other way. As we neared our destination, which most of the time we could see in the distance, we quickened our pace, as we knew there were coffee shops there!

The Maltings

Shop from Cafe, Snape MaltingsHaving refreshed ourselves with some excellent coffee, we explored in a very random way. We had been warned that the shops were expensive, and that proved to be the case, but it was nice to look, and look at clothes and gifts that you wouldn't buy locally. The concert halls were closed, but there was plenty of information available about the history of the place and how it evolved - and is still evolving. I think going to one of the concerts - whatever the music - would be quite an experience. I would also have liked to take a trip on the river, (which is tidal up to the bridge at Snape)  but they only run at weekends in April, so that is something to bear in mind for a return trip. When we felt we had seen as much as we could take in at this time we headed to the car park, and picked up the path for the return walk.

The sculpturesPerceval sculpture, Snape Maltings

When approaching the Maltings, as you walk across the final grassy area to the car park, over to the right is a sculpture of a shire horse and dray: Perceval, by Sarah Lucas (2006). At first, from a distance, I had to watch it carefully to see if it moved!   On our way out we walked round it, and admired the skill of its creator.

There are three other sculptures within the complex: Ancestor I, Ancestor II, Parent I. The Family of Man from 9 Figures on a Hill (1970), by Barbara Hepworth. Large Interior Form (1981-82) by Henry Moore,  and Migrant, by Alison Wilding Their locations were clearly well considered and we enjoyed taking the time to study them.

Large Interior Form, Henry MooreLarge Interior Form, Henry MooreMigrant, Alison Wilding

Migrant, Alison WildingThe return walk

On the way back we took the first sections at a quicker pace than on our way there, as we could see that the tide  was coming or had come in, and we were concerned that the stretch across the sandy beach would be inundated and possibly impassable. Unusually there were no warning signs, but it was not a problem. My local footpath map notes that this section can flood at high tide, and also that this path is known as a Sailor's Path. (There is another better known Sailor's Path on the other side of the Alde that starts just outside Snape village, and goes the four miles to Aldeburgh).

The tower of Iken church acted as a very helpful landmark. The last section back to our motorhome seemed to take a very long time, and we were both sure the walk was further than the two and half miles (each way) we had been told it was. It was still worth every step.

So, did Snape Maltings match up to the walk to it?

One obvious response to this would be to point out that I'm not comparing like with like: a cultural and commercial centre with a riverside walk. Setting that aside, there's no doubt that the walk, coming as it did on the first full day of the trip, in beautiful weather, was one of the highlights of our visit to Suffolk for me.

The Maltings were fascinating, and I enjoyed exploring them. Given a freer budget(!) I could have enjoyed the shops more, but I think now a return visit should include either a concert or a river trip. As a venue for rest and recuperation, visiting the refreshment facilities will be compulsorary on any future walks along the Alde.

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