Fish and chips, gulls and culture at Aldeburgh
PUBLISHED: 11:16 20 July 2010 | UPDATED: 11:51 28 February 2013
Reader Arthur Loosley explains why Aldeburgh is one of his favourite towns
A born and bred Londoner, reader Arthur Loosley has lived in nine English counties. "On retiring from a busy life I was looking for somewhereaway from the madding crowd and discovered Suffolk six years ago," he says."I wassmitten, andfound a little nest for myself in Woodbridge!" Here Arthur explains just what it is that makes Aldeburgh one of his favourite Suffolk towns.
The quiet little coastal town of Aldeburgh defies description, but as one who enjoys a challenge, that is what I shall attempt here.
TheHigh Street, running parallel to the beach,with a rich selection of small privately owned shops, boutiques, art galleries and restaurants, is famous for its fish and chips for eating-in or takeaway - but be warned that the seagulls have become such a nuisance and health hazard in recent years that the public are now banned from sitting on the beach with their lunch and throwing chips to watch the antics of the greedy little beggars fighting over them.
I usually head for the tiny Upper Deck over a fish and chip shop in the High Street, where freshly cooked locally caught fish, with salad if required, provides a tasty and satisfying meal at a modest price - if I am lucky enough to find a table, because such is its popularity that at peak periods the queue starts to form well before lunch-time opening.
For those who prefer to eat gourmet style the Regatta restaurant, also in the High Street, is another with fish on the menu, while just across the road the unlikely sounding Aldeburgh Market - a greengrocery shop specialising in local produce - has an excellent coffee shop, which also serves excellent food, including fish which can be selected from the slab and cooked to order in a style of ones choice.Or, if you prefer, you can buy fish to take home from one of the sheds on the beach.
Shellfish are also popular in Aldeburgh, and there is a reminder of them in local artist Maggi Hamblings 12-ft high stainless steel Scallop Shell in memory of Benjamin Brittten, with the inscription I hear those voices which will not be drowned from his opera Peter Grimes, based on the life of a local fisherman. The sculpture, which remnds meof Sandro Botticellis Birth of Venus, was erected in 2003 on an isolated part of the beach a little way out of town, because some residents felt that it would be inappropriate in a more central location, and from there can also be seen the twin nuclear power stations at Sizewell, and the House in the Clouds, formerly a water tower and now a holiday home.
Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears, inseparable in life, now lie side by side in the cemetery behind the parish church, marked by modestheadstones inscribed only with their names, close totheir long-time colleague in the world of music, Imogen Holst.
Still on the culture trail, a short distance from the church, the Aldeburgh cinema is much more than its name implies. Films have been shown there since 1919, but under new management and patronage which also included Britten and Pears, it now presents afull programme of live and recorded opera and ballet, and many films not usually seen on the big cinema circuits. It also has a gallery displaying the works of local artists.
So, if fish and chips or music be the food to inspire your gastronomic or cultural taste, Aldeburgh is the place to be and while you are there, why not visit the 19th century Maltings at nearby Snape which, inspired by the famous musical partnership and now extensively redeveloped, has earned world-wide recognition as a centre of musical excellence.