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Getting to the point at Landguard

PUBLISHED: 16:52 19 September 2012 | UPDATED: 22:10 20 February 2013

Inside part of the museum

Inside part of the museum

When it comes to fathoming out Felixstowe, a set of submarine mining buildings packed tight with little treasures goes to hidden depths to help. Lindsay Want ventures out to Landguard Point to explore

When it comes to fathoming out Felixstowe, a set of submarine mining buildings packed tight with little treasures goes to hidden depths to help. Lindsay Want ventures out to Landguard Point to explore




Felixstowe is one of those places which you seem to grow up with even if youve never been.


With its name boldly emblazoned across the road signs of Great Britain, its neither here nor there that Butlins and beach huts, ferries and freight, the RAF, railways, even suffragettes and royal scandal have all played their part in its fortunes over the years. It wins its recognition and a spot in our modern psyche as an end point the place where the great A14 meets the sea.


But nothing could be further from the truth. Covering a five-and-a-half-mile stretch of shingle coastline between the estuaries of the Deben and the Orwell, the thought of this time-honoured town, port, resort and 58-acre nature reserve as a single, definable spot is just out of the question. From Felixstowe Ferrys Martello towers in the north, via decadent Edwardian mansions and exotic terraced gardens, caf-bars and the brightest beach huts, all the way to Landguards Site of Special Scientific Interest, its Napoleonic fort and adjacent world-class container port, the place might be living on the edge, but makes for one rather complex conundrum.


Time to consult a mine of information then. Stephen Rampley aka Mr Felixstowe, Facebook riend of many and the Whats on? voice of Town 102, suggests meeting up at Felixstowe Museum. Makes sense methinks, and4
4with sat-nav set, I expect to weave past shops and houses to some redbrick Edwardian edifice with sea views and a sniff of the Edward and Mrs Simpson saga. In reality, I find myself heading down a seemingly never-ending route which points at Harwich, wondering somewhat ironically and like an early explorer, whether I might just fall off the end of the earth after all!


Viewpoint Road. Though the name sounds promising enough, its not immediately obvious where to look. There are port buildings on the starboard side thats logically unsettling for a start then, an amorphous stack of massive containers. On the port side, the world couldnt be more cargo-free, wild and fickle, now boisterously green, now rebelliously stony. Its all still Felixstowe, but not quite as we know it. Encountering the first of many speed bumps, the journey into the unknown feels more like a ride on the scenic railway, but then admittedly Stephen does have a soft spot for the occasional rollercoaster.




Every piece is loved and looked after, static somehow, but brought alive by the stories behind them





Looking out for the view, not to mention the museum, angular shapes ahead at last firm up to some solidity. Landguard Fort has a reliably dour look about it, unlike Stephen who stands there sporting a cheeky grin, now confirmed by the logo on his shirt as a member of the Landguard Partnership team. Just around the corner, its eyes right for the much promised view of cranes and cargo ships and Essex across the Orwell, but if you look left . . .



A muse of a museum


Its only a tiny door. My eyes adjust to the light as a cool tunnel of a room stretches out before me. Where do we start? Stephen grins again. Well ask the experts, shall we? Without further ado, a friendly, muffled voice of a volunteer boxed-in in the historic little ticket kiosk to collect the princely sum of just a pound from every adult, suggests that boys tend to head left, girls tend to head right. Were not sure why yet and the coolness of the corridor together with the glimpse of covered corpse on an antique hospital trolley in a corner makes us decide to stick together and the artefact-laden adventure begins.



From grocers to gas masks


So Felixstowes history unfurls through every item imaginable. A posh porcelain loo; postcards of the seaside scenes which charmed the Empress of Germany back in 1891 and launched the resort into the height of fashion; mines and medicine bottles; medals and militaria; models of steamers and ships; the most lovingly made replica of a right royal carriage and a gigantic gift of a clock; a grocers counter, complete with order books to flick through; wartime tales to ponder over; Olympic memories and amazing archaeological finds discovered stashed in a shed.


Every piece is loved and looked after, static somehow, but brought alive by the stories behind them and the wise words of the volunteers who come together as a community of safekeepers . . . a real mine of information, where the submarine mines used to be.


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