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Seaside Special - Rhythm 'n' Blues: South Essex

In comparison to our last stops on the  Stour and the Naze , this post is gonna be a bit of a ramble. And maybe a bit niche, too. I’m paying tribute to a personal hero, an Essex legend and maestro guitarist, Wilko Johnson. There’s a bit to say about a trip I took out to Canvey Island in 2016 to soak up the estuarian atmosphere that shaped his band, Dr Feelgood and the high water mark of British R’n’B in the mid 70’s. And there’s a bit to say about his back story to ensure we get the right flavour for the visit. Hope you will bear with me.  Canvey from Benfleet I’ve been a fan of the spiky, high velocity rock n’ roll n’ blues of Dr Feelgood since a mate introduced me to the band when I was revising for ‘O’ levels. Wilko had already left the band by the time I found them. Nevertheless, I’ve seen his raw, spare solo shows as often as possible over the last near-
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Seaside Special - The sublime and the ridiculous: North Eastern Essex

The previous chapter wound its leisurely way to a comfortable halt in Felixstowe . Now, viewed from across the confluence of the rivers Orwell and Stour, that town’s container port dominated my vista. Gantry cranes, dock terminals, warehousing and impossibly loaded deep-draught container ships stretched out on a 1 ½ mile quay curling into the N orth Sea. The port is currently the largest of its type in the UK, handling 48% of the country’s container traffic.   Felixstowe from Harwich I was in Harwich on the north Essex shore, taking in the expansive, mechanised scene across the estuaries. Harwich is a port too, of course. One with a rich history heavily focused on military service and passenger travel. For a start, it is celebrated as the launch point of the ship Mayflower which went on to carry the Pilgrim Fathers to North America in the seventeeth century.   However time has treated these adjacent ports very differently. I f Felixstowe was booming, Harwich town wore the air of an

Seaside Special - Sniffy, spooky, handsome and grounded: Suffolk

Sheringham sets a solid standard when it comes to attractive seaside towns seeking to push back at the 21 st century. Norfolk as a whole does a fine job of preserving its heritage. But Suffolk may put its northern neighbour in the shade The most impassioned and entrenched zeal for preservation is surely in Southwold. A couple of years ago, East Suffolk Council published a Conservation Area Character Appraisal for Southwold which described ‘one of the most picturesque seaside towns in England’ in 67 glossy, detailed pages, rich in photos of architectural merit; and at pains to re-affirm the Council’s commitment to ‘pay special attention to the preservation and enhancement of the conservation area’. The Southwold and Reydon Society, dedicated to protecting the character and amenities of the community, has 400 fully paid up members. Particularly healthy when you consider that the town’s population at the 2011 Census was only 1,098. Top recruiting. Reports on its work are published ea

Seaside Special - That California feeling: South Norfolk

If I’m not careful, the theme of caravan parks and holiday villages will end up dominating these posts. Because here I go again. Only this time, I stayed on one. How’s that for irony? As England staggered along a chilly lockdown road map in April and May 2021, I realised that there was a sizeable space in the material I’ve begun to publish. The shape of the interval aproximated to that of the south Norfolk coastline. Norfolk as a whole has one of the longer arcing coastlines of all English counties. Stopping the narrative at Cromer in the previous post seemed a bit half-hearted. I engineered a small gap of my own in the working week to steal a visit eastwards. Though having left the planning of the jaunt late, and needing an overnight stop, I found myself accommodationally challenged. Not much was available, and I guessed that easing hospitality restrictions had prompted a rash of bookings as Britons quite rightly sought freedom and sea air. Or that the hospitality sector was not y