Walking the River


I have spent the week walking with my dog up and down the River Ore thinking about writing.

Walking helps the ideas fall into place, it provides structure. I particularly like walking along the stretch of coast in Suffolk where I live – it is flat and the sky, water and land all blur together.


Many centuries ago Orford used to be a port on the sea, but then shingle was washed down from further up the coast and the long peninsula – the Ness – extended, stretching down from Aldeburgh to Shingle Street cutting off Orford from the sea. So now Orford sits on the river with the shingle Ness between it and far away. Even the river isn’t sure what to be – it starts off as the River Alde but somewhere near Orford it becomes the River Ore.


Orford Ness is now run by the National Trust and is a nature reserve. We don’t visit it as you can’t take your dog there. The only dog allowed is our friend Andrew’s dog Kite, because he is the sheepdog who looks after the sheep there. Kainaat wants that job!

As well as sheep the Ness bears witness to the militarisation of the twentieth century – it was a secret test centre during both World Wars and the Cold War. Before WW1 it was to test long-range radio; between the wars experiments on what would become known as radar happened here; and after WW2 the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment used it for environmental testing. The buildings (pagodas) you see below were designed to collapse in case of an accident and thus contain any accidental explosions, with debris safely buried in concrete and shingle.

test bunkers on the Ness.jpg

In the middle of the Cold War in the 1960s millions and millions of pounds were spent developing an experimental radar centre which closed pretty much as soon as it opened although it was used by the World Service for transmitting radio programmes for a while.

Radar Station.jpg

Radar centre2

So sometimes we walked along the embankment north up the river towards Aldeburgh.

towards Aldburgh

And sometimes we walked south along the marshes to where the river meets Butley creek and we looked across to Shingle Street in the distance and our home.

river bank and marshes towards Butley

Butley Creek.jpg

But sometimes we just lay down and made a nest in the lush grass and watched the big sky.

Making a nest.jpg

me and the dog

looking towards Orford

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