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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Aldeburghs Martello Tower Now Boasts an Anthony Gormley Sculpture

Martello Tower

A 7 mile walk from Thorpeness to Aldeburghs Martello Tower

For a period of 12 months starting in May 2015, a life size sculpture of a human figure will look out across the sea atop Aldeburghs Martello Tower. This is the work of Anthony Gormley, the artist who is renowned for creating the iconic Angel of the North sculpture, and is part of the celebrations to mark 50 years of the Landmark Trust.

Thorpeness to Aldeburgh Martello Tower Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
ThorpenessView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Aldeburgh Martello TowerView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
7 miles
Walk difficulty
Footpaths, coast paths and permissive paths
The return route is along the old trackbed to the Aldeburgh railway and is a permissive path. Dogs should be kept on a lead throughout this section and walkers use this at their own risk. Having said this, the route is well used and presents no real hazards to responsible walkers.

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
10:30 to 15:30
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Sunshine and warm with a brisk southerly wind

Walk Notes

Firstly it should be noted that this walk starts and ends by North Warren Nature Reserve. One may think this is an odd place to start such a walk as there is no public transport to this location and there is neither any parking spaces. The start is purely for convenience, as us Leiston residents walk across the common and it is here that we meet this circular walk. And that is the point. It is circular. One can join at any point along the route. Thorpeness Mere. The car park at The Haven. Aldeburgh town centre. It doesn't matter. You can walk in the direction specified. You can walk in the opposite direction. Just make it up as you go along by joining at the most appropriate point and then following the route from there. You cant get lost. Really.

Aldeburgh is a fashionable seaside town for the opulent classes which is matched by the prices one is charged for a pint of beer in the towns hostelries. It is always busy during sunny weekends and in particular on bank holidays. The two chip shops have queues that any other town would have potential customers walking away in disgust. In Aldeburgh it is different, it is almost compulsory for the casual visitor to line up for an hour, lured by the infamous Suffolk coastal chip lunch. The towns main street is always chocker with folk who wander along the High Street and then back down Crag Path, alongside the shingle beach. An endless stream of traffic heads down to Slaughden Quay. Then back again. A parade interspersed with the inevitable Porsches, Range Rovers, Bentleys and Astons and other marques of limitless money. The shops are full of inquisitive folk, and despite the affluence they are all looking for a bargain. Believe me these folk bargain hard, and that is the word from the shopkeepers.

That is Aldeburgh. There is no escaping this fact. This is not a tirade against this Suffolk hideaway, but an inescapable truth. That doesn't mean that those who live in the locality do not appreciate it. For we know that out of season, on windswept winters or wet autumn weekends when the crowds stay at home we can see the town as it really is, when it is left to the few who inhabit the place or those who just like to stroll over from nearby towns. The town is not even on the official route for the Suffolk Coast Path, which bypasses the town, preferring to navigate around the north and west edges. Therefore even walkers are routed away from the place unless one knows different and it is worth the additional effort to wander into town, down to the Quay and then take the path back up to Kings Meadow and follow the Sailors Path route back onto the Coast Path.

The day of this walk was May Day. Bank Holiday. Not the usual day for the likes of us locals to visit the town. But this occasion was different. This was the first weekend after a new Anthony Gormley statue had been set in place on the towns distinctive cloverleaf Martello Tower. That was worth pushing through the crowds to see.

The Martello Tower stands on the southern side of Slaughden Quay and is some way out of town. The quay is the un-designated car park for visitors who park up alongside the seaward walls in order to escape the parking fees that apply to all the other car parking spaces in town. It is amusing to witness these visitors bounce their cars down the rutted track and frustratingly attempt to find a spare space as close to town as possible. This results in some crazy parking techniques in order to save a few yards of walking. Maybe all new models of the human species ought to come with a manual to explain the use and functionality of legs. Once one knows how these contraptions work one can park anywhere and these new-fangled things allow the user to walk distances that would be otherwise unimaginable.

The final few hundred yards of the quay is gated off so only those privileged enough who have the key can drive to the tower, this is usually the fishermen who then trek southwards along the spit of shingle that makes up Orfordness. At this point the distance between the sea on one side and the River Alde on the other is just the width of the shingle bank and one cannot help but think that one day a storm may wreak havoc and split this shingle apart to allow the river access directly into the open waters. Tides and storms have already taken the shingle from the seaward side of the tower leaving the moat around it broken. These days great boulders of granite have been placed in front of the tower to try to defend the building from its inevitable demise. It is at this point the statue can clearly be seen. Standing defiantly on the edge of the flat roof, gazing towards Aldeburgh and the coast. Keeping watch.

During the week prior to this walk, the placement of the statue had been publicised in the press and across numerous websites and social media and as such one would have expected a crowd of sightseers wandering down to take in this new view. No. It appeared all the visitors were interested in on this bank was parading up and down the high street and queuing for chips. Faced with a mammoth few hundred yards walking from the car park was deemed much too far for these folk, especially when legs do not come with an operating manual, and even if they did, would they really read it. But this lack of throngs of people was good for folk like us. That left the solace of wandering around the tower without hindrance or annoyance. Just the two of us. The brisk southerly wind. The tide crashing against the granite boulders. And the statue, sturdy and resolute.

An elderly couple passed in the opposite direction. A couple strolled on along the shingle heading in the direction of the distant Orfordness lighthouse. The statue stood above it all. The passers appeared somewhat oblivious to this new artefact.

It was worth the effort of the walk.

Slaughden beach
Slaughden beach


A simple walk using existing footpaths, coast paths and permissive paths

At North Warren, where the old railway buildings stand and there is a seat overlooking the 'fens', there is a footpath that follows the side of Thorpeness Mere. The mere is not obvious as it is shrouded in trees, but wandering in front of the house and continuing onwards will lead onto this footpath. Keep to the path with the golf course on the left and the Mere on the right. This leads up to the clubhouse with the Windmill and The House in the Clouds appearing straight ahead. Continue on the track that leads between these two constructions and follow this down onto the road. Turn right and follow the road around the Mere, keeping to the right hand side to skirt around the pond. As the road leaves the vilage, there is a car park on the seaward side, walk through this to the far end where there is a walkway to the beach with markers for the Suffolk Coast Path. Contiue along the beach on the in front of the houses. At the end of the village, continue onwards across the Haven and onto the paved path that leads into Aldeburgh

Keep to the seafront path through Aldeburgh to the Southern side where the old windmill stands. This domed roof building no longer has sails but is obviously an old mill, walk around this through the car park and back onto the sea wall from where the Martello Tower comes into view. Continue onwards until one meets the Tower.

Return along the same route to the old windmill, where, passing through the car park, keep to the main road through town. The White Hart pub is on the right just past the chip shop. There are other hostelries but this is the only one that offers guest ales. Keep to the road through the town. Do not go down Crabbe Street at the far end, which branches off but keep to the main road. Just beyond this junction, on the right there is the town steps. Proceed up these where some fantastic views can be had over the town. At the top, turn right and proceed down the private road. At the far end, cross the main road and enter the church yard. Continue in a straight line through the church yard and follow the footpath onwards. This emerges onto a road with a caravan park opposite. Cross the road and enter the Caravan park through the metal gate. A footpath sign marks the route which crosses diagonally to the left and onto the main track through the park. Keep to the track to the very end of the park where a path passes up onto the old Aldeburgh railway trackbed. Turn right and follow the trackbed. This is no more than a footpth thesee days and it is difficult to make out any old railway features. This is a permissive path, but is well used by both locals and visitors alike and continues all the way through to North Warren. Throughout the distance there are some good views across the marshes towards the coast, with newly installed hides at a couple of locations for visitors to view the wildlife.

The Anthony Gormley statueMartello Tower statue
On the left The Anthony Gormley statue; On the right Martello Tower statue


White Hart, Aldeburgh View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
High Street, Aldeburgh

This Grade II listed building dating from the 18th century, is a single roomed bar with wood panelling and decorated with nautical memorabilia. Originally a reading room, it became an alehouse during the early 1800s. The pub offers Adnams ales plus guests and has occasional music and basic pub food. At the rear of the building is a wood fired pizza oven and seating.


The Fullers ESB was tempting. There are lots of memories of drinking this in times gone by but it can make one fall over, and that is the word of experience speaking. Maybe if there was not a walk home then its temptation would have got the better of me but Adnams Fat Spratt was the sense of reason when one is walking. A refreshing amber ale at only 3.8%. That did the job on this occasion.

Aldeburgh crowds
Aldeburgh crowds


Anthony Gormley LAND SculpturesView in OS Map | View in Google Map

For a period of 12 months starting in May 2015, a life size sculpture of a human figure will look out across the sea atop Aldeburghs Martello tower. This is the work of Anthony Gormley, the artist who is renowned for creating The Angel of the North, the iconic sculpture that towers over the A1 at Gateshead. This current project is part of a venture named LAND which is a celebration of 50 years of the Landmark Trust, a registered charity that is dedicated to rescuing and restoring historic British buildings.

LAND comprises of five life-size standing sculptures, cast in iron and installed at five Landmark Trust sites across the UK for 12 months with the official start date being the 16 May 2015. The chosen sites are Saddell Bay in the Mull of Kintyre, South West Point at Lundy in the Bristol Channel, the Clavell Tower at Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset, Lengthsman’s Cottage at Lowsonford in Warwickshire and this particular site, the Martello Tower at Aldeburgh in Suffolk.

Technically the Martello Tower is not in Aldeburgh, but Slaughden. However, since this hamlet has long since vanished into the sea with only the boatyard and the quay to remind us of its existence, then Aldeburgh takes the glory for the tower.

Aldeburgh mill
Aldeburgh mill


Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery


Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2016-01-16


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