As Covid 19 restriction are, unwisely in my view, lifted, it is nevertheless good to be able to get around in the car again. Actually, that is not true in the sense that throughout the 16 months of the lockdown, I have felt no inhibitions at all about poddling around locally in my decrepid Golf and have not once been stopped by officialdom. Failing its MOT was much more of an arrest. Now that traffic is back to pre-covid levels, already the middle months of 2020 take on a nostalgic air of the time when the roads were empty and the driving was good.
Anyway, we drove down the coast to Shingle Street, a huge expanse of shingle with an interesting history in fact and some tall stories from a legendary past. It used to be virtually deserted and a pleasure to be there; it’s still the latter but in summer the place has to be shared with hundreds of day-trippers who have parked their cars higgledy-piggledy along the Street. We stayed in one of the coastguard houses in winter a few years ago: magical. One particular stretch of the shingle used to be a fruitful place to search for material with an artistic potential, particularly pieces of wave-worn wood from boats, jetties and the like; now there is nothing.
Some of my mini-sculptures made five and more years ago entirely from bits and pieces as found along the Suffolk coast in the good old days of beach-collecting, not beach-cleaning
It is clear from the miserable collection I made on my recent visit to Shingle street that other artists have been there too, taking the best bits of wood, brick, concrete and wood. But far more damaging from the artistic point of view are the activities of the well-meaning beach-cleaning gangs, volunteers sent out by local goody-goody organisations to clear our beaches of all the rubbish on them. But one man’s rubbish is an artist’s inspiration. It is quite clear where these gangs have been hoovering up the artistic potential, for there is no plastic; conversely, when you find plastic objects, you know the area is worth searching.
A beautifully clean stretch of shingle, a credit to the beach-cleaners but a desert to artists.
Three Martello towers dot the sea-wall.
I wonder whether it might be possible to persuade the authorities that, just as stretches of the beach are reserved for ground-nesting birds or nudist bathing, there should be a new designation of uncleared beaches for deserving artists.