Aldeburgh’s Martello tower and Anthony Gormley have been much in my mind of late as recent posts show: below, therefore, is a photograph of the former with a larger-than-life, armless ‘body’ by the latter. The figure is poised as if ready to fall into the erosive sea to the left and was placed in position in 2015 to mark 50 years of The Landmark Trust which owns the tower. It can be hired for holidays; it recently featured on TV because of its leaky roof.
This Aldeburgh landmark is the northernmost of the line of Martello towers along England’s south east coast built some two hundred years ago as defence against France – clearly successfully in view of the language I am writing in. It is the only Martello tower with a clover-leaf plan; all the others are circular. The wall in the foreground originally went all round the tower on the outer lip of a deep surrounding ditch, but both wall and ditch have been removed by the sea on the east. The eastern tower wall, on the left, would also have been under-cut by now were it not for a modern revetment against which the sea daily throws itself. The top of that defence is now only two paces from the base of the tower wall (see next blog).
The tower’s occupies an absolutely key position on the narrow shingle spit which at the moment separates the sea from the Alde estuary. Were the sea to breach this shingle, here or to either side of the tower, the consequences for that estuary, its people and its high natural history interest would be severe; a foretaste was provided in early December, 2013, when a combination of high tide, storm and rain caused extensive but non-fatal local flooding and pinpointed breach points in several defences. Postponing worse consequences of a more serious event is the subject of much activity around the tower and elsewhere at the moment, while deep consultation considers how best to manage the sea/estuary relationship over the next 20-30 years within a framework of public consensus to keep the estuary as it is for as long as possible. The photograph below suggests why.
The Alde estuary at half-tide looking east from below Snape Maltings down river towards Aldeburgh.