We didn’t have a car when our oldest two children were small. My beloved had a motorbike and I had a bike with a little seat on the back. We got by.
Our lives changed with the arrival of the car. We used to pile in the kids and often Nanna too and occasionally our dog Sweep and just go. No sat nav, no maps, just a sense of adventure and a picnic.
Often we didn’t know where we were going, just where the fancy took us.
In an attempt to recapture some of this spirit of adventure, we took off with only a vague idea of our destination. Just the two of us.
We’d given our road atlas away a couple of weeks before to a lost driver and I said “Let’s wing it. No sat nav.”
When I got out to the car, there it was on the windscreen. What happened to winging it?
We set Brian Blessed to take us to Woodbridge, land of my fathers – well some of my several times great grandfathers anyway – and off we went on our merry way.
I told Beloved to ignore Brian and follow my directions instead. He did and my directions (not Brian’s) took us to a car park.
Okay, I admit I cheated and looked it up on Google the day before. Maybe I wasn’t as committed to this winging it business as I thought.
There are a lot of book shops in Woodbridge. And coffee shops. And charity shops. It’s very nice. The pace there is slow – slower than here anyway. I liked it very much and felt a sense of belonging.
We walked along the riverside and pondered selling up and living on a boat.
We watched old men sailing their model boats round and round a small boating lake. It was oddly relaxing.
I also wanted to visit Bawdsey – also land of my fathers – well one of my several times grandfathers anyway and he didn’t live there very long.
The sat nav threw a wobbly (or perhaps it knew something we didn’t) and kept telling us to go back to Woodbridge. We passed Sutton Hoo, Rendlesham Forest and saw the turning for Hollesley Bay where former guests at the prison include ex cabinet ministers.
Next time, oh yes there will be a next time, I want to visit the Suffolk Punch Trust which I have only just found out is there.
On we went. We should turn back said Beloved, except there was nowhere to turn. Then there it was, a sign for a car park and picnic area. We drove in. It was empty. We parked, walked through a cloud of dragonflies and found ourselves on Bawdsey Quay where it seemed all the other visitors had chosen to park on the verge along the front.
I waited for the feeling of belonging that you sometimes get when you visit a place once inhabited by forebears. It didn’t come. We walked past families on the little beach and children crabbing.
Nothing. Not a dicky bird. Well the ancestor hadn’t lived here long – perhaps he didn’t feel at home here either. It's a pleasant enough place.
There is a lot of shingle at Bawdsey.
Not far up the coast is Shingle Street which is another place on my want-to-visit list.
As the crow flies we were about 6 or 7 miles from home, but by road, home was over 50 miles away.
We looked across the river Deben to the hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry. I have been there before, but only in a dream. It looks very familiar to me.
“I wish we’d driven there instead,” I said. Beloved said nothing.