Southwold, for those of you who don’t know, is a small town on the East Coast of England in Suffolk. If Crickhowell near Wales is a lost lover. Southwold is a best friend you have known from childhood.
I first went to Southwold as a very small child nearly fifty years ago. I have vivid memories of making sand castles, swimming in the sea, collecting stones with holes in them and eating ice cream. Riding paddle boats in the boating lake, taking the row boat ferry over to Warbleswick, eating Fish and Chips at the Harbour Inn, hiding from the rain in the Sailors Reading room, watching my parents drink Adnams beer
Southwold was where I got my idea of the sea and beaches. The north sea grey, opaque and mostly cold. The beach stoney and windy. A wind break and a thermos of tea were as much an essential part of our beach kit as swimming towels and bucket and spade.
We continued to come every year and stay in my parents friends house. When I was 12 my parents bought a second home just outside Southwold (in Reydon) and the town became an even closer part of my life. Then in 2009 we moved there. My children swam in the sea, built sandcastles and ate ice creams just as I had done. Beach walks were no longer a longed for blast of sea air and wide expanse of water but something you could do everyday. Ice creams became weekly and the holey stones from the beach piled up in our garden.
But whether we holidayed there, had a second home there or lived there, there were always two very strange things about Southwold. Two things that have always made it for me a “TARDIS”.
Tardis (which stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space) is the Vehicle used by ‘ Dr Who’ in the British Science Fiction television show to travel about. It is famous for two things.
- One: it not only travels through space it travels through time.
- Two: it is much bigger on the inside than the outside.
At first glance Southwold might not seem that unique. There are many old fashioned British holiday seaside towns. Many towns across the UK show clear signs of their historical past: the Vistorians who built them or the 50’s when people would take the car and drive out to the coast.
But there are parts of Southwold that literally have not changed in 50 years. Places where I am transported back 5 decades to the world of my childhood.
But perhaps even more spooky than that is that Southwold a tiny place cut off from the mainland by the river Blyth and Buss Creak with only 1134 dwellings and a recorded population of just over a thousand has been visited by so many people. How have they all fitted in?
Many writers including Shakespeare and painters including Turner have visited Southworld. Crime writer PD James lived for many years in Southwold and set some of her detective stories in Suffolk. Eric Arthur Blair (aka George Orwell), best known for his works Nineteen Eighty Four (published in 1949) and Animal Farm (1945), went to school near Southwold and later returned to live in the town in his family home. He adopted the nom de plume George Orwell, inspired by the River Orwell, which flows through the county, because he thought “it is a good round English name.”
Personally I have met so many people from all over the country and world who tell me oh I stayed in Southwold.The first house we stayed in in Llangatock was full of pictures and mementoes from Southwold. So where are all the people hidden?
If you look on the British Film Institute Website you can see many films made in Southwold.
And yet as I wander around today there are few people in site even the photo crew for Cath Kidson (currently in town) are not visible. There is only one answer for it. Southwold really must be bigger on the inside than the outside!