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Sunday, 9 June 2013

Southwold and the Battle of Sole Bay

Last weekends Bank Holiday saw us escape to the Suffolk coast. We overnighted at Woodbridge after a visit to Sutton Hoo home for a thousand unknown years of an Anglo-Saxon king buried overlooking the Deben in his boat that have been hauled up. In was (re) discovered in 1939 and is now home to a visitors centre although not surprisingly the hoard of exquisitely worked gold is not kept in rural Suffolk but the British Museum. A shame as the ethereal, otherworldly mounds were of course intended to hold these grave goods. We also visited Wickham Market, my childhood home. As we were so early the village was still asleep although I doubt there would be much of a difference if we visited in the middle of the workday week. It had shrunk in the meantime but is still essentially the same sleepy little place. I suspect that a fair few of the kids who I went to primary school with are still in the area. We then went up the coast to Southwold, a candidate for M's favourite place on the planet. Being out of the way its not a thronged as Great Yarmouth just up the coast. And just the way we like it. The pier is a winner and we had a go at Wack a Banker one of Tim Hunkin's odd creations subverting the end of the pier show. The Adnams brewery is another big draw for the town, and I returned home with a half dozen bottles of Harry Sparrow, sold told me rather grudgingly by a lady who described it as "A bit West Country" - because obviously those West country folk don't know their cider! There is also a small terracotta plaque in town marking the house where James II stayed during the battle of Sole Bay in 1672 - the first naval battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The English and French fleets were caught at anchor by our good freinds the Dutch intend of establishing their nationhood. Funny that we as Brits memorialise our animosity with our gallic cousins forgetting that we are but their basatard offspring (just a lot more interesting with our more varied scani-german-roman-celntic stock). Equally we seem pretty cool with our cheese eating dutch buddies across the water whereas that has not always been the case. Prehaps its a sectarian thing - being drawn together through Protestantism or rather against the Great catholic powers of Europe and lets not forget this is just after the English Civil War and the restoration of the monarchy. In this little remembered fracas its unknown just how many men perished - around 35,000 men were involved in the battle. Bodies were washed up for quite a while - and lets not forget that it wasnt unusual that sailors at this time could not swim. The battle was (as most I guess are) inconclusive - there was (as there usually are) no winners. The Anglo-French fleet was supposed to pen the Dutch navy in its home ports which it failed to do. Holland became established as a world power and like all the powers of that time has faded. Laters.

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