After our day in Lowestoft, we stopped off for an evening stroll around the village of Blythburgh. Much like Lowestoft, Sebald didn’t seem to like the river Blyth so much:
At best one might see a sailing boat or two moored in the lower reaches, admist an assortment of rotting barges. To landward, there is nothing but grey water, mudflats and emptiness.
Finding ourselves driving landward nonetheless, we encountered a lot more than that.
Pulling up alongside a row of very posh houses — one with the most garish 10-foot dolphin fountain I’ve ever seen — why do the rich always have such poor taste? — we wandered along a path through the nature reserve and through various hedgerow portals into another world.
On entering the reserve, I was amused by a warning from the council, informing visitors that this area used to be a military training ground and so if any strange objects were found in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Scientific Interest, best just inform the authorities ASAP please and thank you.
It felt like some dystopian twist on an M.R. James story — that’s no cursed emblem from Saxon antiquity: that’s a land mine!
Along the way we came to a bird-watching shed, nestled down a rickety planked path deep in the marshes, offering uninterrupted views of the river and its population of avocets.
Inside, we found a strange chalkboard that was given over to recent bird sightings and teenage graffiti. Both were allowed to exist alongside each other without much tension, it seemed.
This was a communal shed — both twitching binoculars and drunk sex welcome. Never has a shed had an atmosphere so debauched and wholesome in equal measure.
As we continued along our walk, the fight between marshland and forest became more and more apparent. The boggy shores were increasingly littered with drowned trees and evidence of whole swathes of dead forest, resembling some sort of prehistoric quagmire. In truth, the area was purposefully flooded by the British military in the 1940s so that the marshlands could be used as a training ground for anti-invasion preparations.
We soon entered the woods — those still standing, that is — on the south bank. The atmosphere here changed immediately. Whilst it was early enough in the day to avoid the clouds of riverside midgies, the tall canopy of trees was home to swarms of buzzing flies. We couldn’t quite see them in the low light but you could hear them. They followed us for miles — a constant sonic accompaniment. It was the sort of tumultuous buzz I associate with a high concentration of rotting flesh. I felt like a walking corpse being shepherded under their airborne blanket.
The wood was dense and towering but a path had been carved into the forest floor, some five feet deep. It felt like a trench, left over from the anti-invasion preparations. Perhaps it was. Now, it became a pinecone trough, with everything that fell from the trees above rolling down into the centre, making for an eerie sort of breadcrumb trail left by gravity.
We turned back before it got too dark. I met two goats in the beer garden of The White Hart Inn where we had a drink in the pink light before driving back to the house.
I tend to get very excited when I see a goat these days — my blogospheric spirit animal. This one was less excited to see me. Extending a hand to tickle his face, I was greeted instead by a stern headbutt to my knuckles. The shockwave from that horn tap made my arm ache for hours, having jarred everything from my wrist to my shoulder.
I guess goats don’t give a shit what your Twitter avatar is.