A day in… Lowestoft

By | Category: Travel destinations

George II and the wedding dress!

If your first inclination on arriving in Lowestoft is to turn around and leave, don’t. Perservere. There are nuggets to be found.
The town is broken in two by Lake Lothing. To the south is the beach, the two piers and the larger shopping centre. To the north is the old high street area and the maritime museum. If you come by train don’t necessarily believe you’ve entered a time warp when you look back on yourself and see the large blue British Railways sign affixed over the station.

After all the town has one of the newest “attractions,” what was one the largest wind turbine in the UK which is but a fledgling at just seven years old. And it is big. And noisy. Walk near it and it sounds like a washing machine that is struggling a bit to cope with the wash. But it is so important that it has its own name – Gulliver. The only reason I got near it was because I walked down the shoreline after I had seen the Euroscope a circular disc set in concrete which confirms that Lowestoft is the most easterly point of Britain. Buildings proclaim that they are the most easterly restaurant, the most easterly church and, for all I know, the most easterly guest house! Cardiff is twice as far away as Ostend is. Calais is as close as London is. It helps to put it in perspective.

the saviour of the seas

The squawk of the seagulls reinforces any thought the fact that Lowestoft is moulded by the sea and its environment. A lifeboat floats at anchor; a small marina lies beyond and two elderly vessels recall the fishing industry yet I don’t think I counted as many fish and chip shops as in other seaside resorts.

And that’s what Lowestoft is. Or rather a mixture of that, the entrance to the Broads and an industrial town for the big Birds Eye plant near the wind turbine echoes that fact. But then you’re not going to visit the town to look at that.

South of the estuary is the tourist office in a giant greenhouse structure where you can collect some local material before you start walking. In front of that is a statue paid for but recalling probably the most influential person on the town, a Victorian called Sir Samuel Morton Peto who decided to use his money to turn Lowestoft into a fashionable resort to rival Brighton. Not a lot remains of his efforts. Even a church was bulldozed as was a hotel to make way for flats. But his idea remains in the southern side of the town for it still remains a seaside resort with a long beach, piers and all that you’d expect from a Victorian birth.

the sandy beach to the south

The Victorian south beach

The south with its long sandy beach and beach atomsphere and attractions is so very different from the north, you could almost believe it was two separate towns.

North of the lake entrance is a pedestrianised road with shops either side. Nothing special, nothing unusual really until you come towards the end and enter the old High Street area. From this street are alleyways or lanes that are referred to locally as “scores” which lead to the seafront. Most are not ancient, merely Victorian and in many ways that is what Lowestoft is. A Victorian town yet it is said that it is one of the places in the whole UK with recorded habitation going back hundreds of thousands of years. In the old High Street it says that parts go back to the fifteenth century but little does as Lowestoft suffered damage in both world wars. You will see the Crown Pub which does predate Victoria and a few other buildings with plaques on them but that is it. George II even stayed here although today, where his head would have lain is Tinkerbelle’s wedding dress shop! This is an area for antique shops and collectables although there seem to be a lot of barbers in the town as well!

As you get to the top, don’t bother to walk back the way you came. On the right is a steep looking path that leads you down to the maritime museum. Take that and where it forks, stay left otherwise you’ll have an even steeper path down to the road that runs along the foreshore. It’s not signposted after you leave the High Street and the temptation is to follow the wooden rail but don’t. It’s not exactly wasteland that you walk through but the trees and ground are a bit unkempt. That’s a shame because there are some lovely trees with horizontal branches that you could hang tyres from to let the kids have a swing. Or you could have hammocks to doze on in summery warm days. It would make an attractive little garden.

The quaint Maritime Museum

The museum is to be found in a quaint little house tucked at the bottom and costs just £2 to enter. It doesn’t open until Easter though. Across the road from it is a pathway that takes you to the seafront. Before you get there though, you’ll see at least seven anchors rusting in the grasses. There may be more that I couldn’t make out in the undergrowth but they reflect again the seafaring past of the town. These had been collected from the beach after they had been lost from vessels which had run into difficult seas. When you reach the seafront and look over the edge you can see the remains of wooden pylons, concrete and stone which has either been destroyed by the waves or dumped there to help create a sea wall. Remember it was just 60 years ago this year that the east of England was badly flooded by the mountainous seas of 1953.

Lowestoft: still in the British Rail era?

Often Lowestoft had been protected by the sandbanks off the coast but they could be treacherous to shipping. Two buoys are by the side of the pathway as a reminder of the work they do. If you look out to see you will see others still performing the same task.
That might be a painful anniversary to celebrate but another, the centenary of the most famous local – Benjamin Britten – is in full swing. (A small shopping centre on the north side is named after him.) Events around the Suffolk coast began last year and I think over 180 performances of his works are planned during 2013. Although Aldeburgh will be the focus of attention it was here that the lad was born.
And that could be the main reason for many people to visit Lowestoft this year.

For more about the Lowestoft area, click here.
For more about Suffolk and Lowestoft, click here.

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