Well-heeled ALDEBURGH, just along the coast from Orford, is best known for its annual arts festival, the brainchild of composer Benjamin Britten (1913–76), who is buried in the village churchyard alongside the tenor Peter Pears, his lover and musical collaborator. They lived by the seafront in Crag House on Crabbe Street – named after the poet, George Crabbe, who provided Britten with his greatest inspiration – before moving to a large house a few miles away.
Outside of June, Aldeburgh is a relaxed and low-key coastal resort, with a small fishing fleet selling its daily catch from wooden shacks along the pebbled shore. Aldeburgh’s slightly old-fashioned/local shop appearance is fiercely defended by its citizens, who caused an almighty rumpus – Barbours at dawn – when Maggi Hambling’s 13ft-high Scallop sculpture appeared on the beach in 2003. Hambling described the sculpture as a conversation with the sea and a suitable memorial to Britten; many disgruntled locals compared it to a mantelpiece ornament gone wrong.
Aldeburgh’s wide High Street and its narrow side streets run close to the beach, but this was not always the case – hence their quixotic appearance. The sea swallowed much of what was once an extensive medieval town long ago and today Aldeburgh’s oldest remaining building, the sixteenth-century, red-brick, flint and timber Moot Hall, which began its days in the centre of town, now finds itself on the seashore. Several footpaths radiate out from Aldeburgh, with the most obvious trail leading north along the coast to Thorpeness, and others going southwest to the winding estuary of the River Alde.