Easter was very late in 1973, and did not fall until April 22nd. The 16th was a Monday, and after a morning at work I went with my father and sister to Suffolk. The weather was rather grey but at least it was mild. We drove through Bungay and Halesworth and then exercised our dogs on the heath at Blythburgh. These were my sister’s dog Suki, and young Fido. He was only just over 6 months old, and had not yet learnt to lift his leg when doing a wee!
We stopped at the Stradbroke Arms at Darsham for drink of Adnam’s bitter. The pub was next to the station where the A 12 crosses the East Suffolk line. In is no longer possible to have a drink of ale at this pleasant former coaching inn, which closed in 1994. Darsham station is not the nearest station to Southwold (that is Halesworth, to which the Southwold Railway used to run), but it is more convenient to drive to. In common with other lines, the railway was then approaching the nadir of its fortunes. Freight services would be withdrawn from every station except Felixstowe harbour, and even that traffic was pitifully small. There were strong hints that the whole East Suffolk line would be closed. Now the harbour is the busiest container port in the UK and the heavy traffic has necessitated a new rail link to the main Norwich line at Ipswich. The number of passengers has increase by 100% over the past decade, and the number of trains to Lowestoft has recently been doubled.
We then went through Saxmundham where we saw the Earl of Cranbrook’s flock of Jacob sheep. These distinctive creatures are not like most sheep, as they have four horns. My sister regarded herself as an acquaintance of the Earl, as they had been in correspondence about some wildlife matter, in which he was considered a local expert.
We drove on to Woodbridge where we parked near the railway station. A train arrived while my sister was using the Ladies at the station; this facility has now been withdrawn. It has been rewarding to witness a revival in the use of the railway; perhaps if passenger numbers continue to increase they may reinstate the toilets at Woodbridge station. We walked across the railway footbridge to the quayside. The Tide Mill was being restored, having closed for commercial use not many years before. The exterior had been repainted but the building was not yet open to the public.
The S.S. Yarmouth was moored in the river Deben. As her name suggested, this steamer had previously been used on the Norfolk Broads to give pleasure cruises, and was then doing the same job on the Suffolk river. She later found her way to London where she served as a floating restaurant in dockland before sadly being scrapped. It was to see the steamer Yarmouth that we had made the journey into Suffolk. Normally on such a trip we would have gone to Southwold, but not on this occasion.
We got home in time for tea which mother had been preparing for us – pork sandwiches and buns. The dogs had been walked again at Woodbridge before we left the town.