I have been reflecting on a recent visit to Ipswich Marina. The town of Ipswich has an improving reputation as a place to be. Having lived in this English county of Suffolk for almost ten years, I still find myself surprised by people’s reaction to Ipswich. No sooner than I mention the name of the town, than the response is an almost automatic “Oh, but it’s not as nice as Norwich”. It seems somehow to be the universal response. I wonder why that is? Norwich is a city within another county.
There are lots of places nicer than Ipswich and there are lots of places not as nice as Ipswich. I think that is just common sense. So, I do wonder why people here almost universally have to make such a statement about something that is not even comparable; for one is a town and one is a city. City’s generally attract much greater investment and so have greater capacity to improve and develop. There seems almost a sense of shame in anyone admitting that there’s something nice about Ipswich!
Ipswich is Suffolk’s ‘County Town’; its capital. One part of Ipswich that I have seen developing over my almost ten years in Suffolk, is the marina. We have a lovely friend that has moved from a small village, to live in one of the new apartment blocks at the marina. I have never seen our friend as happy as she has been, since moving there. When we visited, we learnt why.
Within just several minutes walk of Ipswich town centre; itself a centre for some great high street shops as well as a significant amount of individual boutiques, the marina boasts an extensive walkway around its perimeter. This offers the most stunning views of the neatly moored boats; each connected to a small jetty:
One thing I would note is that if, like me, you have a disability and therefore difficulty walking more than a short distance, there were few if any benches to sit at along the walk around the Marina. Having places to rest would be incredibly helpful and can mean the difference between visiting a particular venue, or not.
The marina is a large area and is surrounded by both the old and the new. The Old Customs House stands majestically on the quayside, its four columned porticos and striking red bricks a main feature of maritime heritage:
There are a number of cafés, bars and restaurants around the marina; perfect for breakfast out on the quayside, lunch with a view or an evening out to experience the nighttime atmosphere at the waterfront:
Indeed, just a short walk away from the marina is Cardinal Park; where you will find restaurants, sports facilities and a multi-screen cinema complex. So, an evening out at the cinema offers easy access to local amenities and, within just a short distance, the alternative of the bars and restaurants at the marina quayside. I recommend Isaacs on the Quay for a very good pint of ale and a delicious lunch; often with live music; situated on the waterfront.
As for Ipswich town centre, having originally come from London I looked first at Ipswich with the eyes of a visitor. I am glad, for I notice a significant array of architecture; much of which originated in the medieval era and is juxtaposed with all manner of styles that have developed through subsequent ages. Today, Ipswich offers contemporary architecture that has been award winning and that is creating a whole new look for the town.
If you ever come to Ipswich, take a walk but look up; you may notice stunning features in the historic, as well as the modern, skyline. Then, take a walk to the marina and enjoy what Ipswich is really about; its long connection to the water. From the marina to the River Orwell’s stunning journey down to the sea. Ipswich’s maritime history is a must for anyone that likes to be by the waterside.
(C) Dean Parsons.