Morning at the tower

At the fortress, we all slept like a log.
The night was so quiet, the sound of wave washing over a shingle beach was so soothing and the beds we slept on were so comfortable. We just couldn’t let go of our lie-in so easily.

Morning, everyone!

A beautiful (late) morning.
As I poked my unkempt head out of the door, I saw a couple of mountain bikers, a father and his son, scanning the tower with curiosity. ‘Good morning!’ We exchanged greetings. ‘Do you live here?!’, the boy’s eyes were as large as a saucer with excitement. I explained to them that we rented the tower for a long weekend through the Landmark Trust and they should do so likewise in future because the place would be a dream for boys of all ages. The son looked up his dad with pleading eyes and the dad smiled back to him, promising he would look into it as soon as they were home. We waved good-bye and I returned to the kitchen to prepare our breakfast of toast, fruits, yogurt and tea.

After enjoying our lesuirely breakfast, we climbed up to the rooftop again…

Sea breeze rustling in our hair was the only sound we could hear up there. No noise such as car horn honking or a siren of emergency vehicle zooming past were heard. It was just peaceful and calm.

Hubbie was busy with sorting out his cameras and lenses, so mom and I decided to explore the outside of the tower on foot…

A stretch of shingled bank divided the North Sea and River Alde. As the sun came nearer to its zenith, the path went busier with day-trippers’ cars.

River Alde was the home of Aldeburgh Yacht Club. The colourful sails of sailing dinghy looked so pretty under the blue sky…



Sailors were making the best use of the strong wind which was always present over the river. Some of them were tacking the sails very aggressively and it was fascinating to watch.

A result of £2.2million sea defence work which was carried out in order to protect the area around the tower from coastal erosion…

Over the time, the shingle beach around the fort was washed away by storms and by the early 2000, the situation became too critical to be managed in piecemeal manners. After great deal of effort by the local people, the funding was secured and the work had finally commenced in 2007.

The Martello Tower, you are a beauty…

Military architecture fascinates me.
I’m fascinated by them because they possess a certain kind of beauty and elegance. Their charm does not lie in how opulent they are nor how chic they are. Most of them are anonymous and some of them are not even approachable.
Yet, they have gravitas. Their lack of frivolity and their ruthless pursuit for efficiency and economy emphasise how serious their business is.

In the Martello Tower, I found all of the aforementioned characteristics and qualities…

Mom waving from our bedroom window…

I was so grateful that I could share those special moments with my family. I wished if I could do so with Mr.B too…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Evening at the tower

After inspecting our living quarters and making our first cup of tea, we decided to check out the rooftop of the tower…

There were two staircases which connected the lobby and the rooftop and as we clambered up one of them, we noticed how the rendered internal walls were stained in a various shades of brown – telltale signs of water permeation. The tower was sandwiched between the North Sea and River Alde, a position it stood was at the mercy of the weather which was often not so gentle or calm. Luckily, it did not rain during our stay but we did experience blustery winds which were whipping up the tower almost ceaselessly. Once the season changed and the North Sea became rougher, the weather over the tower would undoubtedly become more unforgiving and it would pelt the brick wall with sea water and pebbles.

Views over River Alde from the parapet…

Today, the tower stands alone, isolated and forlone. Yet, there was a community around the fort once upon a time. A fishing village of Slaughden surrounded the quatrefoil tower and a community of labourers who were catering a garrison of one officer and 15 – 25 men. It is difficult to imagine now how this windswept stretch of singled beach was once a hive of activity. Not only fishermen who were attending to their catches but also there were wash-women, grocers, bakers or possibly prostitutes who milled around the fort, making their living. Sadly, they all disappeared into oblivion by 1936.

Terreplain of the Martello Tower…

On the terreplain, there were four pivots on which cannons were mounted. Each cannon was manoeuvrable up to 360 degrees in order to defend the fort from seaward attacks as well as landward assaults. The cylinder in the middle was a roof light which to introduce daylight into the interior below. Around the parapets there were two fireplaces which allowed soldiers on watch to keep themselves warm and cook provisions.

Diagrams which explains how the tower’s  battery worked…

A flag pole facing River Alde…

The flag pole had an important role to play during the Napoleonic Wars. As the threat of the invasion loomed during the beginning of the 19th century, altogether 103 Martello towers were constructed to form a chain of defensive line along the coast between Seaford, Sussex and Aldeburgh, Suffolk. The towers were positioned at regular intervals and their flag poles were used to relay informations, such as sighting of enemy vessels or orders from the Admiralty, back and fro.

After inspecting the rooftop, we decided to drive to the town for fish & chips.

A view over River Alde…

A balmy summer evening…

Aldeburgh Fish & Chips Shop was extremely busy…

We saw one customer buying a £300 worth of fish & chips! He had to be helped by a staff to carry two large cardboard boxes to a waiting car.

We brought back our piping hot food to the tower and mom tried her very first mushy peas. Her reaction was…’Why do they have to be mashed?’ Oh well, for the experience, Don’t think too hard and enjoy it, mom.

After dinner, I opened a door to admire the late sunset…

The view was breathtakingly serene and sublime…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Martello Tower

Actually, the name “Martello” is not unique. It is a technical term for a certain type of fort which was prevalent during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century.

However, how the term came in use has an amusing anecdote and it goes like this: During the 15th century, the Genoese had constructed a round fortress at Mortella Point in Corsica and the fort proved itself to be very successful. They continued to install similar defensive towers around the island and they were paid and manned by the local populace against attacks by North African pirates and foreign invaders. On 7 February 1794, two British warships attacked the tower at Mortella Point but the fortress was impregnable despite being under continuous bombardment by two ships. The fort finally fell to land-based British force due to its technical fault – Alas, the gun could fire seaward only. The toughness and the effectiveness of the fort impressed Vice-Admiral Lord Hood and he reported to the Admiralty. In his dispatch, However, he misspelled “Mortella” as “Martello” (which means “hammer” in Italian) and none of his adjutants dared to correct his mistake for the fear of offending the senior officer. As a result, the name stuck…

Between 1804 and 1812, Britain was under a real threat of the invasion by the Emperor Napoleon and a chain of Martello towers were erected to defend the south and east coast of England, Ireland, Jersey and Guernsey. During the height of the conflict, 103 forts were constructed and during the WWII, some of the towers were reused as observation platforms and firing platforms. In the recent years, 17 towers remaining in a reasonable condition in the East Coast area and some of them are turned into museums and private residences.

The Martello tower we stayed belong to the Landmark Trust, a charity organisation dedicated to conserving historic British buildings. The charity was founded in the 60s and it has been acquiring, restoring and maintaining more than 200 buildings in Britain, Italy, France and Belgium.

A YouTube clip of the Martello Tower can be viewed here.

It was nearly 5 o’clockish when we walked into the property. All the wooden shutters were closed and the darkness made a stark contrast to the brightness of British summer evening…

Before arriving to the main living quarter, there were two staircases which led to the rooftop of the fortress…

A floor plan of the tower…

Sorry for not having any picture of the actual kitchen. I can assure you that it was well equipped and well maintained…

One thing we regretted was not bringing any condiments. Apart from salt & pepper mills, a small carton of milk and a few teabags, there was nothing for cooking.

In the centre of  the “four-leaf clover” shaped structure, there was a dining space with a large square table and benches…

A space above the dining area was covered with white canvas which reminded me of sails from ship of the line. The place designed as a fortress meant there weren’t any large window and being in there felt like living in a cave. Without the modern ceiling light cleverly integrated into the property, the space may have looked and felt more like a tomb rather than a house.

Walking diagonally across the dining area and we found a cozy sitting room with an iron stove and comfy armchairs…

Provided the lodgers brought their logs, the stove was fully operational. We mused how romantic it would be to light it in the cold season while relaxing with a glass of port in our hands.

There was a bookshelf in a modest size but it was packed with a good selection of the history of the place, local information and old-fashioned ghost stories…

Another fun in the sitting room was flicking through a visitor’s log book which was left on the chest to browse. The entries were made throughout a year, even in the depth of winter, which proved how popular the place was.

A view from the window of the sitting room…

The sound of wave lapping against the rocks was serene and soothing.

The property had two bedrooms with extremely comfortable beds with crisp white linen…

The decor was somewhat spartan but the original purpose of the place being a military installation, it was fitting and appropriate. Despite the appearance, central-heating was available 24/7 and a plentyful amount of freshly laundered towels were supplied for us. I was secretly relieved to learn that the trust did not compromise any modern comforts for a not so hardy city-dweller like me…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Destination Aldeburgh

Despite having his own sorrow to deal with, Hubbie did his upmost to alleviate my grief and to lighten my mood after we came back from NYC. ‘Why don’t we ask your mom to visit us? You haven’t seen her for a while, have you?’, he suggested during one weekend in early July. ‘Can we? Can she come to Suffolk with us too?’

The holiday was planned long before Mr.B’s sudden passing. We were very much looking forward to spending a coastal weekend with him because we knew in our heart that it would probably be the last holiday together. After Mr.B’s death, we fretted for days about cancelling the booking. Are we in a right frame of mind for going away and being on our own? Wouldn’t our soul searching be easier if we did it at home? Would we be able to keep our composure and to be kind to each other?

Our saviour stood next to Paddington Bear…

My mom arrived from Japan, enduring a 12 hours flight. We were so happy to see each other after having to content ourselves with chatting via Skype since last October.

Our destination Aldeburgh was 106 miles away and took us a little shy of three hours by car from London. We came off from A12 just after passing Farnham and took A1094 all the way to the little seaside town. Once we turned into High Street, we could see the thoroughfare was laden with charming shops with bunting and people in bright summer attire.

At the end of High Street, the tarmac disappeared and the road became a gravel path called Slaughden Rd. The path was uneven and time to time, we came across pot holes as large as a manhole cover. Half way down the dusty road, we found the path forked, one carried on straight on the bank and the other one descended toward River Alde.

We continued to move forward carefully and finally, we saw our true destination in the distance…

Yes, we were to stay at the Martello Tower!

A fort from the Napoleonic War era. One of the Landmark Trust’s properties for a holiday let.

None of us had ever stayed in a fort and we all were shaking with excitement!

A bridge over the fort was a bit creaky and it added the suspense in a good way.

I was given the honour of opening the door…

A key to the fort was left in a hidden safe which was looked after by the trust’s caretaker.

Strong winds were whipping us up and I became very worried if I dropped the key into the mort underneath. Even though there was no water, none of us fancied the prospect of having to wade through the thick undergrowth.

Open sesame!

The story of this amazing place and the fun we had shall be continued in my next post!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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