Alfie: Everything changes!

22 Mar

When I were a lad there were no such things as “freight terminals” or “container ports” there was (or were – I’m not sure about that one!) only and simply “Ipswich Docks”.

And they consisted of various wharves and landing stages extending up both sides of the River Orwell from Cliff Quay Power Station (now gone) to Stoke Bridge – then, as now, one of only two town centre road bridges over the river. There were, as I recall rows of dockside cranes stretching off down the river for the unloading of non-modular cargoes via huge nets dropped by said cranes into the ships’ holds and filled by the muscular efforts of the crewmen.

My bus trips into town took me over Stoke Bridge and I always recall the docks being full of ships of all sizes unloading timber, coal, or grain for Paul’s Maltings (which stretched back from the waters edge to the street behind the one where my father grew up).

And then…..

Someone invented the ubiquitous container, the ships to carry them got bigger and, with the exception of the comparatively small “South Bank Terminal” opposite where the aforementioned power station used to be, the river could no longer handle this vast and specialised traffic.

So they built the vast container port at the seaward end of the Orwell Estuary at Felixstowe and the old Ipswich Docks were just left to die!

Or so I thought until last weekend!

I had seen certain changes to the Ipswich skyline and had heard one or two things about “regeneration” so, having nothing to do on Sunday morning my wife and I took Mum out for a drive to see what was going on.

Well, to start with the road layout as you approach the dock area has completely changed (so I didn’t have a clue where I was going) and much of the new building visible on the approaches seemed to be facilities or accommodation relating to the new, if not yet prestigious, Suffolk University. Once through to the actual riverside things look even better – hotels, apartment developments, old brick buildings converted to bars and restaurants, and a MASSIVE marina. I really wouldn’t mind living there myself!

My mother maintained that she didn’t recognise the place at all but eventually admitted that she had never been there pre-reconstruction. Which is fine – you don’t REALLY want your mother to show an intimate knowledge of your local docks, now do you?

And, for the benefit of my fellow Sumpnadoan Administrator, Vincent, here are some of the pictures I took of the general area. He and I can then compare notes on how things have changed since the days when we went looking for Sailors and/or prostitutes there! Or not as the case may be!

I have been comparing what they’ve done here with my last, brief visit to Poole  (which Cy will be familiar with) a couple of years ago – I think Ipswich has kept more old stuff.

Incidentally, the roadway along which we were walking used to have rail tracks embedded in it. In the early 1970s (when trains still ran along them) I once got the wheels of my Honda 90 stuck in them! Happy Days!


For other anecdotes concerning my last “visit home” go to:

One Response to “Alfie: Everything changes!”

  1. Vincent March 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    Wow! It’s like the London Docklands development!

    Re containers: there’s another new word in the language now – “Logistics”.

    Some years ago, I began seeing this word all over and it took me a while to find out what it meant (I didn’t yet have a computer) and for those who still don’t know – it means the whole business of conveying goods from the factory to the consumer.

    So – packaging, transport, warehousing, inventory, taxation and security, then.

    Live and learn.

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