Woodbridge Ambient Music Festival

A trip to Suffolk for the Woodbridge Ambient Music Festival and a celebration of the beautiful River Deben.

A series of coincides alerted me to the Woodbridge Ambient Music Festival taking place from 22nd – 24th September, just at a time when I needed an escape from the city. So I hopped on the train on the Saturday morning and headed up to Suffolk, Sebald in my bag and looking forward to drawing on the magic of the River Deben.

River Deben at Woodbridge
River Deben at Woodbridge
Woodbridge Ambient Music Festival post 2023
Tom Rogerson at the Methodist Hall, Woodbridge
Tom Rogerson at the Methodist Hall

The video includes interviews with local people about the history and importance of the Deben, its links to the nearby Sutton Hoo ship burial. Also a walk along the Deben and through this historic town of Woodbridge with its many old timber-framed buildings.
The Woodbridge Ambient Music Festival included performances from Tom Rogerson and friends – Jay Chakravorty & Elegy for Good Dogs live in the Octagon Room at the Methodist Church, ‘Beneath the Surface’ – live outside the Longshed with Clara Charlesworth (flute) and Michelle Brace (visuals), VonTrapMix; Helder Rock; Yggdrasil Music; Mbira Mike; Of the Night Sky. Organised by Jan Pulsford.
This will now be an annual fixture in my calendar.

Of the Night Sky at the Long Shed, Woodbridge
Of the Night Sky at the Long Shed

‘From Woodbridge to Orford down to the sea, is a good four hour walk’ – W.G Sebald, The Rings of Saturn p.222 – read in the Kings Head, Woodbridge with a pint of Ghost Ship. Note for a future walk maybe.

Related posts:
A visit to Orford Ness
Rendlesham Forest UFO Trail
Along the River Deben to Sutton Hoo

Boxing Day Walk

Antelope Leyton

I start with no fixed plan and follow my feet along Midland Road, Leyton then down Farmer Road to Church Road and the still boarded up Antelope pub. There’s been online chatter about getting this place open again and despite the success of other revived pubs in the area the Antelope continues to lie dormant.

Etloe House, Leyton
Etloe House with its secret water sources of legend in the grounds

I contemplate heading towards the Angel or wonder whether to turn towards Walthamstow. We’re spoilt for choice.

Dagenham Brook, Leyton
All Hail the Dagenham Brook
Marsh Lane Leyton
Marsh Lane

It’s cold and my beanie is still damp from being caught in Christmas Day rain. My pate is chilled. Walking down Marsh Lane reminds me of the pre-Olympic protests of 2006 and 2007 (filmed for BBC documentaries) when it was feared this ancient open space would be gobbled up by the land-grab.

railway bridge at Leyton
Lee Navigation
boat on Lee Navigation

I miss the old Waterworks Pitch and Putt.
Cross the Friends Bridge to Hackney Marshes and then onto the towpath for a short section to Leyton Marsh.
Woodsmoke on the towpath. Bohemian London is afloat.
People walking in big Boxing Day family groups. People up from the country. Clean wellies.

I’ll save the walk from here into the City for a tracing of the Black Path that I’ll shoot for YouTube.

Lea Valley Riding Centre
Lea Valley Riding Centre
bridge from Walthamstow Marsh to Argall Industrial Area
the bridge of flies
Argall Industrial Area
Argall Industrial Area
Excalibur House Argall Industrial Area
Excalibur Works
Excalibur House Argall Industrial Area

Into Argall Industrial Area. I love it here for some reason. Excalibur Works appears as almost the perfect brick unit – a gorgeous monument to industrial modernism. I want a studio/ workspace here. The light is incredible. I get a flood of happy memories of walks that’ve taken me through industrial estates around the fringe of London, often at sunset in glowing light.
There’s a strong smell of bread in the air.

Low Hall Woodland

People are working out to music at Low Hall Recreation Ground.
I take the path up through the woodland – like a country lane. A small dog tries to pick up a stick that’s far too big. A toddler waves goodbye to a particularly large puddle.

Walthamstow High Street
Walthamstow High Street
Ricco's Walthamstow High Street

The vibe in Ricco’s coffee bar on Walthamstow High Street has changed since my school-run days. This was my go-to place on the High Street on laps from Leytonstone. But the coffee and sandwiches are still good.

Walthamstow Mall Tower building site

The town centre tower as viewed from the viewing terrace in the Mall – seemingly constructed to offer a platform to watch the never-ending building works.
I emerge from the Mall into the gloom of 4.15pm.
There’s magic in the gloaming.

Path through St Mary's Walthamstow
St Mary’s Walthamstow

Up Church Hill then through St Mary’s Churchyard to the Village, which seems unusually quiet. I’m starting to feel tired. Turn down Eden Road to Leyton High Road. Over Leyton Green into Essex Road and the straight path to the Red Lion for restorative pints with Joe.

Kebab shop on Leyton High Road
Leyton High Road
Greenwich Meridian, Leyton
Essex Road, Leyton

Winter walk through Epping Forest

‘The spirit of devotion for the woods, which breathes through the simple expression of the poet, is akin to “that hereditary spell of forests,” which Robert Louis Stevenson describes as acting ” on the mind of man who still remembers and salutes the ancient refuge of his race.” Such a refuge once was London. Indeed she makes her first claim on history as a mere stockade in the woods — the Llyndin of the ancient Britons. Her wood and fen and heath, with the sweet country which once surrounded her, have disappeared, while a part only of the Essex Forest remains to recall the once great forest of the East Saxon Kingdom, which had Lundentune for its port and ecclesiastical centre. The forest, however, has maintained its connection with the metropolis; it is essentially London’s forest to-day, and will ever be an integral part of her future, holding as it does a unique place among the forests of England and of the Empire.’

Epping Forest Visitor Centre at Chingford

So opens, London’s Forest by Percival J.S. Perceval published in 1909. I read this page sat on a log somewhere between Bury Wood and Woodman’s Glade. It was a freezing cold day back at the beginning of December. Puddles were frozen solid. Ice clung to leaves and bracken. As I moved away from Chingford Plain deeper into the woods through Round Thicket to Hill Wood there were no people around. I’d entertained fanciful notions of walking through the forest to the Christmas market at Epping but that idea faded after reading the passages from Perceval. Maybe I’d dwelt too long in the Radical Landscapes exhibition at the Visitor Centre at Chingford beguiled by tales of Black Mutton pasties.

Brook in Epping Forest

Then I became seduced by this nameless brook that babbled down from Hill Wood and seems to flow into Connaught Water, raising the question of whether this is the true source of the River Ching.

There seemed a certain inevitability in this forest stroll ending in the dark, as so many of my Epping Forest walks have done during the winter months in the past. And in truth I love navigating those final miles in the pitch black.

Record Shop Dreaming

Back in my Bondi years (mid-90s) I dreamed of opening a record shop and coffee bar with Formica tables, wooden chairs and a large vinyl sofa (vinyl + vinyl geddit). Dreamhouse Records on Francis Road, Leyton has a similar vibe to that place of my imagination. Great spot to sit on a grey afternoon with a coffee listening to music then browse the racks of records. (Must go back for that Andrew Bird album).

South Bank book trawling

‘The Unknown Trail’

‘Border, By-ways and Lothian Lore’

‘In Quest of Peril’

Some of the enticing titles embossed on old cloth spines on the South Bank book market outside the BFI. Browsing these tables brings back great memories of my NFT days – book collecting chats back in the box office, trawling for treasure and knowledge. The excitement of the hunt. My hasty steps ground to a halt and I’m drawn into another dimension of time.

Welcome to New London signing at Book Bodega, Ramsgate

Book Bodega, Ramsgate
Book Bodega, Harbour Street, Ramsgate
Book Bodega signing with John Rogers, Ramsgate
Welcome to New London book signing
Book Bodega signing with John Rogers, Ramsgate
Love this desk they provided for the signing
Book Bodega signing with John Rogers, Ramsgate
Cathy Rogers, Bob and Roberta Smith, me, Heidi, Dad, Jessica Voorsanger

What wonderful Sunday afternoon at Book Bodega in Ramsgate signing copies of Welcome to New London – journeys and encounters in the post-Olympic city. It’s a real gem of a bookshop and this was in fact my first signing outside London. So lovely to share the event with friends and family and meet regular viewers of my YouTube channel.

Ramsgate Harbour

After the book signing we walked above Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour and settled in the Churchill Tavern for a couple of pints of Canterbury Ale nestled on a corner that’d been sketched by Vincent Van Gogh during his time in the town.

Thanks so much to everyone who came.

There are signed copies of Welcome to New London available from Book Bodega.