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These old ships are gradually breaking up on the mudflats adjacent to the harbor of Orford. Orford is a small town in Suffolk England with a very rich history. A mile or so inland from here is one of the best preserved keeps of a medieval castle in England. The castle was built by King Henry II and completed in 1173. Prior to the building of Orford Castle, Suffolk was dominated by the Bigod family, who held the title of the Earl of Norfolk and owned the castle at nearby Framlingham, the subject of a post from me a few weeks ago. Hugh Bigod had been one of a group of rebellious barons during the reign of King Stephen, and Henry II wished to re-establish royal influence across the region. Henry confiscated Framlingham from Sir Hugh, but returned it to him having decided to build his own royal castle at Orford. Like many Suffolk coastal towns Orford was important as a port and fishing village in the Middle Ages. The main geographical feature of the area is Orfordness, a 10 mile long, wide shingle spit at the mouth of the Ore. The shingle spit that is Orfordness has in the past been under the management of the Ministry of Defence. It was used for weapons testing in both world wars and in the 1930s was the site of the experiments on the defence system that would later be known as radar. Having proved the technology on Orfordness Robert Watson-Watt and his team moved to nearby Bawdsey Manor and developed the Chain Home radar system in time for its role in the Battle of Britain.
The Atomic Weapons Research Establishment had a base on Orfordness that they used for testing. Many of the buildings from this time remain clearly visible from the quay at Orford, including the distinctive "pagodas" which were used to test the detonators for Atomic Bombs. Whilst it is maintained that no fissile material was tested on the site, explosives and charges were present and the buildings were designed to absorb any accidental explosion. While the modern world is clearly sometimes a dangerous place it is maybe worth remembering how uncertain life and its future has also seemed in the past.With USAF bases flying missions from the area during the cold war it is difficult today to imagine such a peaceful spot having such a history.
Orfordness is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public under the name "Orfordness National Nature Reserve", though access is strictly controlled to protect the fragile habitats. Access is therefore only available by the National Trust ferry from Orford Quay on designated open days. I have been once and hope to go again this summer. During my first brief involvement with TE in 2010 I uploaded 2 or 3 photos. One of them was from Orfordness. Its still there.

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Additional Photos by Richard Coleman (ric50) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 70 W: 0 N: 202] (769)
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