A weekend of the colour of high summer is over. Latitude Festival is packing itself up right now. Weary, filthy, hungry teenagers are squashing tents and unwashed frying pans back into bags. I have one to collect later and a vintage rusted wheelbarrow. I am kind of hoping it might have got reappropriated. The wheelbarrow, that is.
Latitude is in its 5th year. It is not a giant pullulating festival like Glastonbury. Rather a pocket-sized, tidied up version. Less crazy, more culture with a C. The point about it is the setting. Mature oaks, gnarled, stalk about the yellow grass. Woods with light and sound trails, paths sweeping through the bracken. And in the middle a lake, rush fringed with a stage jutting out into the water. Gondoliers punting punters in punts and giant paper water-lilies fix it. The line-up is tip-top from the Ballet Black to Florence in the Machine.
The weather we have just recently – some serious rain followed by sunshine has washed the summer haze away and made views bigger and colours sharper. This weekend has been the opening of a box of chocolates, colourwise. A visual feasting. Starting with the pink rinsed sheep of Latitude and the hats and clothes.
Following on with coastal colours. Saturday morning started in Thorpeness. The seaside , the English seaside, this is where Kathleen Hale came for summer holidays, she of Orlando the Marmalade Cat fame. You can practically see him swishing his tail. To go to Thorpeness is a step back into the past. 1930s architecture and the imagined clink of the vicar’s tea-service. The Country Club is for tennis and bingo and there is a large man-made Mere. All manner of inland boating in clinker built boats with rollocks and oars. Meanwhile the surging North Sea is eating the place up. Fast. A cliff just along from the green house has recently been swallowed.
We are in the land of golf courses and after Thorpeness a giant golf ball lowers on the horizon. It is the wierdest of the wierd humming buildings that make up the Sizewell nuclear reactor. Aft of this, a campsite and the Sizewell Beach Refreshment cafe, thronging with campers and their dogs. Beyond, a very empty place. A few brown sails are threading across the purple sea and an angry viper curls up and throws its head at us. The gorgeous skin with diamond patterning could have been on Friday’s catwalk at the Festival.
The shingle is a garden. Derek Jarman’s garden repeated infinitely. Plants are low and tumbled. Glaucous cabbagey outbreaks amongst the pebbles. Spikey blue eryngiums are in flower. Metallic blue and mobbed by cabbage whites.
The marshes then take over: rushes and whispering long grass, the bitterns live here but they are very shy and hide deep and furtive in the reed beds. Duck-boards have been built through the watery terrain and after the drag on progress from sand and stones, we march like travellers in an airport on a moving conveyor. Conveyed to heathland of black earth and heather plants in flower. Splashes of purple as far as the eye can see.
This purple place is called Dunwich Heath and gives on to a field of ruins. Dunwich was a mighty monastic town. A hub of seafaring and commerce. The North Sea has long gobbled it all up. The East of England is being steadily consumed by the brine.
A low and beautiful land that is slipping away bit by bit. Meanwhile the flatness brings incredible skies, clouds that mesmerise and a light that dazzles.
By the evening, the heat has been soaked up by the wheat fields and blue green stems and heads have sunned themselves to gold. Read the season in the colour of the crop.