The village of Shotley Gate is situated to the south-east of Ipswich, a distance of some ten miles from the town centre. At this time of year, the sun was due to set shortly after 6pm, so being somewhat unfamiliar with my destination, I made the decision to drive there directly from work, with the aim of arriving while daylight still remained.
The journey from the outskirts of Ipswich, following the B1456 to Shotley, was quick and without incident, and I arrived in the village at 5:15pm. My intention was to familiarise myself with the HMS Ganges site as much as possible before the stated 7pm rendezvous time. I had little idea what Marlin may have had planned, and I felt it prudent to be as prepared as my limited timeframe allowed. It is worth noting that this may have been the very reason for Marlin's lack of notice: an attempt to deny me time to research my destination, and a secure method of ensuring that he retained the upper hand in any meeting. Such circumstances should, perhaps, have set alarm bells ringing with sufficient volume to bring about a change of heart and a refusal to accede to Marlin's instructions, but such conclusions are of course easy to reach with the benefit of hindsight.
I drove to the end of the main road and parked my car outside The Bristol Arms pub, close to Shotley Pier, before making my way on foot back up Bristol Hill to Caledonia Road and the main gates of HMS Ganges. The gates, not surprisingly, were securely locked, and there appeared no indication of anything - or anyone - out of place. Shotley Gate Village Store is situated on the corner here, and a few individuals were departing the premises as the shop closed for the day. None paid me undue attention. I had become conditioned to be on the lookout for Marlin memorials, and it seemed entirely plausible that the man had lured me here merely to reveal another. A brief examination of the scene however, suggested this not to be the case.
I continued on up the main road, following the Ganges perimeter fence, though forced onto the opposite side of the road by the absence of any pavement. A short distance further up, the fence turns right and a public footpath follows it east towards the River Orwell. I left the main road and proceeded along this path. The fence here is perhaps six feet high, yet effectively raised a further two feet by its banked position. Spikes lining the upper edge provide an added deterrent for any intruder. A few noticeable attempts have been made to breach this barrier: damage is visible at irregular intervals along this northern side, yet the site is clearly maintained to a significant level, and broken railings have been consistently repaired.
Further down, the footpath divides, one route (which I believe to be the official right of way) continuing close to the HMS Ganges fence. This path proved, however, to be prohibitively overgrown with brambles, and consequently a second, more travelled path had been beaten to the left, forking around the undergrowth and continuing parallel to the original, alongside the neighbouring field. I elected to take this second option, and continued eastwards for approximately 100 yards, whereupon the two paths converged once more, close to a small brick building. From here I tracked the fence to its north-eastern corner, before being forced to leave it and make my way down into Shotley Marina.
The view from here is dominated by the water tower above, yet little can be seen of the Ganges buildings nearby. I continued on through the marina, walking to the rear of The Shipwreck bar, and passing a flight of steps opposite the chandlery, which scale the hillside to a locked gate in the Ganges fence, close to the south-eastern corner of the site. Around this corner lie the gates of the rear road entrance. The rusted chains securing this gate indicated that they had not been breached for some considerable time.
Rounding Shotley Point, I made my way along the sea wall with the fence of HMS Ganges high above me, and arrived back at my car as the last of the remaining light faded. It was 6:15pm. With a little time to spare, I chose to step into The Bristol Arms.
Copyright 2004 All Rights Reserved