On a fine but blustery Felixstowe evening, the gardens of the Spa Pavilion offered a friendly and familiar welcome against the backdrop of the grey and stormy North Sea. As he led us on a walk southwards, Bob Markham explained how the distinctive geology of the sea cliff, which has shelly Red Crag sand at the top resting on London Clay beneath, has been used to enhance the landscaping of this lovely seaside park.

The steeply sloping cliff provides interesting changes in level, with paths and steps opening up different views at every turn, but it is the water regime in the underlying strata which gives the gardens their distinctive character. Natural springs issuing from the junction between the Red Crag and the London Clay about half way up the cliff provide unique landscaping opportunities and the gardens abound with pools, grottoes and cascades.

The water pouring out of the cliff reduces its stability and we saw much evidence of slope failure in the form of cracks in walls, uneven steps and leaning trees. Bob reminded us of the landslide in 1993 which caused the Spa Pavilion to be closed for the season while the cliffs behind were shored up. The 19th century spa which lends its name to the area, as well as using crag water also used water from a 177ft deep well which went down to an aquifer below the London Clay and which was rich in ‘restorative minerals’.

At the end of the walk we were able to view an exposure of Red Crag in the cliffs at the south end of the gardens and then we climbed down onto the beach to see the London Clay platform at the foot of the beach at low tide.

This spring line geology is present on many slopes in East Suffolk, not least in Christchurch Park and Holywells Park in Ipswich. The renovations in Christchurch Park have shown commendable use of the natural landscape in retaining and enhancing the existing water features and it is to be hoped that the same brief will be applied in Holywells Park.

The Spa Pavilion gardens featured in the new Felixstowe seafront and Town Centre masterplan (http://www.felixstowefuture.com/) which contains the sentence, “The gardens could all contain revitalised water features to reflect the connection to the sea and spa heritage.” Yes, please!

Caroline Markham