Archive for category Suffolk

Scenic Buildings and Beautiful Settings in Suffolk

house-in-the-clouds-thorpenessSome of Suffolk’s most impressive sights are in fact manmade, with a number of quite beautiful and imposing historical stately homes dotting the landscape, alongside other visually stunning, culturally significant buildings.

If you stay in Suffolk in a self-catering holiday cottage, there are plenty of places to visit set in beautiful grounds and arresting landscapes.

 

Unique Suffolk Structures

The Red House at Aldeburgh was home to the composer Benjamin Britten from 1957 until his death in 1976. If you visit the Red House you can see the studio where Britten worked, as well as the house’s extensive library.

The distinctive House in the Clouds at Thorpeness is in fact a holiday home, but architecturally unlike any other. It was actually originally a water tank topped with a fairytale-style cottage, perched high above the trees. Originally built in 1923, it’s set in an acre of its own private grounds with spectacular views.

On the Suffolk-Essex border is Kentwell Hall, at Long Melford. This is a red brick Tudor mansion surrounded by its own moat. It has extensive gardens and a working farm. The speciality of the house is to celebrate history on a spectacular scale. This happens on regular Tudor Days and can involve around 250 people all recreating Tudor period details and lifestyles across the entire estate.

In Little Glemham, the 16th century Glemham Hall is situated in 300 acres of parkland. It’s a popular wedding and corporate event venue but its gardens are open to the public on selected days in the summer. It also hosts the annual Suffolk Game and Country Fair.

At Clare, you’ll find the grade I listed Ancient House. Constructed from medieval timber, the 14th century building has elaborately carved interiors and decorative oriel windows on its east wing. It’s now run as a museum by volunteers, providing plenty of information about the history of the town, alongside various medieval artifacts.

Pleasingly picturesque, the Pink Cottages in the Suffolk village of Cavendish are a distinctly colourful addition to the landscape. They date back to the heyday of the wool trade and were originally homes for its successful businessmen. The Suffolk Pink hue originally derives from a combination of unlikely elements such as elderberries, dried blood and red earth.

For over 200 years the vivid red and white striped lighthouse at Orfordness has guarded this particular stretch of the coastline. Battered by the elements and unused since the 1960s, it remains, nevertheless, an impressive remnant of a bygone era.

Explore Suffolk and you experience captivating settings with unique buildings and idiosyncratic structures to match. There’s something both eccentric and charming about the scenes that Suffolk offers up to its curious visitors. These are the memories you’ll take away with you.

50 Miles of Beauty Along the Suffolk Coast

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It looks fantastic, and it’s incredibly varied. The Suffolk Coast stretches for some 50 miles from Lowestoft down to Felixstowe. Combining the traditional English seaside with places of natural beauty and cultural interest, this coastline offers visitors a huge variety of things to do.

There’s plenty of holiday cottage accommodation along the 50 mile stretch and throughout Suffolk itself, so you won’t be stuck finding a base for your explorations.

 

Natural Suffolk

The Suffolk Coast is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and home to a rich variety of flora and fauna. Minsmere is one of the RSPB’s top reserves for rare and well-loved birds. The reserve offers a range of different walks, taking in woodland, wetland and the coastline.

The wild birds you’re likely to see include the Avocet, Bittern, Nightingale and Marsh Harrier. Minsmere is also home to red deer, and the red deer rut, in the

Autumn, provides the spectacular sight of stags fighting over the right to mate with female deer.

The Suffolk Wildlife Trust manages different reserves along the coast, including Gunton Meadow, Carlton and Oulton Marshes and Trimley Marshes. Visiting  these places, you’ll see many different species of wildlife, and experience spectacular views of rural Suffolk.

On the coast at Southwold you can explore inland and visit the Blyth Valley. This is ideal for walking, cycling as well as seeing wildlife. There are plenty of beautiful villages to visit along the River Blyth, and some unique sights, such as the Old Chapel at Walpole, and Holton Mill, with its distinctive white sails.

At the southern end of the Suffolk Coast, at Felixstowe, is the Landguard Peninsula, which includes the Landguard Nature Reserve and Landguard Fort. This stretch of shingle coastline is home to migrating birds and rare flowers and plants, and it’s another great spot for cycling and walking.

 

Best Beaches in Suffolk

No visit to the coast is complete without going to the beach, and Suffolk is blessed with many beautiful beaches. Here’s a selection of the best ones.

At Lowestoft, Claremont Pier has a lovely stretch of sandy beach that also hosts a variety of watersports and provides good access to the East Point Pavilion. Just south of Claremont Pier is another stretch of sand known locally as Victoria Beach.

Aldeburgh Beach combines sand and shingle and is a popular family destination; while the Denes Beach, at Southwold, is a quieter location, close to the mouth of the River Blyth.

Southwold itself is a busy but charming resort town and Southwold Pier Beach is a shingle beach by the 800ft long pier. The gently sloping South Beach at Felixstowe is another popular family spot, backed by a scenic promenade and beyond that, gardens.

If you’re looking for something a bit less busy, then beyond the sand dunes you’ll find a lovely little beach at

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, close to the local nature reserve.

There’s a beach along the Suffolk Coast to suit most tastes, whether you want to get closer to nature, or experience the peculiarly English charm of a traditional seaside setting.

Water, Culture and Character in Ipswich

ipswichWith its history dating back to a Roman settlement and its development to Anglo-Saxon times, in the 7th and 8th centuries, Ipswich can claim to be one of the oldest towns in England. As a non-metropolitan district, Ipswich retains a concentrated degree of local charm while being culturally dynamic and, more recently, undergoing extensive rebuilding and gentrification.

Ipswich is busy enough to be really diverting but it’s location in the heart of Suffolk makes it an ideal spot to explore if you’re staying in holiday cottage accommodation.

Maritime Ipswich and the Waterfront

While Ipswich has had a working port since Saxon times, the town’s waterfront has more recently become the centre of a thriving restaurant and bar scene. This rejuvenated area has plenty of places where you can eat and drink and is also home to some architecturally significant buildings, such as the Old Custom House and the modern Waterfront Building.

The Old Custom House is home to the Ipswich Port Authority and dates back to 1845 and its brick façade was designed in such a way as to imitate stone.

The University of Suffolk’s Waterfront Building looks out over the marina and is an imposing architectural presence. This was built in 2008 and adds a whole new modern dynamic to the location.

The quayside is rich in atmosphere, dotted about with bistros, bars and restaurants. There are also monthly waterfront markets, and the annual Ipswich Maritime Festival attracts up to 70,000 visitors, combining food, street entertainment, live music and markets.

There are also regular sightseeing boat trips running from the waterfront, including a river cruise restaurant, the Allen Gardiner.

An Independent Town Centre

Running between the town centre and the waterfront, The Saints is a flourishing fashionable retail area of Ipswich. The road structure including St Peter’s Street and St Nicholas Street itself dates back to Saxon times, but it is in recent years that The Saints has developed as a hub for intriguing independent shops and an eclectic choice of restaurants.

There’s also a periodic popular vintage and craft market at St Peter’s Street, and the arts and heritage centre at St Peter’s Church, home to the contemporary Ipswich Millennium Tapestries.

On the east of the town centre are the historic remains of the Blackfriars Monastery, and Blackfriars is also the name of the surrounding area, in which there is a great choice of places to eat and drink, and shops to visit.

Cultural highlights in Ipswich include Christchurch Mansion, a Tudor-era property set in beautiful grounds of Christchurch Park; the Ipswich Museum; and also the independent, volunteer-run Ipswich Film Theatre, in the town’s corn exchange.

In June and July there is the annual Ip-Art Festival, with its focus on the performing arts; and the Ipswich Arts Association organises its concerts and lectures throughout the year.

The Wolsey Art Gallery, based inside Christchurch Mansion, houses the largest collection of paintings by Constable and Gainsborough outside London; and the university’s UCS Waterfront Gallery is home to a changing collection of contemporary art.

Ipswich is a town with real character, both historically resonant and forward-looking.

Build a better bookshelf

One of the great pleasures of getting away on a cottage holiday is the chance to relax with a good book. Another is getting out and about, seeing and doing things that make a real change from everyday life.

So having a well chosen selection of books (as well as DVDs and games) in a holiday property can contribute a lot to a holiday. Bookshelves tend to acquire a life of their own, with visitors donating books they’ve brought and read. That can lead to a wonderfully mixed selection of books reflecting all sorts of tastes and interests. Even so, it still helps a lot if at the heart of the collection is a core of books appropriate to the property. Books about the area, of course, whether guide books, local history or fiction. But also books that can help visitors appreciate aspects of country life they might otherwise miss.

For instance, a couple of new books from Britain’s Wildlife Trusts do this in quite different ways. The first is a guide designed to help you get closer to nature, called 152 Wild Things to Do. Divided into four seasonal sections, it lists places to visit (mostly wildlife reserves owned by the Trusts), activities for both adults and children, and skills you can acquire.

In spring, if you’re in Wales you could visit Silent Valley nature reserve. Or you could cook nettle soup. “Healthy, delicious and found absolutely everywhere, nettles are a wonderful leaf that can be cooked up into a wholesome soup. Food that’s free and full of goodness – perfect! You’ll need to pick the tender tops of young nettles in the spring.” It goes on to a full Nigella-style listing of ingredients (including optional wild garlic leaves), cooking instructions and a final flourish: “You could stir in some crème fraîche or serve with a swirl of cream and some crusty bread.”

In summer, you could go wild swimming or glow-worm spotting; in autumn, you could go blackberrying (and make jam), discover Tolkien’s inspiration or see Britain’s largest butterfly. And in winter… well, buy the book and give it as a present, or just for yourself to spur inspiration and booking another cottage holiday.

In all there are – as you would expect – 152 recommendations, so there’s plenty to keep you busy. The book is probably aimed mostly at parents hoping to occupy children and stir an interest in nature and the countryside, but there’s plenty for everyone. It serves as an introduction to a number of small, lesser-known nature reserves and the colour photography is beautiful. It’s a book that deserves a place on every holiday cottage bookshelf.

Rather more traditional is Nature Tales, from  the same source. It’s a compilation of nature writing spanning the last three hundred years, with a forward by Sir David Attenborough. “This wonderful collection of some of the greatest nature writers in Britain’s history is a pleasure to read from start to finish and a valuable addition to any naturalist’s library,” says Sir David. Quite so, but don’t let that reference to a naturalist’s library make you think this is some learned, stuffy book. Quite the reverse, because it’s the ideal accompaniment to a cup of tea and a digestive, with most of the items no more than two or three pages long.

The book is organised in themed sections – By river and sea, From my window, Nature trails, and so on – each with items from across the 300 years. So an entertaining piece by Bill Oddie – one of the longest items at nine pages – is preceded by the 19th century novelist Richard Jefferies and followed by Nan Shepherd, a wonderful descriptive writer who died in 1981 at the age of 88. There are brief notes on each contributor, which might well lead you to follow up on their other writings.

Even more than in a naturalist’s library, this book belongs in every holiday cottage. And it, too, would make an excellent birthday or Christmas present for any nature-minded reader.

152 Wild Things to Do, published by Elliott and Thompson Ltd, £12.99,
Nature Tales, published byElliott and Thompson Ltd, £18.99

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Ride, stride and support

Explore the English countryside

There’s another opportunity in September to explore and enjoy the English countryside by taking part in Ride+Stride, a sponsored walk or bike ride between 10,000 participating churches. The event involves over 13,000 people of all ages, crosses 34 counties and opens the doors to some of the landscape’s most unusual and unknown churches.

The event has run each year since it began in Suffolk in 1981, and last year’s event raised £1.5 million for church restoration. This year’s event was on Saturday 11 September, with churches open from 10am – 6pm. The idea is that you sign up with the Churches Trust in your chosen county and find sponsors for your walk or ride between whichever churches you fancy. The route can be as long or short as you like, visiting two, or however many more you like, churches. The sponsorship money can all go to your favourite church, or to all the churches in that county.

Cyclists and walkers lucky enough to live in Cumbria, or planning to be on holiday there, might like to put together a route including the charming Newlands Church in the hamlet of Littletown; Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggy Winkle was dedicated to the Vicar’s daughter. In Dorset, participants could head over to Loders’ St. Mary Magdalene’s Church, to offer sympathy and support to its gargoyle with toothache.

Riders and striders in Wiltshire can picnic by Bremilham Church in Cowage farmyard, the tiniest church in the UK, which has one pew and seats four. Or over to Kent and spend the day on Romney Marsh visiting St Clements Church, Old Romney which boasts pale pink pews, having been painted for the filming of Dr Syn in the 1960s, and which were kept because the parishioners liked them. Or wander to St Thomas a Becket in Fairfield, which sits in the middle of a meadow that was only accessible by boat until the 1960s.

Ride+Stride is ideal for the young and old, the energetic and the more relaxed. In 2009, the oldest participant was a 101 year old lady from Oxfordshire who walked between six churches in hilly countryside; the youngest was still in his push chair. Some walk between two and three churches, others are more ambitious – one inspired rambler spent two weeks running 630 miles along the South West Coastal Path from his local church, St John the Baptist, Buckhorn Weston, to Poole in Dorset.

There is also the opportunity to relax and recharge between journeys, with most churches offering a display of snacks and drinks, from cakes and biscuits to home grown plums and orange squash. In fact, you don’t even need to participate in the main event, as this is an ideal opportunity simply to visit a church, knowing it – and its collection box! – will be open.

Ride+Stride helps preserve some of Britain’s 47,000 churches, chapels and meeting houses. Many historical landmarks are falling into severe disrepair and need our help. The event is supported by The National Churches Trust, in partnership with County Churches Trusts nationwide. Keen cyclist and Channel 4 news presenter, Jon Snow, is the patron. Another keen supporter is author Bill Bryson, who said: “No feature of the English countryside is more important, or potentially more vulnerable, than its churches. That’s why I am so delighted to support Ride+Stride.”

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