villages in Suffolk

still discovering Suffolk, and I find that you usually explore all the coastal towns first – there is something about the sea that beckons you.  once you have visited them all, you start choosing the many inland villages and towns to visit.  Framlingham is a market town inland from Aldeburgh, there is a central square, where  a Saturday market is held.  there are also a couple of quality antique shops, ‘dix sept ‘and ‘in da cottage‘,  there is also a castle, which I have yet to visit and a great pub, the station hotel which serves very good food.

Orford is actually not far from the sea, but is on the edge of an estuary and for a surprisingly small town has many good food options, including the butley Orford oystery, Pinneys shop selling all kinds of seafood delicacies, pump street bakery, crown and castle.     look out for the next slow living fair – which hosts an array of local artisans selling beautiful high quality wares – they usually happen in the autumn just before xmas.

Yoxford has a lovely art gallery, Rowe and Williams, that showcases a mix of local artists works from early 20C to contemporary artists now – the focus being about Suffolk, but also includes some hand made lamps, graphics and ceramics.  there’s a restaurant Mains which only opens thurs, fri and sat  evenings, and brunch on Saturday, but  is very good and uses locally sourced food.  they also hold a monthly bread making course on a Sunday, which sounds like great fun.  Yoxford also has  an antique centre that shows about 25 dealers – anything from mid century furniture to ceramics and trinkets – I actually picked up a lot of the furnishings and accessories for the cottage from here, including lamps, chairs and tableware – all very affordable.  I recently found this monogrammed linen runner that I couldn’t resist with my initial C embroidered on it – there was actually a big collection, but I just resisted and bought one piece.  I am such a glutton for collecting linen pieces, but hate to use them in case they stain.

 

beaches of Suffolk

there are a lot of beaches in suffolk, some are well known and frequented, others less so. but less than 10 mins drive from our cottage is kessingland beach – a relatively unspoilt beach which reminds me very much of dungeoness, with its pebble dunes and grasses, its definitely worth a morning walk.  you will spy fisherman, dog walkers and bird watchers from the adjoining Benacre nature reserve and is much less touristy in the summer months.   not far away in Thorpeness you can rent the house in the clouds –  originally intended to be a water supply in 1923 Glencairne Stuart Ogilvie with F. Forbes Glennie (architect) & H. G Keep (works manager) brilliantly disguised it as house, and so it looks like a mystical cottage high in the sky. Thorpeness is one of those strange towns – a bit like a disneyfied part of Switzerland,  mock Tudor houses are built around a Peter Pan boating lake, and 1930’s houses are built directly facing the long pebble beach. but my all time favourite beach is Covehithe, which happens to be the local beach to our cottage – beautifully windswept and unspoilt, its sadly receding coastline tumbles the trees into the shoreline, leaving eerie bleached out trunks and branches that give the beach an eerie quality.    I am discovering that Suffolk is a diverse and interesting coastline with much to explore.

 

Snape maltings

i love going to my suffolk cottage, even just for a day, and especially if the weather is as good as it has been .   the only thing i dislike is the 2 and half hours drive to get there.  so what i have been doing is breaking the journey with a stop for a cup of tea in one of the many lovely towns along the route – i pick a different one every time.  this time i stopped in snape maltings – the 1800 buildings originally used for storing barley – that are now a concert hall, shops, eating places all set in a tranquil setting surrounding by reeds.  i  chose here because my friend Maria is particularly interested in art, and i knew that she would love the hepworth sculpture set amonst the reeds it really is a lovely focus point.   there is also the lettering arts trust with its beautiful carved stones.  i noticed that beggars velvet are stocked there – beautiful gifts all with  words and letters.  look out for unusual exhibitions in the beautiful dovecote gallery. there is a lovely exhibition by Berthold Wolpe, a master of calligraphy and type design, who did a lot of dustjackets for books too.   i  have tried all the cafes there and the granary tea shop is the best;  i think that the food hall is probably more interesting for gifts.

 

 

villages in Suffolk

when discovering Suffolk, I find that you usually explore all the coastal towns first – there is something about the sea that beckons you.  one you have visited them all, you start choosing the many inland villages and towns.  Framlingham is a market town inland from Aldeburgh, there is a central square, where  a Saturday market is held.  there are also a couple of quality antique shops, ‘dix sept ‘and ‘in da cottage‘,  there is also a castle, which I have yet to visit and a great pub, the station hotel which serves very good food.

Orford is actually not far from the sea, but is on the edge of an estuary and for a surprisingly small town has many good food options, including the butley Orford oystery, Pinneys shop selling all kinds of seafood delicacies, pump street bakery, crown and castle.     look out for the next slow living fair – which hosts an array of local artisans selling beautiful high quality wares – they usually happen in the autumn just before xmas.

Yoxford has a lovely art gallery, Rowe and Williams, that showcases a mix of local artists works from early 20C to contemporary artists now – the focus being about Suffolk, but also includes some hand made lamps, graphics and ceramics.  there’s a restaurant Mains which opens on fri and sat but apparently is very good and an antique centre, Yoxford Antiques that shows about 25 dealers – anything from mid century furniture to ceramics and trinkets – I actually picked up a lot of the furnishings and accessories for the cottage from here, including lamps, chairs and tableware – all very affordable.  I recently found this monogrammed linen runner that I couldn’t resist with my initial C embroidered on it – there was actually a big collection, but I just resisted and bought one piece.  I am such a glutton for collecting linen pieces, but hate to use them in case they stain.

 

a bright cold day in Suffolk

I love going to the seaside in the winter – the sea and the landscape changes so dramatically with the seasons;  the wind beats the waves into angry turbulence, the grasses waving frantically from side to side – you just have to wrap up and enjoy the fresh air – its quite exhilarating.  we visited Sizewell beach for the first time and despite the blustery cold conditions, the sun shone, the sky was blue and we were taken with its wild landscape, the nuclear power station at one end, the huts and boats at the other end.  also close by is Leiston Abbey, definitely worth a visit.

we also discovered a lovely gallery in Yoxford,  Rowe & Williams, selling local works and some ceramics, definitely worth a visit.

covehithe beach

I love this beach – although the lands edge is slowly falling away – its a wonderful place to take a walk.  you feel as though you could be anywhere in the world and yet its only 5 mins drive away from my cottage ;  the sea washed branches add an air of spookiness, the ever-changing sky belies where you are – at times you feel you are on a desert island away from everywhere.  its especially beautiful at this time of year.

 

tea

my favourite shops in Beijing were the tea shops, not only selling tea, but china, teapots, table mats, everything to make your tea time a beautiful experience.   we all now buy bags of tea as its easier to clean, but the ritual of leaves and a teapot makes it all the more special.  here are a few of the pots that I brought home.  the pu’er tea was a gift from my daughter last year and they are cherished like good old wines, the maturity and process of fermentation dictates the price, some we saw went up to thousands of pounds. I loved the simple packaging.

 

I will always remember when alice treated me for mothers day to afternoon tea at the teanamu chaya teahouse – it truly is a memorable experience to savour, especially if you are into the rituals of perfect chinese tea.   its definitely a girly treat, attention to detail with water temperature, beautiful oriental teapots and tableware.   the choice of teas is vast and beguiling, but Pei – the proprietor gracefully advises you what best suits your palate.  its definitely something to learn about, and coincidentally you can book onto a 2 hour masterclass to understand the making of tea and its ceremony.

you can also have courses in tea rituals at Mei Leaf  and tea tastings at postcard teas and for a big selection of interesting teas to buy try my cup of tea.

there is a tea shop in aldeburgh that sells pu’er tea and a great selection of other teas plus its nice for lunch – the Cragg Sisters tea room.

Sainsbury centre

I didn’t realise how quick the journey from the cottage to Norwich is, 45 mins drive, so maria and i made our way to the infamous centre for the arts,  which was designed around 1974 , the Sainsbury Centre being  the first major public building designed by the now renowned architect Norman Foster.   although its over 40 years old, it still feels so modern – somewhere between an aircraft hangar and  oversized shed – it houses the amazing collection donated by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury.   the ground floor of the gallery houses the highly recognisable works of Degas – the beautiful bronzed ballerina, Bacon and Chillida – an incredible collection of art, and this floor is free to see and wander around.  at present there is an exhibition of Russian art, alongside the frivolous Faberge eggs and Tatlin’s structure, and some beautiful pots by Lucy Rie.  the roomy and lofty cafe overlooks the gardens that adjoin the university campus are a nice place to take a coffee.

afterwards we drove to the city centre and  had a bite to eat at cafe 33;  previously I had lunch in the very healthy vegetarian restaurant ‘wild thyme’, and apparently the library has been recommended.

 

along the estuary

always on the look out for interesting things to see and do to break the journey to suffolk, i have started to look more towards the suffolk/essex border. travelling home from the cottage, the furthest beach point of Aldeburgh then leads to the villages along the estuary – Orford being one of the prettiest, with its Georgian houses, village square and church – its also a spot for sailing, bird watching and good food.  there is the famous  Pump St bakery and simple seafood at Butley Oysterage – which i have yet to savour.  there is also the hotel and restaurant  the Crown and Castle that looked interesting.  orford also has a castle to explore too.  travelling towards the essex border you will find Manningtree, situated on the river Stour, with the village of Mistley a short walk away.  Mistley retains some of the grain mills by the quay – glorious victorian warehouses that tell stories of years gone by.  we had delicious lunch at Mistley Thorn – offering  a daily special menu that is very good value.  close by is the North House Gallery, set on the ground floor of a handsome georgian house, which has a beautiful curation of works, usually landscapes and in the back room wonderful letterpress machines used by the curator herself.   Mistley kitchen not only sells a selection of cookery utensils, but hosts a variety of cookery courses.  and less than 15 mins drive away is Flatford, the home of John Constable and the setting of one of his famous paintings, the Hay Wain.  Sadly we chose a rainy day to visit ,but it was still a beautiful place to visit and i will definitely return again.  i noticed that there are lots of residential courses there too.