Mini Meander Part 1 Suffolk Autumn 2021
After a few days in London finally finishing our 180 mile walk along the Thames Path, we headed off in Buzzbee at the start of the 'fuel crisis' which, thanks in no small part to scaremongering headlines in the press and panic buyers, meant most filling stations were either closed or had ridiculously long queues. We had a range of 300 miles with what was in the tank, so decided we would head for Suffolk for a few days and see what happened. This was to be the start of a mini-meander around England trying to find places new to us (and maybe a few old favourites!). Firstly, a major crisis in our off season camping plans had to be resolved. Our trusty electric blanket ( probably 20 years old!) stopped heating the top half of the bed, and got so hot at the bottom it scorched the sheet! We instantly removed it and found another one with dual controls and an all night setting which we could pick up in Argos. Phew. We installed it on the car park of the shopping centre, as rain was forecast later and we need the back doors open to get the ties underneath! We headed off knowing we could be toasty warm that night, and leaving some bemused shoppers behind!
Incoming rain meant we headed for indoor options, so drove north to the delightful village of Long Melford which houses not one, but two grand houses. Our first stop was Kentwell Hall.
Built in Tudor times it is a beautiful moated Manor House which was bought by the Phillips family in 1970 when it was very sad and neglected. 50 years of ongoing restoration and love make it a really super place to visit.
There are informative notices about the family, the work they have done, and the setbacks they have faced like flooding in the winter storms a few years ago. These really add to the homely feeling as you walk around, and the interiors are a wonderful mix of sympathetic restoration and practicality.
Highlights were: the lovely rooms, including a gorgeous neo-roman bathroom; the Sculpted Tree created from a Cedar of Lebanon brought down in the Hurricane in 1987; the wonderful Pied Piper Topiary and all the gardens; the tudor Moat house and the maze forecourt.
Oh, and the cafe! We really recommend a visit here, and it is part of Historic Houses Association, so members get in free.
Just a few hundred yards down the road is a second house, remarkably similar in appearance, and, not surprisingly, dating from the same period. Melford Hall was owned by the Hyde-Parker family for 300 years, and family still live in one wing, but it is now administered by the National Trust. It is furnished beautifully, but lacked any information in the rooms which was sad.
Beatrix Potter was a cousin of the family, and a frequent visitor, and her bedroom is a highlight, and contains the original Jemima Puddleduck!
You may be able to tell that although both were interesting, our favourite was Kentwell Hall, and we really recommend a visit.
From here we drove to a tiny part of Suffolk that most people probably whizz past on the A12. The area between the Orwell and Stour river is our sort of place. Quiet countryside and hidden creeks, lovely old boats and lots of wading birds.
We stayed at Court Farm Caravan club certificated site between Manningtree and Stutton. £15 pn including Loo and electric! It is behind some farm buildings, but was peaceful and an excellent base for our walks and explorations.
The local villages are charming, and Afton Water is a large reservoir that has lots of walking and cycling trails. We did a couple of circular coastal walks near Stutton and Pin Mill that encompassed the shoreline and the creeks, and it was heavenly.
This area was home to Arthur Ransome who wrote the Swallows and Amazon's books, and you can picture them at every turn!The rather imposing Royal Hospital Naval school is also located here. Stutton church was so pretty.We also recommend the fabulous food at the Butt and Oyster pub at Pin Mill.
The next day we went north and mooched at beautiful Snape Maltings, and ambled in lovely Aldeburgh, past the Moot house, built in 1550 as the Town Hall, reflecting the wealth of this little town. Sadly the museum was closed on the day we visited. A good excuse to return!
We purchased delicious, local, Noon tarts (smoked haddock and leek), and kipper tarts from Ash smoked fishes, on the beach! Then we drove through Thorpeness and on for a super walk at RSPB Minsmere, where we watched 40 stunning Barnacle Geese arrive from Europe on their winter migration! The insects were fabulous too!
We spent our last night in this area at another excellent Caravan club CL, Mill farm near Bury St Edmonds. £16pn with loo, shower and electric hook up, A lovely few days, and we dodged the rain in the west! The next day is forecast to be torrential rain, so we will use that as a driving day and head north to Yorkshire! We can do that because we managed to find fuel for Buzzbee. Hurray!