We had a second shot at a family holiday this year – we decided rather than take a single fortnight in one place (a little draining for all concerned where small children are involved), we’d take the opportunity after our New Forest holiday to house-sit for my parents-in-law in Suffolk.
Having two weeks away at either end of the summer, both only a few hours drive from home, broke up the season nicely and is definitely the way to go with a three year old and a baby – long haul can wait!
Living over the border in upwardly-mobile Essex as a child, Suffolk seemed to me to be the real essence of East Anglia – and I have stayed loyal, after all, I married a local boy!
As we lived close enough when I was young to visit fairly often, it became a regular weekend and half-term destination, and got under my skin in a way other less-frequented places never had a chance to.
The big skies, sea walls and reed beds are all part of my inner landscape, and the bits I particularly love – Blythburgh church with its angel roof, the ruined windmill on the marshes near Walberswick, and the woods around the (electricity & hot water-free) cottage where we stayed – are places I revisit endlessly in my dreams and daydreams.
This is what I wanted to discover again, and the childhood memories I wanted to create for the Big Girl – although perhaps with wifi and hot running water this time round.
We didn’t, in fact, make it to Walberswick – saved for another time – but top of our list was Orford Castle, which the Mr and I visited on our first weekend away together 5 years ago. (We went on a long hike up the estuary alongside Orford Ness on a very hot day, didn’t have enough water with us, arrived back in Orford hot and bothered – a true relationship test!)
The castle is pretty darn spectacular, with enough spiral staircases and secret chambers to keep a small child entertained, but it was Orford village itself I remembered most fondly.
It is just as chocolate-boxy delightful as I remembered, (including the celebrated Pump St Bakery) although every cottage and verge seems to have a line of cars spoiling the view. (We parked in the tourists car park, don’t fret).
However, I found a few lovely car-free views thanks to a convenient alleyway taking us past allotments and cottage gardens, which led to me musing how much nicer villages would be if they all had car parks on the outskirts and everyone who lived there had bikes or golf buggies to get to their houses.
There are many practical reasons why my Prisoner-style idyll probably wouldn’t work, but the wander round Orford was certainly good food for thought, and gave me scope for many future daydreams.
We also walked a stretch of the sea wall path which the Mr and I tackled last time, (turning back sensibly early to get to the Jolly Sailor for lunch), but it did make for a buggy-friendly walk which could have continued for some time – a circular walk taking us back to the village would have been even nicer, but we could see stiles and single track footpaths through fields which probably wouldn’t have worked.
I have run out of time to go into the rest of the week in too much detail, but we had a proper seaside day out at Southwold, home of my favourite pier in the world (and here’s the view from it):
(I can’t make up my mind about Southwold, as I know it has a reputation for being overrun by Latitude hipsters and Down-from-Londoners, and the high street certainly feels a bit too chi-chi for me, but it still has an authentic seaside feel without the overwhelming tide of cheap plastic tat you get elsewhere. Anyway, I digress).
We also went to Jimmy’s Farm (great entertainment for a 3-year-old, much cheaper than other farm attractions, but felt very corporate), Hadleigh (another lovely old town for pottering in) and Felixstowe (perfect for kite flying) plus a lot of chilled out family time in between. And one other place that was so good it will get its own blog entry, so watch this space!