A trail of mud behind us…

We have had cold springs before, we have had wetter springs, we have had snow in March not so long ago (in the spring of 2013 I swear it snowed every Monday for weeks on end). But I can’t remember a spring that has been as muddy as this one.

It’s not as if there has been *that* much rain, no worse than last year’s winter/early spring – but somehow the quantity of mud has increased, as if there are underground pipes somewhere constantly manufacturing mud and churning it out every night, even at times when it hasn’t rained much at all. The parks are all waterlogged, the buggy is mud-spattered, and still we plod on hoping for better weather and better walking conditions.

Just like last year, I had a yearning to see snowdrops – lots of snowdrops, not just the handful in my garden – and I’d read this blog about the art of photographing snowdrops. So with our National Trust app to hand, we decided to visit Nymans, a property with gardens famous for their spring flowers. 

As the blog had warned me, it’s actually quite hard to take a good picture of snowdrops en masse – where to the naked eye they look like a lovely drift of white against the grass or soil, on a camera screen it suddenly becomes a few white dots against a dark background – rather disappointing. 

So, close-ups are the way to go – and this means getting low down to the ground, quite a challenge in winter.

You can make a single flower your focus:


Or a clump:


And I tried them against a grassy background and then a soil background to see which I preferred: 

To be honest, I don’t really have a favourite, but they all capture the spirit of how lovely it is there. The house itself is a semi-ruin following a fire in the 40s, and provides a rather Gothic, Thornfield Hall-style backdrop to the gardens.  

My favourite part of the grounds was the walled garden, which, rather than being a very formal tidy place, was a rambling old orchard with swathes of snowdrops under the trees and this rather ornate (and larger than life-size) bench – I imagined it might be the perfect place for the Selfish Giant to sit and admire the blossom on his trees.  
We’d had a very relaxed morning exploring the gardens – but our big mistake was venturing off-road after lunch to the woodland footpath which was a hideous sea of mud like I’ve never seen before – and I was at Glastonbury in 2005

The buggy barely survived what should only have been a short woodland walk – we should never have attempted it, sure, but for people without buggies, a bit of bark chipping over the really muddy bits would have helped a lot. 

It was a slightly frustrating end to the day, with the prospect of some major welly boot and buggy cleaning awaiting me when I got home.

My hope of finding another good buggy-friendly walk thwarted by mud; the rest of the grounds were fine for a gentle wander but not enough to be considered a serious weekend walk. 

By the time I’ve got round to writing this blog, the snowdrops are long gone, but the mud is not. To get back into proper hikes with a buggy, we need some of that mud to dry up, and quickly too, please!


Walks around Suffolk

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!