We live near the Cambridgeshire border, so Suffolk is not far away, but for some reason, I’ve only been a couple of times, and never for a holiday. When my parents said they would love to go away, we decided it would be an ideal destination. My father loves birdwatching, we all enjoy walking and being by the sea, and friends had recommended a cottage in a holiday park, which was only three minutes from the beach at Dunwich. This is a bird spotter’s paradise, with the famous RSPB Minsmere just a short drive or easily achievable walk away. As we drove into Suffolk, the sun was shining, and the first thing that struck me was the wildflowers – in every verge and hedgerow, and the cottage gardens, overflowing with blooms and blossoms.
Not only that, but there were honesty boxes around every bend in the road, selling garden posies, jam, garden plants. I love honesty boxes and I’ve even got a separate Instagram account dedicated to them, but actually, I rarely see them in my area. But Suffolk, it is the home of the honesty box and I just knew that I was going to love it.
Suffolk: home of the honesty box roadside stall
Dunwich Heath, where we were staying, is owned by the National Trust. The heath land is covered in heather, mixed with honeysuckle, ferns, wildflowers and sandy paths threading through. It is stunning.
We could walk from our cottage to the coastguard cottages where there is a tea room and a large car park overlooking the sea, towards the Minsmere Reserve – and Sizewell Power Station. Strangely, that doesn’t detract from the beauty, in fact, it makes it feel even more precious and fragile. There are plans to expand Sizewell, an initiative that is being fought by many local people.
I was drawn to this spot, and one morning I got up early and ran along the paths. There was no one about, just hares, rabbits and birds.
If you walk the other way, you come to Dunwich village, really just a small collection of houses, with a pub, and this meadow of ox-eye daisies.
There is also a ruined Abbey, once again, surrounded by wildflowers. I found it incredibly beautiful, and very inspiring. It’s no wonder that there are so many artists living in the area.
Some of my paintings inspired by the flowers…
We went to an Open Studios event, four women artists exhibiting in a gorgeous old farmhouse near Brampton. These cups are by an artist named Claire (I will find her surname and amend this blog!). She is on Instagram as @clairebelljar. I bought two, and now desperately wish I’d bought more.
Open studio house.
Seriously, just wanted to move in…
We also explored Southwold and Aldeburgh, both of which were a short drive away.
Aldeburgh feels out of time…look at this insanely beautiful garden behind the bookshop!
Southwold is probably my favourite, because I love the blend of wildlife habitats with the amazing cottages and grander houses. The town is built around a series of small greens (a legacy of a terrible fire which tore through the town in times past).
The walk from Blackshore Harbour, Southwold, to the small village of Walberswick is well worth doing. Again, you pass through many precious bird habitats such as reed beds and salt marshes, and heathland. Walberswick is so pretty, almost unreal. I wasn’t surprised to learn that it attracts various media folk to own second homes there. Lucky them!
My favourite doorway in Walberswick.
We had coffee here sitting outside, the sun was trying to come through. Then we walked along the sandy beach, before taking the foot ferry (a rowing boat) back over the River Blyth.
Back to Southwold for fish and chips on the sea front…next to the Sailors’ Reading Room which is a must-visit.
The trip could not pass by without a visit to Minsmere, the RSPB reserve. My dad had been looking forward to it throughout some recent hospital treatment, and it was brilliant that he is now well and able to enjoy his favourite pastime.
It was quite a cold, grey day on the reserve, but we saw some amazing birds including a Mediterranean Gull with chicks, and a spotted redshank. We also saw a knot, an egret, avocets and sand martins.
Again, I was amazed by the wildflowers. Leaving my folks to enjoy the afternoon with telescopes and binoculars, Perry and I headed off to Darsham to see the nursery there. I had been briefly earlier this year, and wanted to see it in the summer. It did not disappoint.
Such a stylish place, I love the planting.
So much to see and learn from.
Love a splash of orange….
There is a wonderful restaurant here too. We didn’t eat, but it does have amazing reviews – another one to come back to.
I didn’t really want the week to end – too much real life to come back to, but we softened the blow by stopping at Snape Maltings on our way home. This is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for years and it was worth the wait…
A gorgeous riverside spot, surrounded by meadows, and, as it says on the brochure, music, shops, nature, art…. What more could you want?
Pretty shopping…coffee and cakes in the wonderful cafe, and then home.
I’ll end with this photo of Dad inspecting the honeysuckle scrambling over a tree on Dunwich Heath. It was evening and the scent of the flowers was heady.
Good memories, and the start of a Suffolk love affair I think….