I think we all have a place that is special to us. For me, one of those places is the Suffolk coast.
Growing up, I spent many holidays staying with my granddad who lives a few miles away from Thorpness and Aldeburgh.
During my formative years, these idyllic pockets of the sleepy east coast have remained relatively tranquil even during the tourist seasons.
I love returning year after year. We stay with my granddad and his wife in their beautiful bungalow, which has over an acre of ground brimming with fruit trees and wildlife. It’s a slower pace of life, you can press pause and unwind. It’s not hard. Especially as my granddad always insists on ice cream and at least one visit to a tea room during our holiday.
With an abundance of culture, art, heritage and beauty, the Suffolk coast has remained the one place that inspires me in every way. It is part of my own history and therefor, who I am and I love that I can share these special part of the world with my boys.
If you’re considering a trip to Suffolk, here are a couple of great reasons to go.
Seeped in cultural and artistic heritage, I have always felt a strong affinity with Aldeburgh.
These days it is a popular getaway for those seeking a British seaside town devoid of arcades and tacky souvenir shops. But it is the character of cultural significance that is still celebrated by the town and surrounding areas today.
The timeless seaside town with moody skies and seas inspired the works of composer Benjamin Britten. It is also the place where suffragist Elizabeth Garrett Anderson grew up to be one of the most important women in Britain’s history. The town is proud of their heritage and regularly holds exhibitions, concerts and talks celebrating Britten and Anderson. That’s not forgetting the Scallop sculpture on the beach between Aldeburgh and Thorpness, unveiled as a striking tribute to Britten.
Aldeburgh has a pretty high street where you can browse boutique shops and art galleries, buy ice cream, cakes, fish and chips or something more refined from one of the many restaurants.
Meander down the side streets to the pebble beach lined with fisherman boats. The grey and bracing North Sea sets a dramatic scene against the contrasting pastel-coloured townhouses.
As a child I used to swim in the sea at Aldeburgh. I have a vivid memory of my granddad insisting that I take part in a swimming race and even though the sea was rough, I joined in anyway.
I think I won the race. Either that or the waves tossed me about so much that I ended up somewhere further down the coast line with little effort. My dad filmed the moment a wave took me out, and you can hear him shouting words of encouragement such as “That’s it. She’s going to drown.”
Thorpness is a tiny, fairytale resort a few miles up the coast from Aldeburgh. Designed to appeal to social idealism, the pretty hamlet is nestled between the sea and the boating lake.
Thorpness was promoted as The Home of Peter Pan, with JM Barrie – the author of The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grown Up (Peter Pan) taking inspiration from the village. The House in The Clouds is a famous landmark and can be rented out as a holiday home.
The boating lake is the main attraction, where you can rent rowing boats, canoes and gondolas. Once on the lake, explore the Peter Pan islands named after the characters in the book, with a Wendy House and a pirate’s lair being some of the places that can be discovered.
From the age of 7 or 8, my sister and I would go out alone and race up and down the lake in our canoes. There’s also a shingle beach, a golf club, tea rooms and a couple of pubs. It’s small, but perfectly formed with visitors returning year after year having fallen in love with this magic and charm.
Last year, I got speaking to a lady in her 80’s who was visiting Thorpness. She told me she had come back every year since she was 6 years old to rent a boat out on the lake, and has no intention of stopping the tradition for as long as she lives.
‘Coffee on the pier, followed by beer’ – Is my motto when I visit Southwold.
This historic town lies further up the coast and is home to the world famous Adnams brewery and distillery. You may recognise the opening shots of Grandpa in My Pocket featuring Southwold landmarks such as the lighthouse and beach hut lined promenade.
For me though, the highlight is the Southwold Pier. With penny-pushing arcades and Tim Hunkin’s eccentric inventions, this isn’t your standard British seaside pier. The Water Clock provides a cheeky show every 30-minutes and the shops provide a treasure chest of gifts and trinkets (One of the shops is actually called Treasure Chest).
We always head to the cafe and enjoy a slice of cake and while looking out of the sandy beach lined with colourful beach huts.
The weather never stops us from hitting the beach either. In January we had a family reunion and it was agreed that we should head to Southwold, build sandcastles and paddle in the sea (with wellies on) despite it being about 2 degrees!
Snape Maltings sits on the banks of the River Alde and is the home of music and art. There are many shops, art galleries, walks and wildlife. It also hosts to the Aldeburgh Festival which celebrates Benjamin Britten and Berstein.
There is something here to keep everyone happy. It’s wonderful in the summer when children can explore the sculptures nestling on the edge of the grazing marshland. In the winter you can browse the shops for pretty home interiors, old fashioned toys as well as arts and crafts.
We usually just go for a mooch in the shops and a cup of tea, but I’m sure one day I will take a boat ride down the river or go to one of the many concerts they hold each year.
I love Suffolk and always dream of buying a townhouse in Southwold or Aldeburgh. I am certain the novelty of being somewhere so beautiful and creative would never wear thin.