16/2/2018 Shingle Street is the other place in Suffolk that I prefer in winter. Like Staverton Thicks, I first visited in December, on a misty and mysterious afternoon. This winter I took my Christmas visitors there for a Boxing Day walk before our picnic in the woods.
It is a remote, wild and deserted-feeling place, suited to the cold, wind, mist and lack of human activity in winter. It is also one of the few places I have found in Suffolk where, temperature aside, change is barely seasonal. A few colonies of flowering coastal plants live on the stable area of shingle near the Coastguard Cottages, but otherwise change happens on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, according to the tides and winds rather than the tilt of the earth.
I love the Stour Valley. The steep hills and marshy ground near the river mean that more land is given over to small meadows for sheep and cattle than on the higher, flatter ground where I live. The hills also provide some of the best views in Suffolk. Of course, the river itself is the central draw: over the years I have felt an increasing compulsion to be near water, especially rivers.
As 10th May was my mother’s birthday, I decided that a church tour of the Stour Valley would be a fitting way to celebrate it for her. I also wanted to walk and enjoy the many bluebells– which grow in the hedgerows as much as the woodlands in this area – and so an overnight stay at a remote farmhouse I had discovered near Stoke by Nayland seemed the best and most enjoyable way to do both, especially as the weather forecast was good.
7th February I have learned two things today. First, that never having had any historical personal bond with the sea or coast, they have become part of me. Second, that one can walk off pain, as one can walk off calories. Perhaps not in quite such a calculable fashion, but walk for a day and the burden of pain at the end of it is noticeably less than it was at the start. I can almost physically feel it lessen with every step that I take.
31/10/2016 I have Wyken Vineyards to blame for my addiction to Brahma chickens, amongst other things. I first saw them in the orchard at Wyken Hall, along with peacocks, turkeys, guinea fowl and other chicken breeds. I couldn’t stop laughing: when they walked (read: waddled) or ran, they reminded me of somewhat overweight matronly housekeepers in full 19th century gear. Ridiculously fluffy, heavy chickens with trousers on. ‘I absolutely have to have some of those!’ excluded all other thoughts, and the search began that evening.
It is my favourite Suffolk garden open to the public, and not only because of the animals. It is a beautiful place, and one for dreaming in, which I have only lately come to realise is an indispensible element of my life. £12* is no price at all to pay for a season of inspiration and unlimited dreaming opportunities…
17/9/2016 There are many places in Suffolk that no guide book, and hardly even a local, will ever direct you to. Many of them I don’t know the names of, if they even have names. But because they are anonymous, ‘mundane’ – taken for granted as part of the landscape – or hidden away out of sight, they possess a peculiar attraction to me. Apart from the fact that they are simply beautiful and idyllic. I could easily take my bike, thoughts or a book and while away a few minutes or hours sitting in the grass at any of these places and arrive home feeling like I’ve had a holiday, as I have done on many occasions. I often also return in possession of some inspiration or a solved problem. There will no doubt be many more secret spots to add to this collection over the months and years to come…
10/9/2016 I think I should start making more decisions based on location. A first meeting with an accountant in Knodishall, near Aldeburgh, was not, shall we say, top of my list of things to get excited about. However, it did have the advantage of giving me a perfect excuse for a day, or at least afternoon, out on the coast. I was exceptionally lucky: the promised warm, sunny day turned out to be a gloriously hot one, and after surviving the dull pain of an only-just-comprehensible discussion about tax returns in an office with no opening windows (but far better views at least than the average office), I headed to Dunwich Heath with half a hope of catching the heather still in flower. I feared I might be too late, but I need not have worried. It was probably just past its best but still more than good enough for me.
26/8/2016 It has been a busy few months since welcoming my first ‘guinea pig’ guests at the end of April. A fair amount of frantic DIY and administration went into getting the finishing touches in place before and during the trial period (I hope no one looked too closely at the blackout lining!), which is now over, and ‘official’ bookings are starting off well. It has been a delight and not at all nerve-racking, thanks to all the willing guinea pigs who helped me get into practice before there was too much at stake!
20/7/2016 Thirty degrees, tropical downpour. Thunder and lightning with a 45-degree battering by ice bullets.
Taking shelter behind a bush not tree in case of lightning. The storm passes; swimming in steaming bath water surrounded by disappearing white peas. The geese stare. Slate grey horizon one side, blue sunshine the other. A swallow chasing a sparrowhawk chasing a barn owl.
Walking home – roe deer on the path ahead – are they magical spirits? A pheasant sitting on the ‘Free range eggs’ sign as though he is part of the advertisement. Attempt at a dance for joy, goat style. (More practice and legs needed.)
15/5/2016 I’m thrilled that Caught By the River are running The Hobbets! Part 1 here.