An Interlude in Suffolk.

We broke our journey down to Suffolk by using the caravan club site (cl) at Hallaton 6 miles ESE of Uppingham in the smallest English county of Rutland. Using the tandem, we left the village over some rolling countryside and up to Uppingham. This old market town had a good coffee shop and much fine architecture to admire, much of it associated with the public school founded in 1584 by Archdeacon Robert Johnson, who in the same year also founded my old school at Oakham, just down the road.
We left Uppingham down the lanes towards Wing and Manton where suitable refreshment was found at the hostelry before continuing to Egleton and the bird centre at Rutland Water. (there is a long standing argument as to which is larger - Rutland or Kielder in Northumberland - I think it has something to do with surface area and volume, ask Pete and Maurice). At the bird centre we were fortunate to see the Ospreys, having been informed that there were several males in the locality.
Our time was running out, so we retraced to Manton, then North Luffenham, South Luffenham and Barrowden, before following the river Welland, with an impressive viaduct at Harringworth which we went under three times. (it looked scruffier than Stockport's viaduct). We continued upstream passed Rockingham Castle to Cottingham, Ashley, Medbourne and back to Hallaton. A very pleasant 40 miles, not flat but no big hills.

We continued our journey by car across the fens and down through Thetford Forest to Stowmarket and then Kettleburgh near Framlingham in Suffolk. This Caravan Club Site (cl) was to be our home for the next couple of weeks.

We had picked a good time, May, as the weather was absolutely great for most of the time. Framlingham was our nearest small town with an interesting castle, a college and a small market on Saturdays and Tuesdays. There was a fascinating (but pricey) general stores and a couple of cafes, so it was pleasant to wander round for a couple of hours.
The village store at Kettleburgh had closed until a new sub-postmaster could be found, however, there was a good organic (local) foodshop in nearby Earl Soham where the Victoria Public House boasted its own microbrewery - and good ale it was too. On several occasions the saddlebags could be heard clinking with bottles of Gannet Mild.
Over the two weeks we explored the many local lanes and villages , either by tandem or on solos. The scenery was not remarkable (no big mountains) but was very pleasant rolling country with a variety of farmland, woods and heathland. One factor was the sandy soil which on several occasions had drifted on the road, quite dangerous on some of the tight bends, so caution needs to be exercised.
The nearby town of Woodbridge was worthy of a visit, the main street was pedestrianised with some interesting shops (Ann particularly liked the kitchen shop) and the quayside walk includes the Tidemill, which relies on the tide to fill a reservoir to allow the mill to be kept running, an interesting visit.
There were small market towns such as Wickham Market and Debenham, both of which boasted cafes, (recommended and Debenham had a nearby Teapot Factory with a cafe (we did not visit but have been told it is quite good).
Blaxhall had a good pub (but only open at weekends), Snape Maltings had a cafe and Pub and the site of the Old Maltings is used as a shopping mall. Also at the Maltings is the theatre for the famous Aldburgh Festival (July), there are other musical interludes, so a visit is interesting. We were fortunate in that a Norfolk barge was moored up at the time.
Aldburgh itself was an interesting town and Thorpeness just north along the coast boasts a windmill and a fascinating house, called the House in the Clouds.
Eye was a one pub town, which was basic but provided good sustenance. The town boasted plenty of old buildings, but was certainly not geared up to the tourist. Southwold, however, was altogether different, here the holiday maker is king, but it is like going back in time - there is only one small amusement arcade, and the colourful beach huts are at a premium. Adnams pubs are to the fore as this is the home of this fine ale. By passing through the boatyards and crossing the river Blyth on a footbridge it is possible to reach Walberswick, which boasted a good cafe.
For the birdwatchers, we made a mistake in trying Minsmere bird reserve on a Tuesday - closing day, but fortunately Dunwich Heath proved well worth a visit and we saw Marsh Harriers, Stonechats, warblers and deer. A return visit to Minsmere was very enjoyable (there is a cafe) and we ticked off Marsh Harriers, Avocet, Mallard, Widgeon, Shoveler, Great Crested Grebe, Tree Creeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Also the rarely seen Bittern and a Little Egret. We just missed the Purple Heron and saw no sign of the Nightingales or Cecis Warbler.
Also seen over the course of our visit to Suffolk were hares, a stoat, a seal and a Green Woodpecker, so altogether a fairly fruitful trip on the wildlife front.
To avoid the traffic on the return, we decided to travel overnight. This proved quite exciting as towards Thetford were running low on petrol and finding the 24 hour Tesco proved a bit more troublesome than expected. The cafe was closed at Tescos so we opted for a stop at Thetford Forest, mistake! We had both wondered whether there would be a barrier to the car parks, there was no obvious sign, so we indicated and turned right - 20 yds in was the barrier! reversing the caravan back onto the main road proved a bit tricky, so in the end we unhitched it, pushed it back and then re-hitched. Of course we had blocked the entrance during these manoeuvres, you would be surprised at the traffic flow into the forest car park at midnight!! Anyway hitched up we were soon on our way again until we found a more suitable pull off. As we sat there drinking our tea we became aware of these strange gurgling noises ! What could it be? Ann said " I'm not going out to look." So after a few minutes more puzzling I ventured out. I tracked it down to an airlock in the petrol tank due to the fact that we had just filled right up! did we feel silly. Anyway the rest of the journey proved uneventful with a lovely dawn over the Derbyshire hills as we continued the drive home.

Mike Workman