Surprisingly we were up and organised earlier than expected so began the detour to Norwich via the Suffolk coast. The route took us past Snape Maltings and to a coffee shop in Aldeburgh before heading for the beach. After admiring the scallop shell tribute to Benjamin Britten by Maggi Hamblin it was a trudge through the shingle. More had been brought in recently to protect coastal erosion so the best beach combing was a little further back from the water where plants were beginning to take hold. I tried to avoid walking on them. I only picked up one item, a black dog fish egg case which will inspire some art work I am sure. Towards Thorpe Ness, coloured houses back onto the beach and behind the road is a nature reserve. The day we visited mute swans, black headed gulls and mallard were the most common sightings. We sat outside the shop to have our picnic, accompanied by jackdaws who hoped we might drop something. Amazingly the shop was shut (on a Friday) and must have lost quite a bit of business from the walkers and other people around. Afterwards we cut inland to a nursery which advertised that it sold unusual plants. I did find something new to me: Mathiasella bulperoides (no common name here – it hails from Mexico) and it should be a good addition to my woodland garden which is under renovation. We stood in a queue to pay and the process seemed unnecessarily convoluted. Ironically the queue was in front of a sign advertising their ‘efficient mail order service’ . Plant purchased, it was off to Norwich to spend a night with Rob & Julie and then back home today to start planning the next venture. The sky ahead was very black, the radio was reporting snow showers on Shap and we are back to the rainy northwest.
Woken this morning by someones burglar alarm at 5.30am. At least we were staying in Lavenham for a final exploration so plenty of time for a cup of tea. The day started sunny but very windy so we wandered around looking at the buildings and the two antique centres. The old buildings really are wonderful and it is such a shame that we have lost so many in our towns and villages. When I am travelling in Australasia and the later-colonised parts of North America, I am reminded that I do love living in an ‘old country’ where our history is all around us as Patrick Wright wrote. It also highlights how colonial expansion previously and now the demand for fuels and food is removing many peoples from their places and history. The sky has now clouded over so the rest of the day will be spent reading and relaxing as tomorrow we leave. The plan is to divert to the coast between Aldeburgh and Southwold before turning back inland towards Norwich to visit my brother and sister in law. On Saturday we will be heading homewards.
The historic centre of Bury St Edmunds was our destination this morning. In addition to many medieval and Georgian buildings there are the ruins of the Abbey, now in the midst of a garden populated by mallard ducks and the impressive cathedral. The cathedral was decorated by a schools project with colourful sculptures, paintings and wall-hangings. A potent reminder that before the Reformation, our churches were decorated and colourful. The works also gave me some inspiration which chimed with memories of totem poles seen on Route 66 and tall funeral columns made by indigenous Australians. The theme of the schools project was ‘pilgrims’ and this seems appropriate for a sculpture I might attempt. I should point out that to date, my work is two-dimensional so this will be a new venture and I would like to use as many upcycled things and materials I already have. Wandering the streets we appreciated the music of a busking guitarist and found Churchgate Books. A great second hand bookshop (also does bookbinding) with what looked like a stuffed cat on the shelves. My first assumption was that this was a much loved Moggie who had seen a not very skilled taxidermist. I asked the proprietor about its history and he said he could not have a live cat in the shop as he lived there and could not find an appropriate toy one in the UK. Turning to Ebay he had obtained one from China which he was told was made from rabbit hair. I am not convinced but unless anyone does hair analysis, we will never know. Needless to say our bags now contain more books than we started out with.
This large estate now owned by the National Trust and is between Lavenham and Bury St Edmunds. We visited this morning while the sun was still shining and managed some photos in the grounds before it clouded over. I wondered why the walled garden (which was devoid of plants) was so far from the house until I discovered that the original Tudor house (now gone) used to be down there and the Rotunda (built later) was built on the hill to be more imposing. We looked around the house which has some Gainsborough and Reynolds portraits and a great collection of silver but was disappointed to find that the plant sale was not on due to renovations. By now it was raining and quite windy so we headed back to Lavenham to spend a quiet afternoon reading.
Last night there was an almost full moon hanging over Lavenham. Today we visited Sudbury which is just a few miles south for some essential shopping. We were fortunate to find in a sale, two dark green waterproofs which will not frighten the animals in Tanzania and better for bird watching here than the current ones which are red and bright blue. Afterwards we explored Kersey which is described by the Rough Guide as the most picturesque village in Suffolk. It does have numerous old houses, a ford with one moorhen sighted and a 14th century pub which did a very good and very reasonably priced lunch. We tootled back to Lavenham and are now ensconced in the Greyhound where the locals are discussing having cats.
Another lovely day so the plan was to take the train to Cambridge as James had never been there. The train turned out to be a bus whose driver did not know the way to the stations along the route so had to be directed by locals. Due to Newmarket, the countryside is even more horsey than Cheshire with some very expensive horses, stables and white rails everywhere. Once there, we wandered around the town and down by the river, had some lunch and attempted to get James’s malfunctioning iPhone sorted out to no avail. The driver on the bus back seemed to know where he was going at least.
On Friday, after many miles of fog-bound tarmac, we eventually found a B road that lead through small villages, fields reminiscent of East Lothian and cherry blossom to our bolt-hole in medieval Lavenham. Our tiny cottage is in the main street and an ideal base to explore the area. We are supposed to be able to log on to a BT hotspot but medieval buildings seem to be a black hole for mobile signals and wifi. The Greyhound pub savers the day. Some might say this is a good thing. Saturday was windy but dry so we decided to walk a section of St Edmund’s Way to Long Melford along a disused railway line. It went past fields and through woodland where spring flowers were emerging. Long Melford is, as its name suggests a long village with a bookshop, tea-room and a wedding happening at the historic church. We walked back along the same route.