- Marshland, beaches and birdsong
- Country life
- Watermills and windswept walks
Flat as a pint of Adnams left in the sun, evocative East Anglia has more in common, topographically at least, with just-across-the-North-Sea Netherlands than the hilly counties to the west.
Suffolk’s colour palette – all coppery rushes, yellow gorse bushes and silvery waterways – is about as English as Gouda, too. Essentially rural, the county relies heavily on farming, and any motoring jaunt will take you past fields of fat pink porkers, wallowing in marshland mud. This means that Suffolk butchers’ shops are full of wonderful sausages, hams and bacons – but fresh fish is also sold all along the coast. Close to the beautiful cities of Cambridge and Norwich, Suffolk is not the rural backwater that many believe it to be. Indeed, its blend of ravishing scenery and sea air attracts affluent weekenders up the A12, many of whom have bought second homes – creating urbanite outposts in the increasingly fashionable towns of Southwold and Aldeburgh.
When entering a Suffolk village, the first thing you’ll notice is its pale-red buildings. Though probably coated in Dulux these days, ‘Suffolk Pink’ houses are a hangover from a time when thrifty farmers would mix their whitewash with pig’s blood. Adnams bitter – brewed in Southwold for 135 years – never quite tastes the same outside the county (www.adnams.co.uk).
- There is a taxi rank in Ipswich, but cabs need pre-ordering elsewhere. Try Southwold Taxis (+44 (0)1502 723400) if you’re near the coast, or Darren’s Taxi (+44 (0)1638 609119) in Bury St Edmunds if you’re in the Breckland.
- Tipping culture
- 10–15 per cent is standard, but many restaurants now add a discretionary 12.5 per cent, so be careful not to tip twice.
- Packing tips
- The land here is so flat, with a pair of binoculars you’ll be able to see for miles. Also, make sure you bring a jar of good apple sauce to go with all the scrummy local pork you’ll buy. A kite is fun for windy days.
- Recommended reads
- George Crabbe’s poem ‘Peter Grimes’ – taken from his 1810 collection The Borough, and later turned into an opera by Aldeburgh resident Benjamin Britten – is perhaps Suffolk’s most evocative literary representation; and Esther Freud’s novel The Sea House is essential reading if you’re heading to the coast.
- Regional specialities
- Gourmands should restock their larders with the local honey, gently infused with wild lime flower and bramble, from Aldeburgh producers Suffolk Larder (www.suffolklarder.co.uk). At Jimmy’s Farm in Wherestead near Ipswich (+44 (0)870 950 0210; www.essexpigcompany.com), Jamie Oliver’s friend and colleague Jimmy Doherty rears rare-breed Essex pigs and turns them into fabulous chops, sausages and bacon. Pay them a visit and you can follow a woodland trail, sample his fantastic pork products from the barbecue in the garden and stock up on gardening goodies at the Pink Tractor Garden Shop.
- Pound sterling.
- Time zone
- Dialling codes
- Country code for the UK: +44.
Don't go home without...
… a string of award-winning pork sausages from Rolfe’s of Walsham in Walsham-le-Willows, near Bury (+44 (0)1359 259225). Enjoy them with some Colman’s mustard from – whisper it – neighbouring Norfolk.