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Beehive in the sun (c) Rod Edwards

OLD-FASHIONED FAMILY HOLIDAYS IN SUFFOLK

In an age in which there's an app for everything and even holidays can be virtual, it can sometimes feel like the past is long gone. Never-ending summers spent outdoors, unearthing treasure and building dens: these are the summers we read about in dusty children's books, not a reality. Yet there is a place where an old world charm still exists, where nostalgia reigns, and summer holidays can still be old-fashioned, and its name is Suffolk.
Pin Mill in Suffolk (c) tomline43Pin Mill is the setting for Arthur Ransome's seventh Swallows & Amazons novel
Photo (c) tomline43
Nowhere is Suffolk’s old world charm more evident than in the towns and villages along its 50-mile coastline.
 
The tiny fishing hamlet of Pin Mill on Suffolk’s Shotley Peninsula was the setting for Arthur Ransome's seventh Swallows and Amazons novel, 'We Didn't Mean to go to Sea.’ Ransome lived in Suffolk for five years and was enamoured by Pin Mill, deciding to represent it faithfully in the novel; and while the newest Swallows and Amazons adaptation is set to be released this summer, Pin Mill still retains the same sleepy, coastal loveliness that inspired Ransome in the 1930s. The hamlet has one pub, The Butt & Oyster, which stands by the riverside; a photography studio offering photography courses, fishing nets and homemade cakes; fishing boats moored at the water’s edge, and tranquil views across the River Orwell. And in true Swallows & Amazons style, you can arrive at Pin Mill by boat, pulling up at the little jetty just as Ransome would have done in the Nancy Blackett.
Crankenstein game (c) Rod EdwardsOne of the many hand-built games by inventor Tim Hunkin at Southwold Pier
Photo (c) Rod Edwards
While Pin Mill transports us back to a bygone era of tranquility, Southwold with its beautiful sandy beach reminds us of British seaside holidays at the height of their popularity. Bustling with life, Southwold is famous for its Adnams pubs, notable residents, artistic flair and pretty beach huts (rentable by the day), yet its most appealing feature is its timelessness. The traditional pier contains a wickedly good arcade of games hand-built by local inventor Tim Hunkin, the pre-war sweet shop on the green sells sweets by the quarter-pound, the beach cafe offers a mean bacon sarnie, and the sounds of the market square are frequently punctuated by the clatter of a horse and cart.
Southwold Sweet Shop (c) SarahStop in at Number One St James Green, Southwold for a quarter-pound of sweets
Photo (c) Sarah
Neighbouring Walberswick is similarly nostalgic. The preferred summer pastimes in this charming village are crabbing (fishing for crabs with bits of bacon tied to string), playing on the sand dunes, enjoying a cream tea in the tearooms, and exploring the adjoining Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Dani Church Southwold-Walberswick ferry (c) Rod EdwardsDani Church is the fifth generation of her family to run the Southwold-Walberswick foot ferry
Photo (c) Rod Edwards
To get between Southwold and Walberswick, walkers and cyclists cross the River Blyth in one of Suffolk's four foot ferries. The Southwold-Walberswick ferry has been in operation since 1236, and run by the same family since around 1890. The current ferryman is Dani Church, who spent her childhood on the boat learning to row with her father, and is the 5th generation of her family to ferry people across the river. The crossing may take just two minutes, but it’s enough to feel that you’re experiencing a little piece of history.
History is visibly all around in Suffolk, from the ancient foot ferry traditions to the archaeological and historical sites peppering the countryside, and discovering it with your family is what old-fashioned holidays are all about. At Framlingham Castle there are centuries of history to delve into, as you trace the castle’s journey from seat of Tudor power to home for the poor. Nearby is Sutton Hoo, the site of one of the greatest archaeological finds ever made, where you can unearth the secrets of an Anglo-Saxon ship burial and the treasure that was packed inside. On the other side of Suffolk in West Stow, you can explore a replica Anglo-Saxon village where a real settlement once stood, learning ancient Anglo-Saxon crafts as you go, and at Bury St Edmunds’ ruinous Abbey, you can enjoy a picnic and ponder thousands of years of the town’s existence, dating back to the death of St Edmund.
Framlingham Castle (c) Rod EdwardsDiscover hundreds of years of history at Framlingham Castle
Photo (c) Rod Edwards
Suffolk’s Wool Towns are aching with history, and in places like Lavenham, ‘England’s Best-Preserved Medieval Village,’ it’s hard to believe you’re in the 21st century. From Sudbury to Kersey, Clare to Cavendish, crooked, timber-framed merchants houses lean into one another along winding streets, and spectacular Wool Churches stand as reminders of the Wool Towns’ former wealth. At Lavenham’s 16th century Guildhall, with the kids dressed up in Tudor attire, you can learn about the lives of the town’s richest merchants, as well as its most unfortunate prisoners. And there’s no better way to finish off the history lesson than with cream tea, homemade cakes and Suffolk sausage rolls in the Guildhall’s tearoom.
Lavenham High Street (c) Karen RoeLavenham is full of old world charm 
Photo (c) Karen Roe
In the Suffolk Wool Town of Long Melford you’ll find Melford Hall, the eclectic family home of the Hyde-Parkers, and one of Beatrix Potter’s favourite places to holiday. Visiting her beloved cousin Ethel, Beatrix Potter took extended holidays at Melford Hall between 1899 and 1916, even gifting the Hyde-Parker children her original Jemima Puddleduck toy. While there she spent much of her time drawing, and several of those drawings were recently discovered tucked in between the pages of books. This year is the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth, and copies of the drawings will be on display until the last weekend of October – an opportunity to indulge in a little nostalgia, and introduce a new generation to the magic of Beatrix Potter.
Boating in Flatford (c) Karen RoeSpend an afternoon discovering Constable Country by boat
Photo (c) Karen Roe
Perhaps even more than the Suffolk Wool Towns, the rolling hills and meadows of Constable Country evoke a time long passed, and a rural England at its most beautiful. Visiting Flatford Mill (owned by John Constable’s father) and Willy Lott’s Cottage (subject of Constable’s most famous painting, ‘The Hay Wain’), you can walk in Constable’s footsteps, and see the same views that inspired him throughout his life as a painter. But it’s rowing down the River Stour, or walking through Constable Country on foot, that you really get a taste of the timelessness that makes this place perfect for an old-fashioned holiday: cows chewing cud in the meadows, buildings and villages that haven’t changed in hundreds of years, and miles of unspoilt landscape all around.

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