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SUFFOLK: LONDON'S BACK GARDEN

There are many great things about living in The Big Smoke, but when the stress of city life gets too much, there’s only one antidote: a weekend in London’s back garden: Suffolk. Here’s our guide to getting your countryside fix in Suffolk, including travel times to each destination from the capital:
Jeep safari at the Wilderness Reserve (c) The Wilderness ReserveExplore the Wilderness Reserve in Sibton, Suffolk on a jeep safari
Photo (c) The Wilderness Reserve

FIND YOUR OWN PIECE OF WILDERNESS

In Suffolk it’s still possible to find your own little piece of nature to call home. At Ivy Grange Farm on the Suffolk coast you can stay up late chatting by the campfire, sleep under the stars in a yurt, and wake up to birdsong and a warm woodland shower. On the other side of Suffolk at Tuddenham Mill, you can cosy up in a boutique room and look out over streams and water meadows, before heading down to the hotel restaurant for the Good Food Guide’s Best Set Lunch Menu in the country. Similarly luxurious is Milsoms Kesgrave Hall near Ipswich: a stunning boutique hotel surrounded by rich woodland. Finally, there’s Hex Cottage on the Wilderness Reserve in Sibton. At this former gamekeeper’s cottage you can completely disconnect from the stress of London life: with no electricity, everything is heated and powered by a wood-fired range, where you can cook using herbs picked from your own private garden. Every morning you’ll open your door to fresh pastries, a newspaper, and 4,500 acres of private country estate to explore.

Travel Times:

Tuddenham Mill, Tuddenham – 1 hour 40 mins
Milsoms Kesgrave Hall, Kesgrave – 1 hour 50 mins
Ivy Grange Farm, Westhall – 2 hours 30 minsWilderness Reserve, Sibton – 2 hours 15 mins
Wilderness Reserve, Sibton – 2 hours 15 mins

Assington Mill Suffolk (c) Assington MillAssington Mill offers courses in foraging and rural skills
Photo (c) Assington Mill

GO FORAGING FOR WILD FOOD

The best back gardens are full of edible treats, and Suffolk is no different. Foraging in Suffolk is a popular pastime, and one of the best ways to do it is with a guide. A one-day foraging course at Assington Mill will set you back £85 in return for baskets of mushrooms and other foods, a delicious wild lunch, and skills that last a lifetime. (They also do courses in cider-making, wild medicine, blacksmithing, and much more.) After a day’s foraging, there’s no better way to celebrate than with a pint of Aspalls cyder, Adnams beer or St Peter’s ale, all brewed right here in Suffolk. In fact, while you’re here, why not take a behind the scenes tour of the breweries and take a bottle of something home with you?

Travel Times:

Assington Mill, nr. Sudbury – 1 hour 45 mins
St Peter’s Brewery, Bungay – 2 hours 30 mins
Adnams Sole Bay Brewery, Southwold – 2 hours 35 mins

Go Ape forest segway (c) Go ApeClimb a tree at Go Ape, or segway under it!
Photo (c) Go Ape

CLIMB A TREE

As children we all loved climbing trees, so why did we ever stop? In Suffolk, tree climbing is not just for kids: at Go Ape treetop adventure park in Thetford Forest you can climb, swing and jump through the trees with a group of friends and family; or, if heights aren’t your thing, you can speed along the forest floor on a Segway.

Travel Times:

Go Ape Thetford, Brandon – 1 hour 45 mins

Suffolk Walking FestivalSpend an afternoon with your dog on The Suffolk Coast
Photo (c) The Suffolk Walking Festival

WALK THE DOG

At almost 1,500 square miles, Suffolk is a pretty big garden for any dog. You and your pal can play fetch in the surf along Suffolk’s 50-mile coastline; explore Westleton Heath, home to a population of beautiful red deer; and run through Rendlesham Forest, famous for its mysterious UFO sightings. At Ickworth near Bury St Edmunds you’ll also find 1,800 acres of National Trust parkland and a dog-friendly hotel.

Travel Times:

National Trust, Ickworth – 1 hour 40 mins
Rendlesham Forest – 2 hours
Westleton Heath – 2 hours 20 mins

Cycling in Suffolk (c) Rod EdwardsThere's cycling for all abilities in Suffolk
Photo (c) Rod Edwards

GO CYCLING IN SUFFOLK

From gentle coastal paths to this year’s Tour of Britain route, there’s cycling for all levels of ability in Suffolk. You can race through Thetford Forest on your mountain bike, train for a triathlon with Peleton Training, explore Suffolk’s two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or relax on a sightseeing cycling holiday with Cycle Breaks.

Travel Times:

High Lodge, Thetford Forest – 1 hour 45 mins
Dedham Vale AONB – 1 hour 35 mins
Cycle Breaks, Needham Market – 1 hour 50 mins
Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB – 2 hours
Peleton Training, Butley – 2 hours 5 mins

A rare firecrest, captured in Suffolk
Photo (c) Jo Garbutt

GO BIRDWATCHING

Despite the multitude of sounds flowing through London, there’s one that is often missing: birdsong. It’s a sound that does wonders for the soul, and there’s nowhere better to hear it than Suffolk. Here you can get up before sunrise and listen to the dawn chorus at RSPB Minsmere, home to BBC Springwatch; or watch thousands of rare birds wading at RSPB Havergate Island. At Brandon Country Park you can spot tiny flame-headed firecrests, and at Lackford Lakes, swooping kingfishers and murmurings of starlings.

Travel Times:

Brandon Country Park, Brandon – 1 hour 35 mins
Lackford Lakes, nr. Bury St Edmunds – 1 hour 35 mins
RSPB Havergate Island, Orford – 2 hours 25 mins
RSPB Minsmere, nr. Dunwich – 2 hours 30 mins

Somerleyton Hall maze (c) Visit EnglandExplore the astounding maze and gardens at Somerleyton Hall 
Photo (c) Visit England

RELAX AMONG THE FLOWERS

Suffolk is a county full of flower gardens, many of them surrounding impressive medieval halls and stately homes. Ickworth House near Bury St Edmunds boasts an Italianate garden and neoclassical villa, while at Kentwell Hall & Gardens in Long Melford you’re likely to stumble upon several surprises, including some real-life Tudors. Some of the most impressive gardens, horticulturally speaking, are those at Helmingham Hall, created and maintained by Chelsea Flower Show designer Lady Xa Tollemache; and Somerleyton Hall & Gardens, where you’ll find a 90m-long flower pergola. You can find more Suffolk gardens to visit here.

Travel Times:

Ickworth House, Horringer – 1 hour 35 mins
Kentwell Hall & Gardens, Long Melford – 1 hour 40 mins
Helmingham Hall & Gardens, Helmingham – 2 hours
Somerleyton Hall & Gardens, Somerleyton – 2 hours 30 mins

Piglets at Jimmy's Farm (c) Alex HealingHappy piglets at Jimmy's Farm
Photo (c) Alex Healing

TEND TO THE ANIMALS

London’s back garden is home to many farm animals, some, like the Suffolk Punch horse, that are native to Suffolk and have shaped the history of this rural county. (You can pay a visit to the Suffolk Punch Trust in Hollesley Bay to meet a herd of these beautiful, gentle giants.) Easton Farm Park, Jimmy’s Farm and Baylham Rare Breeds Farm are all working farms where you can get a taste of rural life, from pottering about with the pigs to meeting newborn lambs.

Travel Times:

Jimmy’s Farm, Ipswich – 1 hour 45 mins
Baylham Rare Breeds Farm, nr. Ipswich – 1 hour 50 mins
Suffolk Punch Trust, nr. Orford – 2 hours 10 mins
Easton Farm Park, nr. Framlingham – 2 hours 10 mins

TRAVEL INFORMATION

All travel times are measured from central London as if travelling by car without traffic. You can also reach Suffolk by train, with trains leaving three times an hour from London Liverpool Street.

ARE YOU A LONDONER IN SUFFOLK?

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