Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Set in the south east of England, the county of Suffolk is a very picturesque place to visit and its villages inspired me to write the It Out series of books: Puzzling It Out and Fathom It Out. (Check It Out, is in the process of being written.) I spent time travelling between Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, the first being the county town without a cathedral, the latter being a town with a cathedral, but neither have city status. This begs the question, does Suffolk have a city? Maybe not, but not for the want of trying.
Regardless, I visited a number of villages, including Battersford, where I had a sublime meal at the Punchbowl Inn, where a map of Suffolk graces the wall. As pubs are struggling to stay in business in the more off the beaten track areas, members of the local community donate their free time to keeping the village pub up and running and this community is doing a great job of welcoming visitors and residents alike, serving quality food and drink with a smile.
Being once a very wealthy area, divided into farmland estates, Suffolk farmworkers needed somewhere to pray, thus the county abounds with churches, one of the more unusual ones being Shelland where a church organ is turned by hand. This church features in Fathom It Out, because I found it so unique and interesting and I was given a very warm welcome by the local parishoners, sharing a cup of coffee and slice of cake after an Easter service.
The village of Woodbridge once boasted several thriving dockyards and there is still evidence of their existence. Along the River Deben, where I spent a pleasant few hours learning of its history from a Twitter friend, Luke. There is always something unusual to see in the countryside, but a bespectacled skeleton strapped to a tree to ward off evil spirits has to be one of the strangest of sights!
Then there is Constable Country along the River Stour, where the artist, John Constable, painted Flatford Mill and other paintings, now in the National Gallery in London. I took a walk along the river, which is home to ducks, swans and, no doubt, other wildlife, who daren’t venture out whilst tourists wander the banks. It’s a beautiful, serene spot and worth a look on a sunny day.
Suffolk can boast better weather than much of the British Isles and one Sunday afternoon I drove around the country in search of the windmills, (an idea I mentioned in passing in my novel, Puzzling It Out). I even used a picture of Theltenham Windmill on the front cover of Change of Plans.
I didn’t go in any of the windmills but enjoyed the sunshine and watching some in action. They are not easy to keep and are mostly privately owned. Kudos to those who do maintain them as they add interest to the somewhat flat countryside, as do many of the old thatched houses.
Suffolk is relatively flat, thus ideal for walking. There are walks all over the county, some pathways better trodden than others, but I ensured I kept on those pathways and not meander across the fields where a multitude of crops are planted throughout the year.
If I were to pick one village I found charming and worth a visit it would be Lavenham. This once thriving market town, one of the most wealthy in the Middle Ages, has some of the most beautiful Tudor buildings, including The Swan Hotel and the guildhall, situated in the village square, opposite a war memorial. The town also has a wonderful gothic church, St Peter’s and St Paul’s, built in the late 15thcentury.
Within its walls is a very unusual gravestone “in memory of” a nineteen-year-old medical student who died “in the third year of his apprenticeship to a surgeon at Bury”. Due to the “good behaviour” of the young man, “his master has laid a stone over him”.
I can’t say any one village is the setting in any of my novels, but the verdant greenery and old buildings certainly fuel the imagination. I’d like to thank Suffolk for being most inspiring and I look forward to returning.