Caravan County: Suffolk

Posted 16 February by Mason Jones

Suffolk is a large and diverse county stretching from the rolling chalkland country west of Newmarket, on the Cambridgeshire border, all the way to the very easternmost point of the British mainland, down on the beach at Lowestoft. According to Suffolk County Council, “...with ancient landscapes, seaside heritage, historic wool towns, and many hidden gems, Suffolk is a special and unique place to visit. Enjoy the great outdoors and get close to nature by exploring over 5,000 km of waymarked paths, two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, long distance footpaths and national cycle routes”. 

The largest continuous area of lowland afforestation in England, much of it managed by the Forestry Authority, is to be found here, around Thetford and Brandon, providing off-road cycling, picnicking and ornithology opportunities. Here can be found some of our remotest and most evocative stretches of coastline - at places like Dunwich, on the wilds of Orfordness and along the untamed beachlands at Shingle Street, near Bawdsey.  

As regards heritage, the impressive medieval Guildhall of Corpus Christi and ‘cathedral-class’ church in Lavenham are rightly world famous. This is testimony to the great former wealth of the area based upon the wool trade and textile production. Again demonstrating the opulence of former owners, the Ancient House Museum in Clare represents a superb example of regional pargeting, or ornamental exterior plasterwork. If it’s castles that you’re after, there are some well-preserved examples at Framlingham and Orford, and more modest and romantic ruins such as those of the Norman castle at Clare, the remains of Leiston Abbey, near Bawdsey, or at Eye Castle to the north.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are represented by the Suffolk coast and heaths in the southeast, where the RSPB’s Minsmere Reserve provides a jewel in the crown, and the possibly better-known area of Dedham Vale on the Essex border, with its perennial connections to England’s most famous Landscape painter, John Constable. In the top right-hand corner of the county, between Beccles and Lowestoft, you’ll find Oulton Broad and Somerleyton Hall - an area that now enjoys a National Park equivalent conservation status.

Recent history saw a power-struggle between the key administrative, civic, ecclesiastical and agricultural centre of Bury St. Edmunds in the west and its larger, maritime-orientated rival of Ipswich, to the east. Of far lesser consequence now, Suffolk has, in parts, subsequently become subjected to a ‘neo-gentrification’ and modernised cultural process. Whilst the fame and attraction of Thomas Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury and ‘Constable Country’ have existed ever since the time that Willy Lott was pulling onions at his cottage by the River Stour, more recent artistic phenomena have been emerging, including the Benjamin Britten/Peter Pears’ patronage of Aldeburgh and the Snape Maltings and the purpose-built Visitor Experience run by the National Trust near to the site of the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial discovery of 1938-39, at Woodbridge.  

Long Melford, not far from Lavenham, embodies a trend towards art and architectural quality, antiques and up-market tendencies. Where did the Prime Minister choose to go with his family during the summer of 2008? - A rural retreat just outside Southwold. Yes, parts of Suffolk have certainly been shaking off an old-fashioned image and gone up-market. Celebrities have hung out in the ‘backwoods’ of Walberswick and the art deco of Thorpeness. Residential property prices, as well as local ‘olde tea shoppes’, fully reflect these trends.

Visit Suffolk’s official tourism website and discover the perfect place to spot wildlife, fly a kite, listen to birdsong, have a paddle, go for a ramble, cross-country cycle, walk your dog or even hug a tree! Use the fun interactive map to download free walking guides, cycle maps and information on all of Suffolk’s country parks, picnic spots, wildlife sites and bird reserves. There are loads of free events listed throughout the year for all the family, details of accommodation for a walking or cycling holiday and great ideas from people who make Suffolk such a special place to visit.