Tuesday morning (just) saw us in Stowmarket, a little to the west. We had actually been here before – on the Sunday night when we’d stumbled across the local Wetherspoons in search of some grog and grub. Some independent shops mingled with the more predominant chains and it seemed to be reasonably busy. Pleasant but not particularly inspiring was how I found it. There are a number of supermarkets surrounding it and again, the local council seem to be doing their bit in one way at least by keeping parking charges reasonable. Very reasonable for anyone who’s been asked to stand and deliver by Brighton & Hove Council in exchange for a parking spot.
Our next and last stop was at Needham Market and fairly brief as the weather deteriorated and the mist turned into rain. Mostly independent shops cluster along the main road which was at one time the route of the old A45 – now the A14. Can you imagine the traffic now! Continuing the famous former residents theme, Needham Market can boast June Brown, much better known as Dot Cotton in Eastenders, who was born there.
Tuesday evening Elizabeth & David invited over to the farmhouse for a drink and we had a very pleasant evening chinwagging whilst getting to sample some local brew too.
Wednesday saw us head over the border again – but south this time in to Essex and Southend. Not perhaps the obvious destination when staying in charmingly rural Suffolk, so let me explain. We were there to meet Richard Burgess, director at Cover 4 Caravans – as the name might suggest an insurance company favoured by Legs Down and many of our caravanning pals too. Well, meet we did, along with manager Michael and the reason for the meeting was to confirm Richards’s very kind offer to sponsor our Twittercamp meets for 2016. This will allow us to procure some merchandise as well as put on BBQ’s, transport to attractions and the like. Thank you once again Richard for your support, it was nice to finally put a face to the name to you and Michael and we really appreciate what you are doing for us.
Thursday was a little brighter, weatherwise and we headed south again, back down the A14 to have a look around Ipswich. To be honest this was more shopping than sightseeing – I came away emptyhanded but Trev found a very nice jacket – not black sadly but there’s no accounting for taste! It was nice to see, in amongst the garish modern shop fronts, some of the orginal buildings still remained.
Next (and last) up and further down the A14 and the impressive Orwell Bridge was Felixstowe – probably best known for it’s large container port. We’d been here before – a couple of years ago but never venture beyond the town centre. This time we followed the signs to the port viewing area right at the southernmost tip on which is the old Landguard Fort. The fort was closed for the winter sadly, along with the accompanying museum and there were no shipping movements whilst we were there but it afforded great views of the harbour and we could see a monster of a container ship being unloaded. The area reminded me a little of the stark beauty of Dungeness
We had a pootle along the seafront, looking remarkably good in the late afternoon December gloom, before stopping briefly in the town centre for some bits and bobs.
Friday, and west was the direction in which Rosie, our muddy old tug, was pointed. First up was Framlingham, not so much for sightseeing but to say hello – and put another face to the name – of another fellow Twitterer – Reg from The Tug Co. Regulars may recall that we reviewed Reg’s great portable trailer dolly ‘The Tug’ a while back – and an updated version just a couple of months ago. Click or tap HERE for a link. Again, we had a good old chinwag and did hang around long enough to take a few photo’s too. Another charming and friendly little Suffolk towm that would look so much better without that essential modern eysore – the car. Hardly unique in that though hey?
Framlingham Castle was on the edge of town, but sadly closed – again unsurprising given the time of year.
By lunchtime, we were on the coast again – back at dear old Southwold. Ok, the main reason for the visit was to buy some beer – Ale heads will know that the Adnams brewery is based here, but it’s always a pleasant place to visit. On the pier is an exhibition of some truly weird and wonderful machines – some completely bizarre – and they are well worth a look. A very civilized lunch fortified us before we headed to the brewery shop, picking up a couple of mini- casks of their excellent Southwold Bitter.
Southwold, apart from being on the coast also sits on the northern side of the river Blyth. To the south is the little village of Walberswick which was almost our last stop before heading back to base There is no vehicle crossing so it’s a fifteen minute drive or so around. Beach huts – many painted black – wahay! – sit behind the sand bank and a boardwalk stretches out to the beach.
Last stop of the day was back in Debenham – at another brewery shop. Having sampled a couple of beers from The Earl Soham brewery on a nocturnal reserach expedition the night before we decided to pick up a mini-cask from them too…..
Saturday, saw us heading south, and across the border again, to Colchester to see my cousin and his wife who had invited us over for a meal. It’s so great that after years of hardly seeing one another - apart from funerals - we now - thanks to caravanning – have a shared interest and see each other regularly. Not only that but Andy’s wife Janet is a damn fine cook too – we had a great afternoon and evening, meeting for the first time in ages, their girls Sarah amd Amanda and respective partners Derek and Tim.
Right, by the time you get this we will be in Cambridge – for the ‘family’ bit of the trip mostly but hopefully to catch up with a few friends too. We’re here for a week before hitching up again for the longer journey down to Kent for our final week.