Suffolk is a place where you can see British countryside at its best. On our family holiday in the east of England, we dipped into Suffolk from our base in neighbouring Norfolk. Our destination was High Lodge Thetford Forest. Although we didn’t explore beyond Thetford, the trip gave us a taster of some of the family-friendly activities to be found in the county. Here are just a few.
High Lodge Thetford Forest (the Brecks)
Thetford Forest is managed by England’s Forestry Commission. High Lodge is a visitor centre on the edge of the 19,000 hectare woodland. Most of the trees are twisted scots pines, which are one of the distinguishing features of this part of Suffolk, known as the Brecks. High Lodge was set up to help families enjoy the natural surroundings, with climbing frames in the shape of giant spiders, high ropes and zip wires run by Go Ape, and forest trails for segways, bikes or hikers. Regular events, like concerts and nature discovery days, bring in locals and holidaymakers from the surrounding area.
We spent a good four hours at High Lodge. The children enjoyed playing on the swings, slides and climbing frames, of course. But there were two surprise hits. The first was the ping-pong table, near the Lodge’s café, where they played for a good half hour. The second was the game they made up, which inolved scrambling through a tunnel they forged through the undergrowth, and jumping out to ‘surprise’ us grown-ups. Over and over again. It never got old.
Practical information: Thetford Forest High Lodge is between the towns of Brandon and Thetford. Entrance is off the A11 or A1065, depending on whether you are driving from Thetford or Brandon. Entry and car parking ranges between £3 and £12.50, based on when you arrive, and how long you park for.
Dedham Vale and Constable Country
To the south of Suffolk lies Constable Country. This is where the celebrated artist John Constable was born, and where he painted his most famous landscapes. His Hay Wain shows an intensely idyllic scene on the River Stour, in the hamlet of Flatford. Little has changed there, since Constable painted the picture in the early 19th Century.
The hamlet of Flatford is now run by the National Trust. As well as being able to wander around the outside of iconic buildings from Constable’s pictures, like Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House (shown in the Hay Wain), there are nature trails and activity packs to help children explore the natural surroundings that inspired the great artist.
Practical Information: The nearest railway station to Flatford is Manningtree, which is just under two miles by footpath, or three and a half miles by road. Cycle hire is available from Manningtree Railway Station. Motorists can park their cars 200 yards from Bridge Cottage, with a charge of £4 per car.
Today there are several places where you can rent a boat, or take a boat trip through the Suffolk scenery that inspired Constable’s evocative artworks. For the more adventurous families, River Stour Boating offer guided canoe tours downriver from Sudbury. River Stour Trust take small groups out on their crafts, from Sudbury, Flatford and Dedham.
The Suffolk Coast
The Suffolk Coast is a 50-mile long Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From the quirky charm of Aldeburgh and Southwold to the evocative, mellow beauty of Walberswick, the Suffolk coast gives plenty of scope for families to explore the British seaside and its wildlife.
To see more of Aldeburgh, Southwold and Walberswick, check out this beautiful post by Suitcases and Sandcastles. Crabbing is popular at sleepy Walberswick, and mini sea-lovers can try their hand at surfing. Across the Blyth (crossing by ferry if you like), Southwold’s traditional pier, and its fish and chip shops offer more old-school seaside delights. Aldeburgh is a genteel seaside resort, where fishermen still display their catches on the beach, next to pretty little fishing boats. It doesn’t end there: Suffolk’s coast has plenty more for families to discover. You can find out more on the Visit Suffolk website.
Where to stay
If you’re looking for self-catering options in Suffolk, you’ll find plenty of properties on the Suffolk Secrets website. From beach huts in Southwold to barn conversions in the depths of the countryside, there are places to suit all tastes. Suffolk Secrets even has some dog-friendly properties.
This is a collaborative post. All views are my own.
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