THATCHED ROOFS, pink and caramel coloured houses, medieval churches and loads of quaint pubs. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Suffolk.
Historically, this county in the east of England has been bypassed for other, more famous areas of England, such as the Lake District, Peak District and the Dales. But not anymore. This is a hip and happening region that now has its tourism act together and has come out fighting.
Given that it’s only 120 kilometres from central London, it seems incongruous that Suffolk hasn’t been on the tourism radar before. This area has inspired writers, artists and painters for centuries – this is the land of Constable, Orwell and Gainsborough. (Fascinating fact. Did you know Gainsborough was one of the first police identikit artists? He drew a picture of some thieves pinching apples from the family orchard which helped the local constabulary apprehend the fruity villains. This and many other factoids can be unearthed during a visit to Gainsborough’s house in Sudbury.)
While the old masters may be consigned to history, the future of tourism in Suffolk isn’t so much food for the eye as food for the tummy. Fresh, local produce is the catch cry in these parts and foodies can find plenty to set their taste buds jangling, while a tour (and all important tasting) at Adnams brewery in Southwold will have the beer lovers in raptures.
At Kenton Hall Estate, not only can you taste the food but you get to cook it as well in the specially-constructed teaching kitchen. When I visited, I got to try my hand at cauliflower soup (which was delicious, even if I say so myself), while the rest of my party dabbled with homemade bread, creamed leeks, rhubarb crumble and shortbread. The lessons are fun and relaxed and – depending on your culinary ability – the results can be scrumptious.
Like many farms in the UK, Kenton has been forced to explore other revenue streams to keep the property going. They produce quality beef from a herd of English Longhorn cattle but are a big wedding venue, have glamping facilities and plan to go into the muesli bar business in the near future.
No doubt these bars will eventually make their way onto the shelves of the Suffolk Food Hall in Wherstead near Ipswich. This is another venture which deserves to succeed because it is trying to encourage people to buy local produce from local growers, rather than pop into the local Tesco. It was recently voted ‘Best Local Food Venue in the UK & Ireland’ by the Countryside Alliance.
Here in the farm shop you’ll find all manner of yummy goodies, including meat, fish, cakes, preserves and cheeses. Stop by and stock up the pantry before enjoying lunch in the on-site restaurant with views over the Orwell Bridge. It’s a great spot to chow down and wonder just why you haven’t visited Suffolk before...