Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Back to my roots...

Some of my happiest childhood memories involve visits to the East Anglian county of Suffolk. My mum was born & brought up in a market town on the Suffolk/Norfolk border, and my grandfather (like my great-grandfather Walter & my great-great grandfather Robert) owned the bakery/restaurant in the marketplace. By the time we were born, Grandma & Grandad had moved to a wondeful former Captain's house on the coast...we girls loved visiting so much, even though it was a long journey cross country in those days (and we were usually horribly carsick!)

Even though my grandparents are both long gone, the county still draws me back...so beautiful and, in contrast to where we live, so unspoilt and empty. Last weekend, we had a break there with my parents - and Alice, of course! We rented an ancient cottage in the medieval heritage town of Lavenham...


Alice wasted no time in making herself at home! We were blessed in that the weather was absolutely perfect from the moment we arrived...and so we could enjoy everything to the full. On Saturday morning, Paul & I took our little dog for a wonderful country walk in the fields overlooking the town...

listening to skylarks and picking crabapples, damsons and wild cobnuts as we went...
Then it was time to wander the streets of this historic place....jewels were around every corner...



ancient beams held every roof up...somehow!

the gardens were so gorgeous & humming with bees in the morning sun...

Pink is a very traditional colour for Suffolk cottages...



I think that if you own a house here you must feel very conscious of the fact that you are looking after it for a short time...and preserving the history for the years and generations to come. I feel this a little with our own home, but the fact that many of these places were 600 years old was awe inspiring. I think that this was one of my favourite places...

I loved the huge and abundant hanging baskets, the intricacy of the herringbone bricks and these fellows who had obviously been guarding the front door for more years than they could remember...

When I walked up our sloping street (Shilling Street) to the market square to buy fresh bread for breakfast early in the morning, I happened upon this secret garden behind the little door that had been left open...

Now if they hadn't wanted me to peek in, they shouldn't have enticed me like this should they?? I couldn't resist..

Isn't it darling? I heard them getting ready to come out for breakfast...so I beat a hasty retreat! My cousin Mike lives in nearby Bury St Edmunds - another historic place - and we visited his fabulous new restaurant (also a nightclub & live music venue) The LP on Saturday lunchtime where we joined Mike & his sister Emma for a gorgeous meal ...salads, breads, smoked salmon and amazing pizzas cooked in the restaurant's huge wood-fired oven. Dad adores his niece & nephew and it was so great to see him bloom in their company (we love them too!)
Afterwards, we all took a walk in the nearby Abbey Gardens...the site of an ancient ruined Abbey built in the 11th century (or thereabouts!) and, again, wonderful gardens and the church of St Mary...

Perfect afternoon. Much of East Anglia has links with the USA...not least because so many brave young American servicemen were stationed here during WW2, and inevitably lost their lives on bombing raids when their planes took off from the many airfields and bases around here bound for the occupied territories of Europe. There is much commemoration of their sacrifice and still so many traces of their time here, helping to defend our nation from the evil of nazism...

there are stones like this everywhere...and in Lavenham, a special and now famous reminder. The huge and ancient hotel in the centre of town, The Swan , was somewhere that the servicemen loved to spend their free hours. The main bar there is known as The Airmen's Bar because preserved on one wall are the signatures and messages left by the boys who drank there - their hometowns, their units and usually the date too. Young men so far from home and facing death every day. I love to look at the names...wonder and think about them. Did Chuck survive the war and get back to Arkansas? I'll never know. But I do know that they are remembered with gratitude, alway,s and honoured in this place and countless others.
Elsewhere in the bar, and left by those same airmen are cap badges and other memorabilia...

and many veterans and their families still make the journey back here to remember that time and the friends left behind...they add their signatures to the wall (I couldn't photograph it because it was just too dark!) The ghosts from 70 years ago still laugh & drink here, I'm certain of that...
As we meandered our way back home on Sunday, we stopped in the village of Clare...my Grandad lived here for a few years as a young boy after his mother died of tuberculosis at just 23 during WW1...and it's another gem of Suffolk beauty.
We took Alice for a walk and found the old railway station...disused for over 40 years...but still preserved and now used as a visitor centre...

the grassy path is where the traintracks once lay...and you can clearly see the old platform on the left as well as the station itself. A wonderful walk and the history of the place with it's trails and traces of the past - OUR past- was a fitting end to our nostalgic weekend. I love Suffolk - I'm sure that you can see why!

Hoping that your week is a great one so far. Thank you so much, too, for all the comments on my previous post. The farm is heaven...and I'm so happy to share a little of it with you.

xoxo

14 comments:

  1. It's such a great pleasure for me to experience England through your eyes because you really bring it to life. The tiny garden reminded me of your own and what a stunning church. You don't have to be religious to love churches, church bells, and their gardens too. My favorite thing was learning that you are like cooking royalty--generations into your craft. Deliciousness just runs in your family. ♥

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  2. :o) what a lovely post! I love Suffolk too, I'm biased of course ;o) I didn't realise you were so close, or I'd have forced you to stop in for a cuppa! Though I'm sure you had more than enough to keep you busy (like snooping through open gates!!!)

    thanks for sharing such lovely photos. Glad you had such a lovely visit.
    xx

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  3. How fortunate I feel to be able to get a peek at some of England's beauty through your posts!
    Those pink cottages....SIGH....
    Sending you lots of love!
    xoxo

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  4. If I ever get to England, I'm going to visit all the places you've shown us. It's all so beautiful it pulls at my heart, and Suffolk is no exception. Wonderful! xoxo

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  5. Oh I love a good old medieval town! I want to visit more of those, there are so many historical sights to see here in Britain. Thank you for sharing these pictures.

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  6. I just copied this post into my travel notes for our next trip to the UK..you are a dear to share your journeys with us, adding necessary details that allow us to follow in your footsteps someday..you are a doll..xo

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  7. Dear Rachel,
    What a beautiful post! How lovely to go away for the weekend with your parents and Alice, to visit Suffolk - a place with so much history and meaning for you. Everything looks so beautiful. I can't get over the gorgeous pink cottages! Your lunch at The LP sounded fabulous as well. It must have been so nice meeting up with your cousins and enjoying a delicious meal together. Thanks for sharing your little getaway with us! I so enjoyed coming along! xoxo

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  8. What a beautiful place Suffolk with it's quaint cottages and lovely gardens. Everything looks so green and lush. Someday I'm going to visit England and certainly going to put Suffolk on my list of places to visit. It was really nice reading about your family ties to the area and the story of the soldiers who gave their lives fighting in the war. Perfect getaway!

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  9. Oh, how I love the travel posts, Rachel...I get some vicarious time off!!! It all looks so quaint and beautiful! Aren't you lucky to have roots in this charming corner of the world?! I am so sorry I haven't been online much recently...hand issues, but I so enjoyed your post!! Sending tons of love, Sherry xxx

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  10. Oh Rachel...I read it twice- so lovely and I didn't want to miss a bit of it!! When I visited Europe the first time, I thought the same thing---that the years these buildings have stood---it's just awe-inspiring!! I love the pick of Suffolk--there are so many adorable and magical places in England---in the US, we barely hear of most of them and this 'vacation' with you was fabulous---Thank you for peaking into the garden and snapping a photograph. I would have peeked as well!!! (blush) xoxo Joann

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  11. i feel so lucky to get to enjoy these tours with you and alice...i loved seeing her in the garden...checking it all out !!!! so cute !!!

    i loved reading all of this rachel...
    getting ready to take teddy to The Golden Paw this morning out here in california....

    he will look so handsome when he gets home...but i REALLY miss him while he is gone...LOVE it when he gets back HOME !!!!

    sending love,
    kary and teddy
    xx

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  12. I can hear the creaking floorboards and smell the tcp! Beautiful buildings, oh how I miss them. Anything pre 1930 here is considered prehistoric! Can't wait to see it all again. xxxxxxxxxxx

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  13. This is such a moving post. I welled up a couple of times, thinking of the American soldiers there and the kindness shown to them by the British. And pink houses, secret gardens! Thank you so much for this journey , Rachel
    xx
    julie

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  14. How stunning. I can't wait to visit someday. The photo of the former site of the train tracks is so interesting.

    Have a good day there. :)

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