I know, I know, that’s Montana. I’ve been so I know, and it is true – wherever you go, you get more of it. Still we can do our own Big(ish) Sky and that’s East Anglia. ‘Very flat, Norfolk’ says Amanda in Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’ and it is true. It’s true of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk as well. Read Graham Swift’s ‘Waterland’ if you want to understand what living flat does to you (I preferred ‘ Last Orders’ his Booker winner – unusually for a Booker they chose a good one – but that’s not to deny Waterland’s considerable strengths).
Anyway, this weekend the Textiliste and I found ourselves in Suffolk, just on the edge of the village of Blythburgh, near Southwold. The weather was balmy without being over hot, the Dog was bouncing and we just had to go walking. Blythburgh, for those who don’t know, has the most enormous of Churches, the ‘Cathedral in the Marshes’ with a long and chequered history. Worth a visit, as indeed are most of the towns and villages hereabouts.
So Saturday saw us in Halesworth a little way inland. As readers of this blog will have noted, cake features prominently in my life so Halesworth was chosen for its propensity to provide splendid tea rooms. A few miles and a slice of something sticky and filling washed down with a decent coffee was the order of the day.
Setting off from the old school we soon encountered some livestock. The Dog, while a natural optimist, is also realistic about his size and made it plain he wanted a wide berth. We headed north-west, though farms and rape fields as well as a few hundred yards on narrow, cow-patted roads. We played tag with the post van as it delivered to the outliers and admired the amazing buttercup displays. We had poppies, and vetch in abundance (odd, I thought, how far ahead the plants are here than in London) but the buttercups beat everything. We even encountered the latest in must-have farming accessories, the solar field; I’m no expert but this one looks ready for the harvest.
The walk was perhaps no more than four miles but the best thing of all (well, apart from the cake, obviously) was (hmm, were?) the butterflies. I know they are declining and there are certainly a lot fewer than I remember when I was a kid, but yesterday, in one or two places, it was possible to forget that for a moment. Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Comma, a skipper and a Small Heath (I think) to name the ones I recognised. Dad would have smiled. I’d love to tell you the name of the cafe we stopped at but, damn me if I can remember it and no amount of searching on the net helps me. The coffee and cake (carrot) were just splendid.
Today, Sunday we circumnavigated Southwold. We have been coming here for a fair few years and done many a walk through the town to the harbour via the beach or the dunes but today we struck north to the Buss Creek and then followed it to the old railway bridge over the Blyth River to Walberswick. The Blyth River as it leads to Southwold harbour is, for me, one of the gems hereabouts Not least (is there a theme?) the numerous outlets selling fresh caught fish (or, better still cooking and serving it). And the Southwold Smokery is just ace (today, it was smoked crab, snappers and salmon). Before that, however we detoured via the Suffolk Coastal Path into Walberswick for, erm, coffee and cake. The shops and eateries are not cheap, that’s for sure, but the quality usually justifies it. The Parish Lantern Tea Room (http://www.visitsouthwold.co.uk/establishments/276/The+Parish+Lantern) is a favourite with its secluded, dog friendly courtyard and cake selection. Today it was their moist chocolate and beetroot and a new one, lemon and almond (gluten free) which, while not quite a lemon drizzle to die for, was light, sticky and worth the sweat.
So content was I that, a mile and a half later I realised I’d walked off without paying. The return walk of shame while the Textiliste headed for Southwold was a salutary lesson in senior-moment-itis. I did spot some livestock on the way and it did enable me to treat the Dog to a ride in the little row boat that is the alternative to the Bridge to cross the Blyth River. The chap who runs it must be tired by the day’s end. The other passengers made the right noises about sharing with the Dog but I did notice a few wrinkled noses when he shook himself and covered them in some of his current moult.
And thus it was that I made it back to Southhwold. I stopped at the Black Olive deli for a couple of their scrummy pies and beany salads. A good weekend, made all the more interesting by the food. I don’t think I’ll weigh myself tonight.