Road Tripping through Norfolk and Suffolk
Third time lucky. We’ve twice tried to get across to East Anglia and twice COVID lockdowns have cruelly thwarted us. So we were very excited to hit the road cross country heading for this under appreciated corner of England.
We left home at around 5pm, just in time for Friday traffic because we’re idiots. Heading East along the M4 with the intention of finding a pub stopover somewhere between Reading and the M25, having no desire to sit for hours on end in miserly M25 Friday traffic.
However, the way ahead seemed clear enough according to Google so we pressed on, drove a quarter turn of the M25 clockwise before finding a nice little pub called the Woodman Inn just off the M11.
A few drinks and some dinner later we called it a day.
Saturday dawned and the forecast was for it to be a scorcher, so we gave Una a quick 30-minute walk around some local woodlands (footpath passes right through the pub carpark) before it got too hot and headed for Lavenham – a medieval village in Suffolk.
The Suffolk countryside blurred past us in a whirl of extremely pretty villages and small roads as we made our way towards Lavenham, the temperature rising by the minute in our small metal box with windows and no air con.
Parking is easy and free in Lavenham at the village hall. Bins, recycling and toilets all available (toilets closed refurb June 2021) – this would make an ideal spot for an Aire with the facilities available and proximity of bars, restaurants and cafes in the village itself. We will write to the local authorities on behalf of CAMpRA to gauge interest.
The village itself is a real delight. Tumbling timber framed buildings line the main street, with independent shops and eateries poking out underneath impossibly still standing upper stories leaning at archaic angles all over the place.
There is a small village square tucked away off the high street with yet more parking – although would be difficult in a large van or motorhome.
Cooling off in a beer garden we chatted with a couple of fellow holiday makers and swapped stories – as it turned out they were seriously considering buying a campervan themselves and wanted to know all about it.
An ice cream stop called us on the way back to the van and Una duly waited for her cone ends as we perused the final shops heading back up the high-street towards the van.
Our evening stopover was at the Therberton Lion. A truly unique pub run by a characterful landlord who heard everything everyone said and had plenty of stories and anecdotes to tell. He also kept opening up a massive hole in the main floor of the pub and disappearing for a short while. He never appeared to take anything down or bring anything up… Very odd behaviour but very entertaining and a lovely stopover.
An Unexpected Beach Day at Southwold Beach
The following day Una woke with an unexpected limp so we cancelled our day of exploring and headed to Southwold beach for the day to relax in the heat and allow her to rest. As it turns out – this was a stroke of genius.
The far end of Southwold beach is a real treat – fisherman’s shacks dot the estuary selling all manner of fresh or cooked fish and shrimp, local beers and a great spot to sit and watch the world go by for a while.
You can cross the estuary by boat to explore the hamlet on the far side which we didn’t quite have the time or energy for which is a shame as it looked very nice. There is plenty of parking and a lot of vans seemed to be setup for an overnight stay. We absolutely loved Southwold beach – outstanding, long, sandy and dog friendly – we could happily while away a day here which is exactly what we did.
Southwold, Aldeburgh & Snape Maltings
By the time 3pm rolled around the blistering heat had got to us so we headed inland to find our campsite.
Una seemed better the next morning but it was shaping up to be another baking hot day so we opted for another day on the beach. Most unlike us as I need to constantly be doing stuff and sitting around all day tends to make me go a little insane.
Hoping to buy some fresh fish from the shacks for a bbq tea we wandered back to the shacks but unfortunately poor planning meant that we hadn’t checked the signage the previous day and on Mondays all the shacks are closed!
So we headed along the beach to Southwold itself. The beach a long, sandy stretch of bliss. People playing in the water, lounging and reading, dogs cavorting and kites tumbling around the blue sky. Rows of brightly coloured beach huts lined the way towards town and a few short flights of steps up from the beach and we were in the town. Southwold seemed a little disappointing to us in contrast to the beach, the fish shacks and beach huts we’d seen so far but we had a lovely lunch at the Adnams Brewery and headed back to the beach.
We spent a few more hours relaxing on the beach, splashing in the sea before heading across to Snape Maltings for look around.
Snape Maltings is an old Victorian complex home to a multitude of independent shops, art galleries and a cafe. There’s also a nature trail heading off from the site as well. From bespoke carpentry, kitchenware, art, internal furnishings to potted plants and antiques – this place has everything
Hugely interesting with some truly fascinating shops (and I don’t like shopping) we spent a happy afternoon exploring.
Final activity for the day saw us heading down the coast to Aldeburgh in search of fish for tea.
Aldeburgh seemed to have a bit more about it that Southwold but unfortunately the beach was not dog friendly. The high street runs along the length of the town a few roads back from the front and has plenty going on – including a fish and chip shop that had a queue of around 60 people waiting – must be good!
The front itself has various fish shacks dotted along it and we finally managed to pick up some delicious smoked salmon and shrimp. Heated up over the fire with chilli and garlic with new potatoes these made a wonderful dinner.
To the Norfolk Broads!
Checking out the Berney Arms Windmill
With Una fully recovered at last we pointed our noses North and headed up the coast towards the Norfolk Broads.
We found a walk on All Trails that was 7 miles in length and began at St Andrews Church, just outside the village of Halvergate and took in typical broads terrain of vast open expanses of fields, grazing cows and criss crossing streams.
Other than a lengthy battle through the extremely thick overgrowth for 2 miles along the river Yare from the Berney Arms windmill to the Reedham Steam Houses it was a really brilliant walk that takes in the best of quintessential Norfolk Broad terrain.
We stopped off at the little town of Loddon for a pint enroute home. After which we jumped back in the van and set off. Disturbingly we turned down a road which stated no through road and ferry terminal a few miles ahead. Cautiously we continued and stumbled across the delightful Reedham Chain Ferry completely by accident.
Quite an experience with the ferryman chatting away to us non stop as we crossed the river (which did mean we didn’t manage to get any good photos but nevermind!) and we were on our way
A scenic Pit Stop
Ely & Mad Hatters
Wednesday saw us headed inland for a one night pit stop at Mad Hatters campsite as have been wanting to go for ages. The site was truly unique with a small camper/motorhome/caravan field and then a large meadow with individual nooks mown out with access ways for tents. We’ll be back for sure but next time we’ll be in the tent.
We stopped off for a walk at Thetford forest park on the way in the hope of some shade as it was another roasting hot day and it really is an outstanding place for a dog walk. But weirdly for a forest, not a lot of shade…
Next up was a pit stop to explore the market town of Ely which was super nice. It was another bakingly hot day so it was a real treat to sit with a beer by the river Ouse and watch the boats go by.
The rest of the town was a bustling hive of activity with stalls set out on the main square and independent shops and eateries scattered around the streets surrounding the large cathedral and it’s sprawling grounds.
Exploring The North Norfolk Coast
Visiting Holt, Cromer and eating Norfolk Crab
The weather broke on Thursday bringing with it cooler temperatures and unrelenting wet weather. A great blend of consistent rain stayed with us in true British style all day. From drizzle, to sideways rain pissing in our eyes to heavy droplets hammering the roof of the van.
We were headed up past the North Norfolk coast today towards Breck farm so stopped off at Sandringham estate to walk Una. The trees offered us some respite from the rain and we spent an enjoyable hour or so squelching aimlessly around in the mud below the tall trees of the forest.
We then whiled away the rest of the afternoon watching films in the van at Breck farm campsite listening to the drumming rain on the roof. The weather just about cleared in time for us to have an evening campfire and some dinner outside.
Friday dawned fresh and damp so we headed slightly inland to Holt, a proper East Anglia market town full of interesting craft shops, pubs and eateries. After a damp morning in Holt we carried on to the coast to explore Cromer and find some famous Norfolk Cromer Crab for tea (which was excellent with some buttery new potatoes and tender stem broccoli!).
With no sign of the weather improving we took our chances and hit the coastal road and drove up to very quickly touch upon the north Norfolk coast on an increasingly wild day.
A short walk through the marshes brought us out on on the beach and we played with dog in front of the ferocious waves before finally caving in and heading back to the van completely soaked.
A little farther up the coast and we stopped in a beach carpark for a coffee and cake to watch the sea boil in front of us whilst the rain continually hammered down on the van. It made for a very atmospheric stop and it was extremely cosy as we warmed up
Back to the Broads
Exploring Hoveton and Wroxham
Our last full day in East Anglia – sad times.
Turning our nose towards the heart of the Norfolk Broads we headed for Hoveton & Wroxham the self proclaimed capital of the Broads.
We found these two towns to be for too busy and touristy for our taste and didn’t end up hanging about for very long. Packed with people like sardines and very little to actually see and do aside from a few fish and chip shops and pubs. If we were to return it would purely to be to hire a boat for the day as this seemed like a lot of fun.
Unfortunately because it was a busy weekend day and as we hadn’t pre-booked there were no boats available for hire.
We made a swift exit and headed for Wroxham Broad where we parked up just off the main sailing centre and I (Simon) spent a happy hour or so paddleboarding around.
The broad was lovely to paddle on, plenty of space, loads of wildlife (I’m convinced I even saw a massive Owl sat in one of the trees lakeside) and sailboats sprinting up and down the lake, hopping on the ripples and having a grand old time.
For our final night we decided to find a Brit Stop for dinner in the heart of the broads, hopefully with a riverside terrace or similar.
We settled on the Lion at Thurne but unfortunately they were booked up so they’re on the list for our next visit.
After a bit of a scramble as the day was getting on we ended up at The Fur And Feather Inn with the attached Woodforde Brewery and what a place!
Unfortunately their kitchen was out of order last minute so we had a quick mac n cheese dinner in the van before spending the evening doing our very best to drink every beer produced next door – and there is a lot of them. A particular highlight being the Woodforde Wherry!
Usually we set about finding something to do on our last day but we were totally knackered so pretty much headed straight home today via a north route for some different driving from the way down.
We’ve had an absolutely fantastic week exploring East Anglia and can’t wait to return. Next time we will probably concentrate on just Suffolk, or Norfolk as trying to do both left us a little thin on the ground and we left feeling like we hadn’t truly explored either county.
So that’s it for out East Anglia Travel Blog – we hope you liked it and don’t forget to comment below with your own experiences of this beautiful part of the country.
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