This week Liona from Travels With Ted is sharing her tips for things to do in Suffolk.
Suffolk is my home county, and although I have now moved over the border to Cambridgeshire, Suffolk is still my favourite place to explore as a family. Travelling through Suffolk, the landscape changes from low rolling hills and farmland in the West to flat marshland near the coast. Most visitors to Suffolk will head straight to the seaside. The coastline is stunning, but Suffolk has a lot more to offer.
Somewhere Free: Abbey Gardens
Located in the market town of Bury St Edmunds, the Abbey Gardens is the perfect place for children and adults alike. The park combines history and beautiful gardens with plenty to keep the kids entertained. It surrounds the ruins of an Abbey that was destroyed following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. The ruins now make the perfect playground for a game of hide and seek.
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The play area here is terrific. The children love everything from the standard play equipment right up to the treehouse, tucked away at the end, overlooking the River Lark. In between is a sand and water play area where kids of all ages are continually digging out new trenches to direct water from a pump.
The Abbey Gardens also has a small area of aviaries with some colourful exotic birds. It is here that you will find the cafe, and therefore the ice creams.
Somewhere For The Whole Day: Africa Alive!
We have been to most of the zoos in East Anglia and Africa Alive! is definitely our favourite. As you might have guessed from its name, this zoo focuses on animals from Africa. Despite its narrowed focus, you will still find an exciting range of animals on display. For us, it meant getting to know a bit more about some animals we hadn’t paid much attention to in the past. New favourites included the red river hog and the gorgeous, sleek fossa.
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Aside from the animals, what we really liked about this zoo was the feeling of space which makes it a pleasure to walk around. The centrepiece of the park is a massive paddock which is home to rhinos, zebras, ostriches and giraffes. You can do a full lap of this vast area to see the animals from different angles and viewpoints. A fun train ride takes you even further away to enclosures with more herd species.
There are more than enough animals to keep everyone entertained for the full day, but if they need a break, then there are plenty of play areas too.
Somewhere Outdoors: Thetford Forest
Nestled on the Norfolk/Suffolk border is one of the best places for exploring in East Anglia. Thetford forest covers a large area, but our favourites places are on the Suffolk side. Brandon Country Park starts off in the forested grounds of an old country house. The house is still on the edge of the estate but is now a private care home. Next to the car park is a visitor centre, cafe and playground, but this is just the start of your adventures. A short walk will take you passed giant redwoods, a large pond, teeming with wildlife and a mysterious mausoleum. Continue on a longer hike, and you will discover the classic woodland and heathland habitats of Suffolk.
Just 10 minutes drive from Brandon Country Park is another of our favourite spots in Thetford forest. St Helen’s Picnic Site just outside the village of Santon Downham is another fun place for a walk. However, the main reason family flock here in the summer is for the river. This shallow, lazy stretch of the Little Ouse is ideal for a paddle or even a swim if you are willing to brave the chilly waters.
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Somewhere For Rainy Days: Museum of East Anglian Life
Suffolk is a very rural county. There are no cities which meant no obvious candidates for somewhere entertaining to spend a rainy day with the kids. My recommendation for something to do on a rainy day is a primarily outdoor museum. However, we would happily visit the Museum of East Anglian Life on a rainy day as an excuse to enjoy all the fabulous indoor exhibitions and hands-on displays.
The Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket showcases the history of rural life across the region. It may sound a dry subject for a family day out, but the museum has taken meticulous care to ensure that every area has something to engage children. Whether it’s a workshop of toy tools next to a shiny traction engine or a play-shop in the domestic life sheds, there is more than enough keep little ones entertained.
Our family’s favourite indoor space was the Abbot’s Hall. This grand old house had something for kids to do in every room. Upstairs we enjoyed the garden room, which as well as having lovely views of the walled garden, also had plenty of gardening-related activities for the kids.
Somewhere To Eat: Aldeburgh Food Festival
Suffolk is full of fantastic little cafes and restaurants which made choosing my favourite to recommend very difficult. The best place to get a taste of everything Suffolk has to offer is the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival. Over 100 food producers and vendors from around the county gather for one weekend in September each year. The setting for the festival is at the charming Snape Maltings, which usually plays host to concerts as well as being a venue for independent shops and exhibitions. Snape Maltings sits on the River Alde, surrounded by reedbeds, not far from Aldeburgh on the coast.
The vendors are not shy about handing out free samples, and the kids love trying all the new foods. There are hundreds of varieties of cheese, preserves and fudge on offer. We always come away raving about a new local brand. The grown-ups are also big fans of the free samples, Aspals cider being a personal favourite.