Why I Love Suffolk: Simon Edge
- Credit: Contributed
Paddle-boarding in the Stour from my local water meadows last summer, with only the cows for company. My mate Paul falling in and trying to pass it off as a back-flip (unfortunately for him there was video evidence) was the icing on the cake. If that makes me a bad person, so be it.
When I settled in Long Melford four years ago, after previously dividing my time between Sudbury and London, I signed up as a guide at our enormous medieval church – the only church in Suffolk to get five stars in Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches. Its greatest glory is its huge array of medieval stained glass, a unique collection of secular portraits of the great and good of the 15th century. I’m on the fundraising team to try and conserve this treasure. The tower, by the Gothic revival architect G.F. Bodley, is a much later addition but I get a burst of pride whenever I see it from afar.
I’m very happy to live in the west of the county except in a summer heatwave, when I wish it wasn’t such a schlep to the beach. When I do go, my destination of choice is Shingle Street. My first time there, I swam in the rain: it was warmer in the sea than out. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric place and I’d be there all the time if I lived closer.
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I’ve always loved the medieval centre of Bury St Edmunds. When I started to read up on its history for my novel Anyone for Edmund?, I loved it even more. The abbey, demolished stone by stone in 1539, was the largest church in Western Christendom until the construction of St Peter’s in Rome. How gobsmacking is that?
Place to eat
The first time I saw Pin Mill, it was as if I’d been there before: I recognised it from Arthur Ransome’s line drawings in his classic children’s adventure We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, which I first read when I was about 10, and it has barely changed since. Then as now, the Butt and Oyster pub was in the centre of the picture. With its fantastic views over the Orwell estuary, friendly service and honest prices, it’s my favourite catch-of-the-day destination in Suffolk.
Attraction or day out
Until it closed for its £8.5 million redevelopment, I was always in and out of Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury, not least to research my comic novel about the painter, A Right Royal Face-Off. I’ve been on a hard-hat tour of the spectacular new building, whose triple-height gallery will be Suffolk’s answer to Tate Modern, and I plain to be one of the first over the threshold when they re-open this summer.
The Lavenham Literary Festival started not long after I first arrived in these parts in the mid-Noughties, and their volunteer committee has done an amazing job of putting the event on the national festivals calendar. Alan Johnson, an ex-cabinet minister with the timing of a stand-up comic, had us all gurgling with pleasure at last year’s gala dinner in the Swan Hotel. I’m part of this year’s line-up, but don’t let that put you off.
John Coleman grazes cattle on Sudbury water meadows and then sells the meat on a market stall in the town on Thursdays and Saturdays. I come from a long line of butchers and my great-great grandfather did the same kind of thing on the Wirral in the 1840s, but it’s incredibly rare nowadays. Coleman is a proper nose-to-tail butcher who sells every part of the animal, and he doesn’t jack his prices up just because his meat is superb quality. Long may he bring his van – with its gloriously cheesy slogan ‘Fancy a bird?’ – to Market Hill.
The Sutton Hoo treasure.