Is Levington best in Britain?

GALLERY St George's flag flies high above the medieval church and the Orwell flows peacefully by. Might Levington - recently judged the best village in the east of England - be the best in the country?

James Marston

ST George's flag flies high above the medieval church and the Orwell flows peacefully by.

Might Levington - recently judged the best village in the east of England - be the best in the country? JAMES MARSTON investigates.

ONCE the haunt of smugglers and brigands, Levington is today undoubtedly one of Suffolk's finest villages.

The drive to the village takes you along quiet country lanes sheltered by high hedgerows, the verdant English countryside at its best.

In the village and opposite the village sign, put up to commemorate the silver jubilee, a left turn takes you along Church Lane.

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And it's not long before you see one of Levington's loveliest spots.

Sweeping fields rolling down to the River Orwell with the Shotley peninsula and industrial might of Felixstowe dock providing the backdrop, Levington enjoys what may be one of the finest views in England.

And what better way to enjoy the view than with a pint of English beer, brewed in Suffolk.

The village pub - The Ship - is a cream and black, thatched building in the traditional style. Pretty potted geraniums decorate the exterior.

A Suffolk latch let's you into a low-ceilinged bar and restaurant, a chalk board offers tempting dishes.

Open all day, menu options include dishes such as griddled fillet of haddock served with deep fried potato wedges and mixed salad for £11.75 or baked chicken and king prawn brochette, mango yoghurt and mint dressing, salad and potato wedges for £10.75.

Adam Baldry, 25, who lives above the pub, said: “Levington is such a peaceful village. It's very picturesque and has a very friendly atmosphere.

“There are stunning views. We get a lot of regulars in the pub and the community comes here to eat and drink.”

Next to the pub is the ancient religious centre of Levington.

For generations the church of St Peter has nourished the souls of parishioners - a job that continues to this day.

The churchyard is beautifully kept by village families who take turns to cut the grass and rake the path.

Complete with ubiquitous yew tree, the churchyard is where the village has laid its dead to rest.

The family plots bear witness to Levington lives with names like Bugg and Driver and Punt and Dawson all in family plots.

With its ancient bowed walls supported by thick brick buttresses, the church itself has stood firm against the vicissitudes of time.

It has tended its parish for 700 years, through the times of great Kings and Queens of England, seen off the threats of Napoleon and Hitler, stayed constant during the industrial revolution and expansion and contraction of empire, continued uncomplaining in its work as the world has changed around it.

Inside an atmosphere, that only centuries of prayer and devotion can generate, is housed within its whitewashed interior.

But it's not just buildings and views that make a village - it's the people who live there.

Parish councillor Pat Pryke said: “I've been here 25 years and it's a wonderful place to live and there's a great community. You never need feel lonely in Levington, there's always something going on and loads of village activities.”

For a village with just over 200 residents there are a large number of things going on and the village hall is a well-used resource.

The village's history club started in June, there's also a lively Women's Institute, a Monday morning coffee morning, a popular lunch club, a gardening club and a Mother's Union. The parish council also recently launched a new website that includes news, events and contacts as well as the history of the village.

On July 19 the village is holding its annual flower show.

Pat said: “Every new resident gets a welcome pack and everyone here wants to make the most of the village. We realise that we are in an area of outstanding natural beauty and we need to preserve it for future generations as it has been preserved for us

“I can't think of a nicer village in which to grow old.”

And Pat, 66, said villagers pull together four times a year to remove litter from the foreshore as part of their commitment to their environment.

The business community in the village - which attracts an influx of 300 workers every day - is also supportive of the community.

Levington hit the international headlines back in December 2006 during the Ipswich murders but, though it happened and the tragedy touched their lives, it's not a subject that the village wishes to dwell on today.

Recently revealed as the Calor Village of the Year for East England, residents now have to wait until December to find out if they have won the title for the whole of England.

Up against four other regional winners in its bid for the hotly-contested title, Levington has already shown it has something special.

And now the judges have visited the village to assess the community across four criteria - people, business, environment and communications.

Pat said: “I think we have a good chance, we've already achieved getting into the finals.”

Calor Village of the Year manager, Suzanne Weir, said: “Gaining the overall title for England is a massive achievement for a village and only the very best communities stand a chance.

“Every year we're astounded by the calibre of the villages involved in the competition and this year is no exception. We wish villagers the best of luck.”

The Calor Village of the Year for England competition 2007/8 has a total prize fund of more than £40,000 with a top prize of £7,000 for the village crowned the overall winner.

The winning village will be unveiled at the competition awards luncheon taking place at the impressive Guildhall in London on December 2.

Parish council chairman David Long, 61, said: “We think Levington is the best village in England. We can only be ourselves but our fingers and our toes are crossed.”

- Are you a resident of Levington? Has your village got a good community spirit? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Levington Fast Facts:

- Levington is six miles from Ipswich and six and a half miles from Felixstowe.

- In 1086 - the time of the Domesday Book - Levington had a population of 15. Today there are 212 on the electoral roll.

- The village has a daily newspaper delivery service into a box to the right of the village hall main entrance, from which papers can be collected from 6.30am each day of the week.

- Levington includes the hamlet of Stratton Hall.

- Author Arthur Ransome of Swallows and Amazons fame lived at Broke House in the village.

- In 1817 smugglers were apprehended in Levington Creek carrying 48 tubs of spirits aboard a boat named Daisy.

- Levington Creek closed to legitimate commercial sail barge traffic in the 1920s.

source www.onesuffolk.co.uk/levingtonpc

Did you know?

The Levington gun placed underneath the village sign dates from the mid 17th century and is known as a Bastard Saker

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