Why I still love Suffolk

SUFFOLK'S image has taken a battering in the international media following the killing of five women - but it remains a wonderful place to live and work.

By Paul Geater

SUFFOLK'S image has taken a battering in the international media following the killing of five women - but it remains a wonderful place to live and work. Here's the first of a five-part series celebrating our home county, showing why I think My Suffolk is such a special place.

WHEN I tell people I've always lived in Suffolk, I always get a different reaction.

Some seem surprised at an apparent lack of ambition while others are quick to appreciate that if you feel you belong somewhere, why should you have to leave?

The fact is that Suffolk, the county of my birth, and Ipswich the town that I have lived in for more than 20 years, feels the right place to live. It is where I belong.

I have travelled - I've been all around England, Scotland and Wales. I've been literally from Lands End to John O'Groats (actually a bit further north on a visit to the Orkneys).

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And I've travelled widely in Europe - to France, Germany, Holland, Belgium - as well as to the USA and even the millionaires playground of Bermuda (as a child I stayed with friends who were teaching there).

But while there are places I love to return to, North Wales, with its mountains, castles and narrow-gauge railways is a particular delight, I'm always happy to get back to Suffolk - to my manor, the place I call home.

Suffolk has its own character, its own buzz which marks it out from other parts of the country.

But what makes it so special is that it is not an isolated place - which it has its own character it is easily accessible to people from many other places and this has helped turn it into a truly cosmopolitan place.

Of course there are characters who have never left the county - or even their own town or village - but you find them anywhere.

Most people like the thought of living in an attractive part of the world - but still being connected to the rest of civilisation.

While parts of Suffolk may have a delightfully remote feeling, in fact this county is wonderfully accessible. It is the contrasts - of accessible remoteness, of history and modernity, of empty beaches and bustling resorts - that make Suffolk so special.

So what is the best thing about Suffolk?

That's a question I've been asked many times - and it's always impossible to answer.

Here are some of the reasons:

1 Spirit of the sea

As someone from the east of the county, who was always being taken to the beach at Sizewell or Minsmere to run around as a child, the coast and the influence of the sea is crucial to the character of this county.

I've never been into fishing or sailing - but as a child I loved to make sandcastles or throw stones into the sea.As I grew up I began to recognise the importance of the sea on the nature of the area, watching as the gulls and terns flew around. Depending on my mood and the time of the year, the best thing about Suffolk might be the shore at Minsmere - away from the madding crowd you can always spot something interesting through your binoculars.

It's got the added benefit of being out of range for all mobile phone networks - once I'm there no one can get in touch.

2 Foodie heaven

If you want to eat on the coast you're in foodie heaven - fish and chips at the Flora tearoom on Dunwich beach is legendary, but for my money you can't beat whitebait and a pint of Adnams at the Eel's Foot at Eastbridge. But then I might be biased - I was born less than a mile from the pub!

No one seems quite sure how the pub got its name, although there is no shortage of eels in the marshes and lagoons nearby.

3 The forest

If I'm feeling really energetic the best thing about Suffolk can be the High Lodge forest centre deep in Thetford forest, a mile or two outside Brandon.

If you have energy to use up, nothing can beat a 14-mile cycle ride around the well-marked route. It's challenging but not too challenging, and you can reward yourself with a wicked bacon panini from the new café at the forest centre at the end of your ride!

4 Constable Country

This vale is undoubtedly very beautiful, although it is somewhere best avoided during the height of the summer when it is invaded by tourists from across the globe.

5 Uncrowded

Suffolk's charm is that it tends not to get too crowded whatever the time of the year.

Luckily so many people travel straight through the county on their way to Norfolk or London that Suffolk never seems to be too crowded.

6 The vibe

Suffolk doesn't have any cities - despite what some members of the national media may think - but its large towns have a vibe of their very own.

My own adopted home town of Ipswich is getting more of a buzz every year with more concerts, more theatre productions, more nightspots opening up. The opening of UCS should give it a further boost - all that is needed to really give the place the feelgood factor is success at Portman Road!

Ipswich has the feeling of a modern town - or indeed city - which tends to mask the fact that it is the oldest English town.

Ironically Bury St Edmunds, which was founded many years after Ipswich, feels much older with its cathedral and abbey ruins - although it is also a very contemporary town and a delight to visit.

7 Access

No one should forget that part of the charm of Suffolk is the ease with which those of us who live here can get to other parts of the country.

Ipswich is just over an hour from the City of London by train - it's quite possible to go from here to a West End show, to the capital's tourist attractions . . . or just go shopping in the West End.

So living in Ipswich, I'm just 75 minutes from the West End of London . . . or 45 minutes from my own county's heritage coast. What more could anyone want?

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Tomorrow in My Suffolk - what makes the landscape and wildlife so special?

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Why do you love Suffolk? What does the county mean to you?

Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich.IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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