Honesty is the best policy
Some of our favourite hotels and B&Bs, run honesty bars – you fix yourself a drink as if you were at home, jot it down and settle up when you check out. Very ‘grown up’ and civilised we think.
However before we could put the honesty bar in place we needed to secure a premise license (Bruce already has a personal license). This turned out to be a little more convoluted – some might say archaic – than you might imagine. We needed to display notices at the end of the drive using light blue paper (not too light it turns out – we were asked to go a shade or too darker) and advertise in a local paper within ten days of submitting the application. Fortunately the ladies of Suffolk Coastal’s licensing team were gems and made sure we hit every mark.
The real fun began once we received our license – stocking the bar!! Wherever possible we have ‘gone local’ – there are so many great producers in Suffolk, it would be crazy not to.
In the summer we visited the amazing Flint Vineyard (www.flintvineyard.com) just outside Bungay on the Norfolk border (about 40 mins away in the car). It’s hard to believe that they have only been going a few years and what they don’t know about wine isn’t worth knowing. It is no surprise that they have already won prizes. Although they have limited amounts at the moment we hope to stock their red, white and fizz. We will also be adding some other interesting (reasonably priced) wines based on some tastings from local wine merchants.
Choosing a beer was pretty straightforward as our next door neighbour has just started a micro brewery in Leiston (which you can tour if you wish) and one of their limited edition beers even has hops from their garden. Can you get more local than that?. We currently have four different types and all have been brewed in a German style. As they conform to the German purity law (‘Reinheitsgebot’ in case you are wondering) it means that they shouldn’t leave you with a hangover – unless you really go hell for leather of course.
We also hope to add vodka and gin from Suffolk distillers Flint & Hardings (www.flintandhardings.co.uk).
We haven’t forgotten the non drinkers too and hope to stock LA Brewery’s Kombucha (as well as all the usual soft drink suspects). This naturally effervescent living tea full of friendly bacteria might be a tradition of Korea but it is brewed right here in Suffolk.
For those spirits that require us to go further afield we have sought some advice and bought a varied selection of single malt and blended whiskies, rum, sherry and port. We are pretty open to adding in some other drinks so that everyone will find their favourite tipple…. within reason. We quite like the idea of a ‘cocktail of day’ – we will see if we have any takers.
Out on the prairie
We have some grand ambitions for the garden bordering by the guest sundecks – which will eventually become a deep sea of ornamental grasses. Inspired by the prairie planting of Piet Oudolf, we want the grasses to provide both gentle movement, a relaxing rustle and of course beauty – with their delicate seed heads offering winter interest after everything else has faded (the video shows the curly head of Miscanthus Nepalensis in case you are wondering). On a more practical note they should provide screening for the sundecks – from each other and the rest of the garden.
Much as I enjoy gardening I can’t pretend that I know a great deal about grasses so I am learning a new grass lexicon – eragrostis, briza, caerula, molinia, miscanthus, calamagrostis, pennisetum, panicum, deschampsia, stipa – they don’t exactly roll off the tongue do they? The variety is incredible – from delicate annuals to graceful arching masses to impenetrable almost bamboo like clumps and everything in between. If only I could remember which one was which (especially when the guests ask).
We will also use perennials and bulbs to provide a pop of colour – fennel, gaura, echninops, verbena bonariensis, aliums daffodils, artichokes etc. None of them are wild flowers as such but they give that vibe. They also have to be pretty tough sitting in sandy soil in full sunshine.
It’s fair to say that we have a way to go. We planted a few grasses in 2016 but until the sundecks were built (earlier this year) we couldn’t really finish the job. Funnily enough in early photos the weeds were so prolific and healthy it looked incredibly sophisticated from a distance. Only a closer inspection revealed that it was mostly comprised of thistle, ragwort, fat hen and couch grass! The guests didn’t mind as long as there were birds and butterflies – and there were. A few more months of abandonment the weeds were replaced by something a bit more substantial – a five foot hedge of tree lupins. From seed to bush in six months is quite an achievement though a few hours with a pickaxe and they were gone……
With the decks in place and some recent planting it is beginning to come together – which I hope the above photos show. In the interests of full disclosure there is a menacing ocean of nettles only 20ft from the decks. Over the autumn it will be dug over and mulched ready for spring planting. I have made a start and in fact right now my hands are throbbing from those pesky nettle stings.
We are taking it slowly though just to make sure none of our resident slow worms come to any harm….
Stage and Screen
Aldeburgh really punches above it’s weight in so many ways. Two great illustrations of this are High Tide (11-16 September) and the Aldeburgh Documentary Festival (2-4 November).
High Tide has been called the theatre world’s Sundance Film Festival (apparently!), providing a platform for new, innovative and challenging work. This year it includes five new pieces from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Productions take place in a number of places across Aldeburgh including the Jubilee Hall, Pumphouse, Aldeburgh Cinema, Aldeburgh Beach Lookout and even a pub – Ye Old Cross Keys.
We love High Tide and try and see a couple of things each year. This is absolutely not Am Dram and the standard is consistently high – as anything as good as you would see in London, Glasgow or Leeds. We have seen comedy as well as top notch drama covering some pretty tough areas – the tragedies of immigration in Lampadusa and the desperation of a group of friends abducted by Boko Haram.
This year we are keeping it light with a couple of nights of comedy – we are particularly looking forward to Dr Adam Kay, author of the hilarious (and at the same time rather depressing) ‘This is going to hurt’.
The 22nd Aldeburgh Documentary Festival is a distinctive combination of world-class documentaries, discussion and debates, that has grown significantly over the last few years. The 2018 programme is varied – from US politics to Jazz to Joanna Lumley. We have to confess that we have yet to go (as it’s not brilliantly signposted) but guests staying last year that highly recommended it. The programme is best viewed at the moment through The Suffolk Coast website (a great place for information on the area) which can be found here.