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.
Aldeburgh is fortunate in being one of the few towns that has managed to continue its carnival tradition when so many others have been forced to stop.
It has been around for 170 years old albeit under different guises over the years – if you were around in 1835, you would have known it as Ye Old Marine Regatta!
The Carnival is spread over three days – in 2018 it is Saturday 18th, Sunday 19th and Monday 20th August.
· Saturday is all about music with various acts performing across different venues in Aldeburgh’s town centre.
· Sunday is sports day – from egg and spoon to a 10k Mini Marathon taking runners through the beautiful Suffolk countryside.
· Monday is the culmination of the three days with the Carnival Procession down the High Street. If you fancy a dance then be sure to catch the Suffolk School of Samba. More inclined to a good military march – then we have a military band to keep you happy. Finally at the end of the day everyone moves through the town, lit by beautiful Chinese lanterns, and watches the spectacular firework display on the seafront opposite the White Lion Hotel.
Of course you can pick and choose what you want to see. Simply turn up and enjoy. If you want to stay close by (and yet still enjoy the Suffolk peace and quiet) come and stay at Five Acre Barn (as of today we have availability)!
Now we don’t pretend that the North Sea Coast owes much to the Mediterranean of Ibiza or the Greek Islands …. but that’s not to say that it isn’t a great place to hang out and with the Suffolk Coast’s Area of Outstanding Beauty as a backdrop – it can be staggeringly beautiful. Here are some of our favourites:
- Aldeburgh – a long expanse of shingle and take the obligatory photo by Maggi Hambling’s fabulous Scallop. No access for dogs in the summer months
- Sizewell – yes it’s next to a nuclear power station but it’s beautiful and dog friendly all year round. Here’s Bruce with Ruby and next door’s border terrier Seve (yes as in the golfer).
- Shingle Street – remote like Dungeness but with huge pebble dunes. Beautiful and desolate!
- Southwold – a gentile seaside town. Apparently some of the candy coloured seaside beach huts can sell for up to £100k. Crazy!
- Walberswick – shallow and shandy and they like dogs! You can also go crab fishing in the inland shallows – probably not enough for a sandwich these are just tiddlers after a piece of bacon.
- Covehithe – a bit off the beaten track and no tourist facilities but the Times rated this amongst its top 30 secret beaches – a quiet, sandy beach running alongside a bird reserve.
We like to say to guests welcome to ‘sunny Suffolk’. For the most part this is true, as Suffolk is one of the driest, sunniest counties in the UK. Unfortunately I have to admit it’s been a bit of a stretch for most of Spring so far. At the risk of tempting fate it does feel like we have turned a corner and the garden is finally coming alive (though unfortunately that applies as much to weeds as it does to plants). We can also hear the boom of the bittern as they settle down to raise their brood and an extremely loud cuckoo has set up shop in our woods. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that there have been any takers for our many bird boxes…
Spring has arrived in the countryside too. As we have mentioned before, we are on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Beauty – miles of heather, silver birch, broom and gorse. Many guests walk out to Thorpeness from the public footpath that runs at the end of the garden. In only forty five minutes, the meandering route takes them through farmland, woodland, heath and fen – before arriving at the beach. It’s stunning at any time of year but we love the spring – not least because of the incredible coconut fragrance of gorse blossom.
The only challenge in such a flat landscape is finding your way around with so few reference points to help guide you. We do supply detailed guidance for the walk to Thorpeness (and lots of maps and guidebooks if you are feeling adventurous).
Spring wouldn’t be spring without bluebells. At the moment we don’t have many in ours (we will get there eventually) so we have to venture a little further afield – about a twenty minute drive to Foxburrow woods at Farnham. In May these ancient woods are a truly breath-taking carpet of bluebells and wild garlic. Although this wood is private, it is open to the public as long as you promise to stay on the path – which seems a pretty fair deal.
Thanks to our friend – and photographer extraordinaire – Richard Wilson for this wonderful photograph of last year’s show.
Happy Birthday Five Acre Barn
It’s hard to believe that our first guests checked in exactly twelve months ago – 8 April 2017 (even harder to believe that we had thought we would be ready by the previous November – apologies to the people whose bookings sadly we had to cancel).
It had been a big build up to opening – first the long search for a suitable site and then fourteen months of building and renovating – and we weren’t even 100% sure that we would enjoy the experience. Fortunately it turns out that – perhaps bathroom cleaning aside – that it is really a lot of fun.
That it has been so enjoyable has mainly been down to our wonderful guests. We have been extremely lucky, meeting so many interesting, enthusiastic, positive and supportive people (possibly more architects in 12 months than in the rest of our entire lives). As B&B newbies, we have particularly appreciated all the lovely things that our guests have said – it has really lifted our spirits and helped reassure us that we are on the right track. We have equally valued the more critical feedback along the way – all helpful pointers how we might further improve our ‘offering’. Sometimes we are asked ‘have you had anyone awful to stay’ and we can honestly say that we haven’t. Long may that continue!
We have also been really lucky to have had some great exposure in the press and online – on the beautiful interiors blog www.designhunter.co.uk, the amazing www.Outthere.travel magazine and www.zafiri.com (the intersection of style and endurance!). Not forgetting Emily Mathieson’s Guardian feature which really put us on the map and filled the bookings diary (and continues to do so)!
Here’s a few random things we have learned in the last year:
Tumblefluff – we designed the rooms (concrete and ply floors) so they were easy to clean…… however you will always miss a bit of fluff floating ready to settle once you have left the room. Sorry about that – we do our best.
Dogs can open doors – Murphy (the Great Dane) taught us this valuable lesson in January, who set off in search of his owners who had just gone out for a cross country run. It seems that doors with lever handles are a doddle for dogs the size of a Shetland pony.
Weeds can be beautiful – we kind of lost the battle against the weeds last year – especially the tree lupins that eventually formed an impenetrable hedge along the guest rooms. However we realised that our guests weren’t bothered what the birds and butterflies were visiting as long as they could watch them from their rooms.
It’s surprisingly hard to get out of the garden – whilst we do have a large garden we were surprised to have a few people struggle to find their way out (no names) – so we will be investing in some paths shortly to help with the navigation.
Gluten-Free doesn’t mean taste-free – quite a few of our guests have had dietary requirements and we have always done our best to accommodate them. It’s amazing to see how many great recipes there are out there that are dairy or gluten free or Vegan. Our greatest challenge was vegan, gluten and nut free. Thank goodness for coconut!!
People love lemon drizzle cake – maybe that wasn’t such a surprise….
So that was our mini review of our first years – fingers crossed for the next twelve months. If you have visited before then it would be lovely to have you back and if you are thinking of coming to visit the Suffolk Coast then please do come and try us out!