We have just come home after a short break – two nights in a wonderfully wonky and beamy old apartment above a bistro in Framlingham in Suffolk (look up Upstairs@The Lemon Tree if you are interested). The design brief for this higgledy-piggedly bijou dwelling was obviously that there must be no vertical or horizontal lines or surfaces. It was all very quaint and special. Framlingham is a small, characterful market town where Ed Sheeran was lucky enough to grow up and we were literally a couple of hundred yards from Framlingham Castle, the “Castle on the Hill” of his recent, autobiographical hit.
Getting there was quite special as well. Or at least the latter part of the journey was. It was last Sunday and the warmest, sunniest day of the year so far. Going down the M1 from Leicester and then east along the A14 was routine (i.e. dull) but trouble-free. Then we turned off at Stowmarket and followed the A1120 which was actually sign-posted as a tourist route. And what an absolute treat it was. A great road to drive and beautiful scenery to go with it. Now we are not talking spectacular mountain passes, hairpin bends, majestic lakes, the Serengeti or anything seriously dramatic but rather picture postcard England at its very best.
The part of Suffolk we saw is not like its East Anglian neighbour Norfolk, with its flat, sometimes featureless landscape and straight roads and ditches. No, Suffolk’s landscape undulates as English countryside should and is broken up by hedgerows, trees and church spires aplenty plus the occasional windmill. And the A1120 twists, dips and turns sufficiently to keep you on your toes a bit. Despite the tourist route tag, we hardly encountered any traffic to hold us up as we swept along past so much green, interspersed with splashes of white and pink blossom and bright yellow rape. All that colour was complemented and enriched by a totally clear, bright blue sky. Between villages, the A1120 allows you to flow pleasingly through the bends before having to slow down to pass through the small pockets of rural civilisation. But slowing down to a relaxing bumble is not just a legal necessity. A gentler pace allows you to drink in the charms of each little village. There were several picturesque places to pass through, each eliciting so many oohs and aahs from my wife and daughter you would have thought the route had been lined with the world’s cutest puppies. “Ooh, look at that.” “Aah, isn’t that lovely…”. And there were many adorable buildings, a lot of them pastel coloured or rusty old brick, some thatched and all seemingly well cared for despite their age. Each village had its fair share of chocolate box pubs too, some with people sitting outside making the most of the fine weather. All very tempting. With the sun working its magic and those time-warped villages casting their spell, it was all very beautiful, transporting you in more ways than one such that nothing else in the world seemed to matter. A journey to take your cares away – except the niggling concern that we may encounter Ed Sheeran driving at 90 down that particular country road in the opposite direction. After all, sing Tiny Dancer too heartily at that speed and who knows what might happen – could be messy.
Actually, later in the day we thought we had encountered Ed Sheeran in the equally picturesque (but rather overcrowded) seaside resort of Southwold but it turned out to be a bloke holding his candy floss in front of his face.
In all, it was 26 miles along the A1120 from Stowmarket to Yoxford before we joined the A12 to carry on to Southwold. With all the villages en route, I guess those 26 miles took the better part of an hour but it was not a journey to rush unduly. It would have been wonderful in my Austin-Healey Sprite and sensational in one of these old Lagondas that we encountered the following day (all 1930’s I assume; I am not an expert). But even in our everyday Skoda Octavia estate the journey was hugely enjoyable. Away from the A12, there are many great country roads in that part of the world so the driving enjoyment did not stop at the end of the official tourist route.
After Southwold, we stopped at a much quieter Dunwich Heath to do a bit of beach combing before going on to Framlingham to find our accommodation and have a quick stroll around the town. It had been a wonderful but exhausting day so we eventually climbed thankfully up to bed. Not up any stairs you understand, we just had to scale the floor of our wonky apartment.