Holiday journal – Easter 2014

This is a record of our Easter trip to Suffolk and the places visited, photos taken and memories recorded. For anyone who kindly looks at my blog for the photographs, this is predominantly a family post – you are more than welcome to view it but it’s not a photography oriented post. I will be following up with more posts about my photographic exploits later!

Saturday 12th April 2014

We loaded up the car  and set out on Holiday at about 10:00. We had decided the night before that even though our final destination was only about 2 hours away we would break our journey by stopping at a National Trust property just outside Bury St Edmunds called Ickworth House. Since we are National Trust family members, this is a zero cost option so it makes a lot of sense for us.

James

We arrived there at about 11:30 and discovered that there was to be a Napoleonic battle re-enactment  on the day we visited! Unfortunately, because we had a Tesco delivery booked for the Holiday Cottage we were staying at, we knew we wouldn’t be able to stay the whole day and watch it all, but it sounded an interesting event and we wished we could have stayed longer.

Our first port of call however was the restaurant in order to have some Lunch, and it turned out to be a good thing that we went there first because there was already a queue and almost every table was occupied. I guess that a lot of people decided to fuel up before the day’s main event.

Jan and I both had a roasted vegetable strudel with parsnip and a butternut squash sauce, Emma had a very nice looking home made tomato soup with a wedge of crusty bread and James had macaroni cheese. You can almost guarantee that if a menu has macaroni cheese, James will choose it!

After lunch Emma spent about 30 minutes in the gift shop choosing a furry toy to buy and I went outside and took a few pictures. This was about the only time during the day that I managed to take some pictures where I could actually put some thought into what I was doing. I mentioned this to Jan later and she said that it was in complete contrast to the way the rest of the family see it. They are always saying ‘Where has Dad gone now?’ and find me taking pictures somewhere; I always feel I’m simply snapping as much as I can so I can sort out the best ones when I get home.

Once Emma had picked her toy we all went for a walk round the Army camp where I took a few pictures of the soldiers and their families preparing for the forthcoming battle. It was quite interesting and I could have spent longer looking around, but James became bored and wanted to leave so we walked back towards the house.

At this point, Emma wanted to look at another event that was running at the house that weekend, ’50 things to do before you are 11 3/4′, so she went off with Jan to look at that and I walked back to the car with James.

Once Jan and Emma were back we set off on the rest of the journey to our holiday cottage in Horham in Suffolk. It should have been an uneventful 50 minute trip, but our Garmin GPS decided that we needed some excitement and so it took us off the main A14 and into some interesting single lane tracks which it thought were a more interesting route! After about 15 minutes of this we decided that we would be better off on the main road again so Jan used her phone to navigate our way back to the A14. As we missed each successive turn the GPS was trying to take us down, it seemed to get more and more desperate, like a demented dalek shouting ‘Re-calculating, re-calculating’ at us.

Eventually we arrived at the holiday cottage, which is a converted Suffolk barn. We unpacked the car and settled in and found that it is a really nice, clean holiday home, with a big garden. There is a child’s adventure fort in the garden which James and Emma really enjoyed playing on, and a series of paths leading off into the Suffolk countryside. We decided that we would have a bit of an explore in the morning.

Sunday 13th April 2014

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and we decided to spend the day in the local area rather than travelling. So after breakfast we set out across the holiday cottage garden to a path at the end which led over the field to the remains of an old world war two airfield which was apparently the home of the 95th Group Bomber squadron. It now seems to just be the remains of the airstrip and if we hadn’t been told by the holiday cottage owner that it had been an airstrip we may never have known.

We walked down the old airstrip and through a metal gate until we found a tarmac track which we followed up a slight incline through some beautiful Suffolk countryside of daffodil lined tracks until we came to a farm and tudor house at the top of the track. At this point we weren’t sure how much of the track we were allowed to follow, because we would have to go through gates to continue, so we turned back, but not before Emma and I saw a woodpecker in the trees. I’ve never seen a woodpecker before and quickly changed the lens on my camera to a longer focal length but I wasn’t able to get a shot before it flew away.

We continued back to the holiday cottage and I was amazed to see an Orange Tip butterfly fluttering about. I know that the orange tip is an early season butterfly, but I’ve never seen one as early as April 13th before. It is also a butterfly which I have never been able to take a picture of. Fortunately the longer lens fitted to the camera is also a macro lens, and I was able to get a few shots of it before it fluttered away.

Orange Tip butterfly

We went for another walk in the afternoon, going the other way down the tarmac track, but there was not really anything of interest that way – and Emma managed to sting her hand on some stinging nettles 🙁

 Monday 14th April 2014

On Monday we decided to go over to the Steam Engines at Bressingham which is just the other side of Diss in Norfolk.

I started out on Monday sorting out my photography kit and I discovered whilst looking at a few sunset pictures I took on Sunday evening that I had a spot of dirt on my sensor!

I took off the lens fitted to the Nex 6 and tried blowing the dirt off with a photographic blower. Unfortunately although this removed the majority of the dirt there was still a small smear which remained on the sensor which was apparent in pictures if the aperture was set above f/8. This meant that all the pictures I took from that point on (until I could clean the sensor) would ideally be with an aperture of f/8 or below.

So we packed the car and set out the 8 miles or so to Bressingham, leaving at about 10:15. We decided that we would also stop at one of the supermarkets in Diss on the way back to replenish out supplies.

We arrived at Bressingham at about 11:15, paid the 37 odd pounds for entry and went straight out into the rail yard – at least we would have done but Emma discovered that the shop sold fluffy animals and of course she found it impossible to get past the shop until she had had a good look!

Once we got into the park (which we did on the promise that Emma could look at the toys on the way out) we had a look round the engine shed where there were examples of royal trains and old pumping engines. Although we couldn’t enter the royal trains, I thought they looked far more ordinary than I expected.

Once outside again, we found that one of the engines was about to make a run so we headed for the platform and climbed aboard. Steam engines are something that all children seem to love and James & Emma are no different. Although Bressingham only has three circular routes, they loved the noise and excitement of it all. Because we sat in an open carriage I managed to get some shots as we rode around.

Once the run finished we were all hungry so we headed for the restaurant in the garden centre part of the park and found that it was surprisingly good. Jan and I had Mushroom Stroganoff and James and Emma had Fish & Chips.

Out in the Rail yard again Jan wanted a bit of a sit down so we walked over to a play area where Emma had a swing (assisted by James pushing her). Just across from the play park was a small funfair, well a roundabout and a couple of stores really, and James & Emma went over to look at ‘Hook a Duck’ and a shooting game. They both had several games and Emma won a plastic fishing set on ‘Hook a Duck’. James tried several goes at the shooting game without success so Emma had a go. She also missed, but by this time they had both spent so much money that the lady running the stall took pity and let Emma have a small cheap toy dog! For the rest of the day James insisted that his money had gone towards winning the dog and so Emma should pay him at least £2.

Once the fairground attractions were over we took our second ride of the day on one of the other lines, this time in a closed carriage and then headed for the gardens. We started to have a look around and after a while we walked back to the main centre and used the facilities there to ‘freshen up’ as the americans put it and J & E both had an Ice cream.

Since we were back in the centre of the attraction, James & Emma had a ride on the merry-go-round.  I tried the Nex panorama effect to get the shot above which I am quite pleased with – it’s done a really good job of joining the individual images together.

After another train ride we went back to the gardens where I took a whole load of additional pictures. The gardens at Bressingham are spectacular and since we are starting to take an interest in getting our own garden into some sort of shape, it was interesting to see how the different plants were planted to get nice colour and size arrangements.

We left at about 4:00 and called at Morrison’s on the way home to fill the car with diesel and stock up on bread, milk etc.

Tuesday 15th April 2014

On Tuesday we went to Framlingham to see the castle and town.

We made a bit of an earlier start and set out at about 9:30. It was only about 8 miles from our holiday cottage to Framlingham, but we discovered the direct route had roadworks and the road was closed so we had to take a small diversion and arrived at about 10:15.

Jan had found a leaflet in the holiday cottage which described a walk round the town looking at all the local noteworthy buildings, so we parked in the car park where that walk started from and set off. We walked around the town visiting the buildings in the walk until we got to the main focus of the visit, (at least for us) which was the castle.

Since the castle is maintained by English Heritage rather than National Trust we needed to pay for entry so we did that at the small hut by the entrance and made our way into the castle entrance via the bridge over the moat.

In the visitor centre, we picked up some of the free audio tour players and went up the spiral staircase to the battlement walkway to listen to the tour and walk round. The audio tour has two separate audio tracks – a serious historical track and a children’s amusing track. I started listening to the adult track, but I had forgotten how nervous I get at height and within a few feet of leaving the starting point I was feeling quite frightened and not really able to concentrate on the talk at all. Because I felt nervous, I felt that everyone was moving too fast and pushing past me, although they weren’t at all.  All the way round the battlement I was basically clinging to the rail and trying to take my mind off the height by taking photographs of the views.

When we returned to ground level I took a few pictures of Jan and James who were still listening to the end of the audio track, and then we decided to find somewhere to have some Lunch as we were all getting hungry. We found a Pub next to the entrance to the castle (called the Castle Inn logically enough) where we had lunch and then walked back to the castle, but this time we walked round the moat (which is dry) and the land around the castle.

To the left of the castle (when viewed from the main entrance) there is a gateway which leads to the Mere nature reserve, and we started to have a look in there but James really doesn’t like wasps or bees, so after a little bit of an explore we came out and resumed out walk round the moat.

From the castle we still had a few building to see to complete our walk so we did that and finished back at the car at about 2:30. Although it was quite early we decided to go back to the holiday cottage as I think everyone was quite tired. Also, because it had been a day of full sunshine, I think both Jan & I were a bit concerned about being out in the sun any more. There was actually a windmill which we had thought about visiting, but decided we would leave that for another day.

One thing I had noticed since we arrived at out holiday destination was that when the sky was clear there were many stars visible in the sky and I wanted James & Emma to see them so I told them that if they behaved themselves they could get up later and look at the stars with me. Well they tried reasonably to behave, so at 8:50 I let them get their coats on and we went out into the garden and used my phone with google skymap to find the planets and star constellations visible. As it turned out most of the planets were below the horizon, but we did see Jupiter and Mars and Orion’s Belt and the Great Plough.

Wednesday 16th April 2014

James & Emma wanted to go to the seaside at some point during our trip away so on Wednesday we decided to go to Dunwich on the coast. This is a National Trust area so we looked in the National Trust book and found that there is a restaurant or snack bar so we could have lunch there and I looked on Flickr to see the sort of pictures I could take and decide on the lenses I would need.

It was about 10:15 when we set out on the trip to Dunwich and it was a slightly longer journey than the other trips we have taken so we arrived about 11:00. The first thing we looked at was the National Trust shop to see if I could find a hat as the unexpected sunshine over the last few days had left my head quite red and sore. Unfortunately the shop didn’t sell that sort of item so we walked down to the beach instead.

The beach at Dunwich is a pebble beach, and the sea is only about 20 yards away from the cliffs behind the beach. James & Emma started to try to skim stones across the sea and found that they had to move quickly to avoid the incoming tide. James was not quite quick enough and got his feet wet. Once this had happened once he didn’t seem too concerned and ended up with his feet completely soaked to the point where we could pour water out of his shoes.

We took James’s shoes off and tried to get them as dry as we could by leaving them leaning against a post pointing towards the sun, but to be honest there wasn’t a lot of heat in the sun in mid april so they were basically wet all day. After a bit more beach play (and a lot more photos) we made out way back to the National Trust property office and bought some lunch. James, Emma and Janice had a nice mushroom and tomato pizza and I had a baked potato with baked beans.

After lunch we went on a children’s ‘Pirate trail’ where there were a series of clues which Emma solved which filled in a crossword puzzle. Although James didn’t find this particularly interesting, Emma loved it. This took about 40 minutes to complete, by which time James was completely grumpy about ‘wasting time’ so we cheered him up with an ice cream and went back to the beach for another 30 minutes of play. Jan found it cold in the wind so she went into the dunes for a bit of protection whilst I carried on taking pictures.

At one point I found a small post which supported a short fence and I was using this a a ‘foreground interest’ item, with James & Emma as the main interest. I must have looked fairly suspicious crouched down behind the post because one of the National Trust members of staff actually asked me if I was with the Children! I was so startled at being asked that as first I half mumbled that I was a parent before I said clearly ‘Yes, they are my children’. Apparently someone had reported earlier in the day that photographs were being taken of children on the beach so she thought it best to ask me. I’ve no idea if it was me taking pictures in the morning which had brought about the comments, or someone else but the whole episode left me feeling quite down about taking anymore pictures. I guess she had to ask and I wouldn’t want anything untoward to be going on, but on the other hand photographers have a perfect right to take pictures in any public place if they want.

We left Dunwich at about 3:15 and headed to the local Tesco store in Saxmundham to get some bread/milk etc before getting home about 5:10

Thursday 17th April

Thursday was the first day of the holiday which was not forecast to be bright sunlight all day and it was also the first day when we hadn’t decided beforehand where to go. After a bit of deliberation we decided on Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge because it was quite close and was National Trust so we wouldn’t need to pay for entry.

It seemed to take ages for everybody to get ready but we eventually left just after 10 and arrived a little before 11. Although the weather forecast said it would get cloudy later, it was sunny during our journey and for the first part of our visit.

The first part of the day was spent with James & Emma exploring the outdoor play area and I took some pictures of the bluebells growing under some trees near the play area. Once that initial exploration was over, we went into the main reception area to get our stickers for the day and a map of the estate. Emma found there was an art and craft area set up where she could make a puppet so she started that with Jan and I took James into the main exhibition display. We were greeted by a Nation Trust staff member who told us the history of the Sutton Hoo estate.

Apparently in 1939 the owner of Tranmer House, Mrs Edith Pretty asked a local archaeologist to examine the mounds in her grounds and they were discovered to be the ancient burial grounds of an Anglo Saxon king. Once discovered there was a race to get the site fully excavated before the war (which by that time everyone knew was coming) started.

James and I had a look round the exhibition before Emma & Janice joined us and then we all went to the restaurant for some lunch.

After lunch we visited the house on the estate (Tranmer House) which is decorated and furnished as Mrs Pretty would have had it in the 1930’s. It is different from many National Trust properties because you can touch the exhibits, sit on the chairs, play the gramophone etc.  Emma sat and had a play on the piano and Janice and James spent about 30 minutes completing a Jigsaw puzzle!

Once the jigsaw was complete, we went for a circular walk round the park and past the burial mounds, but we didn’t actually visit them. A quick Ice cream later and we drove home.

Friday 18th April

We had planned before we went on holiday to spend Saturday with my Sister Karen in Norwich and go to Kentwell Hall on Friday 18th because there was a special Easter event on at Kentwell. However while we were away Jan discovered that the special event was also on on the Saturday so we changed our plans and visited Karen, Mum and Dad on Friday instead. That meant we were able to also visit an antiques and collectables fair at the Norfolk showground which Mum, Dad and Karen had been planning to visit for a few weeks.

The trip to Norwich was quite easy and quick except we needed to stop to get some cash and each cash machine we stopped at either had no cash or was out of order. Eventually we managed to get some money from the Barcleys Bank in Long Stratton. This made us slightly late to arrive at Karen’s house, but it didn’t eventually matter because she was only just having Breakfast when we arrived.

At about 11:00 was set out for the Norfolk show-ground which is about 3 miles outside Norwich along the Dereham Road. I took Dad and his wheelchair (he is slightly frail now at 85) and Jan, James & Emma. Karen took Oliver (Karen’s partner) and Mum. I tried to find a disabled parking bay when we arrived but couldn’t find one – after getting out and enquiring at the kiosk it turned out there weren’t any.

So we paid the entrance fee and all went into the fair. It was just like an episode of Bargain Hunt with a huge number of stalls selling everything imaginable from small trinkets to large items of furniture. I started to push dad’s wheelchair through the stalls when we had a sharp rain shower and headed for a covered stall for a few minutes. The rain didn’t last long, but we remarked that it was the only real rain we had seen for the entire week we were away.

Once the rain stopped we carried on through the stalls to get to the indoor hall were there were more interesting items (well interesting to Dad). On the way he purchased a multimeter (Dad is very into collecting and one of the items he can’t resist is multimeters).

The hall was very crowded – probably because so many people were coming in from the possibility of more rain outside, and it was difficult at times navigating the wheelchair through the crowd. It reminded me of pushing James or Emma in the pushchair when they were toddlers.

Eventually we made out way to the top hall where I found a few camera related stalls, but non of them had anything I was willing to pay for. I was tempted by a Weston lightmeter at £15, but I couldn’t get any sort of reading on it so I suspect it was broken. By this time it was about 1 o’clock and James & Emma were both hungry so we left Karen with Mum, Dad and Oliver and went back out to a burger bar to buy some chips. Although it was a long wait and the burgers looked particularly unappetising, the chips were surprisingly good.

On our way back to find the others, I spotted an Avo multi-minor meter, so I told Dad about it when we caught up with them. A few minutes later Mum had negotiated the price down from £14 to £10 and Dad had acquired another meter! Mum also negotiated half price on a small posy holder which Emma liked since it was in the shape of a rabbit. By this time the children and Mum & Dad were getting tired, so we made our way back to the car and drove back to Karen’s house.

Saturday 19th April

So, as always with holidays, we suddenly discovered that it was the last day and time to pack up the car and head home. However, rather than just heading straight for home we had decided that we would break the journey by stopping at Kentwell House for the day, which was having a special ‘Tudor Day’.

We left the holiday cottage at about 9:30 (although 5 min down the road we got a call because we had left Jan’s coat behind so we had to go back and collect it) and the journey to Kentwell took about 90 minutes meaning we arrived at the opening time of 11am. There was a children’s Easter egg hunt running that day so Emma decided to do that and picked up a sheet to record all the eggs she found.

The first thing we heard when we got through the entrance gatehouse was the call of a peacock which was sitting by a pond at the front of the house. James had never seen a peacock and was a little startled at the loud cry, but Emma was running up to see what the noise was. Unfortunately the bird didn’t display its tail fan so they didn’t see it in its full glory.

We made our way round the side of the house, past the dovecote where we came upon our first set of Tudor people who were cooking two pots of pottage over an open fire. We had quite a long conversation about the ingredients they were using and how long it would take until ready and I found the whole experience very interesting. In fact, although I don’t usually interact with strangers very well, I found myself asking another person what they were doing and if we could watch for a while. He was a carver and showed us some of the tools he was using and the work he had done.

We left the carver to his work and walked round a bit to find some eggs with Emma. We found one and then carried on round the back of the house where we came upon the butts or archery shooting range. we found Sam and his wife Frankie who were preparing to shoot some arrows. They told us all about the craft of archery and how James being 11 summers would be required to practice archery every week on a Sunday. Emma too would also be required to practice even though she was a girl. There was some tunics which archers would wear in battle and both James and Emma tried them on. Both James and Emma remarked how heavy they were, but since they have metal plates sewn into them to protect from falling arrows, that isn’t surprising!

Sam explains archery to James

We had some lunch next and after lunch we looked for more Easter Eggs for Emma. During the course of the afternoon we spoke to weavers, dyers, bakers, dairy maids, blacksmiths, gunsmiths, noblemen and servants. We had a long conversation with an alchemist in a forest setting where Emma helped make Gunpowder and we learnt all sorts of mystical but un-explained scientific facts! In fact, I would say that we had saved the best day to the end and I found it a thoroughly fascinating day. Since Emma is due to study the Tudors in the next term at school this could be the best lesson she could have in preparation for next term.

We left Kentwell at about 4 o’clock, just at the house was closing and drove home arriving back at about 5:30.

All in all I thought our holiday in Suffolk was one of the more relaxing and enjoyable holidays we have had. We seemed to squeeze a huge amount in, had some great weather, met up with family and I managed to take about a thousand pictures! That’s enough material for about 6 weeks worth of blog posts, so watch out!



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