Every so often, I like to pack a holdall with clothes and books, hotfoot it up to Liverpool St Station and hop on a train out to the country. See, I have fairly rustic roots, and spent a good nine years of my life growing up in sunny Suffolk. For those of you who don’t know where this is, it’s the county between Norfolk and Essex on the East Anglian coast. I must admit that I found it a bit dull growing up there – flat, boring fields, nothing going on, and the nearest big town (Ipswich) over an hour away by bus. But there is an endearing charm to this little corner of the UK, and I could only really appreciate that once I’d moved to London. There’s something about the concrete jungle that makes me long for the tranquillity of the Suffolk countryside. And for Mum’s adorable Ginger Monster, Sampson…
Nowadays, I have two separate homes to stay at when visiting Suffolk. My parents separated in my final year of high school, so they now live on opposite sides of the county. This means I have two places I can escape to, and they both feel like such havens to me. It’s a wonderful feeling to step off the train and just switch off, leaving all the stresses and strains of my day-to-day, working life behind. Today I enjoy driving along the winding country lanes, past vast expanses of flat, open fields. I love being able to visit the sea and not have it rammed with tourists and tacky souvenirs. I love just sitting on the sofa with my parents (their own respective sofas, of course) and enjoying some quality time catching up with them. This is something else I have been more grateful for now these days: time with my parents. Having hideously undervalued this in typical teenage fashion, since leaving home I’ve grown to really appreciate just how much they’ve done and continue to do for me. Their love, support and generosity has kept me afloat for the last twenty four years, and the least I can do to try to repay that, in my own small way, is by visiting them as often as I can.
Who wouldn’t miss these beautiful open skies? I love standing on top of a hill and staring up at the sky, seeing it stretch on and on for miles around me. It makes you feel very small and rather awestruck at the same time.
This particular visit home was a tie-in celebration of my birthday. Ben and I drove up on the evening of my birthday in hideous weather and crawling traffic. At some points we could barely see the road in front of us for the rain, and I take my hat off to Ben for driving in such terrible conditions. But walking through the door to Mum and Tony and bowls of an amazing Nigel Slater pasta recipe (link to follow once Ben and I have recreated it at home!) made it all worthwhile.
I had 3 ½ days and Ben had 2 ½ days up in Suffolk before having to return (very begrudgingly) to work. We spent the days we had together catching up with my dad, discovering a charming farm café, wandering along by the beach, watching Gone Girl (amazing film, as good as the book!), and dancing round the kitchen to American anthems while cooking salmon risotto (a mouth-watering BBC Good Food recipe). All in all, a fairly perfect couple of days. And once Ben had headed for home, I used my extra day to catch up with my mum and practice my photography skills using Ben’s camera (kindly loaned to me for a few days). I am already sorely tempted to invest in a reasonable DSLR in the coming months, as I don’t think Ben would appreciate having to put up with a 50% time share in his own camera! All the photos taken on this post are with his camera, just for credit where it’s due!
Below are some snaps from those few days at home. You will definitely be seeing more scenes like these from my blog over the coming weeks and months: Suffolk is picturesque throughout the year and I will be returning home as often as I can to enjoy watching the changing of the seasons.
Once Ben had gone home, I was left with his camera and an afternoon to myself to roam at will. I decided to explore more of Stowmarket, the town closest to where my mum lives. First up, the Church of St. Peter and St. Mary. The last time I went to the church was years ago when Mum and I attended a Christmas Eve mass.
I’m not particularly religious, but I enjoy visiting churches and other places of worship because, to me at least, they all seem so peaceful and calm. Time stands still inside, and that’s certainly the case with this church. There’s a road running past outside but you can’t even hear it. The church has 14th century origins, but has been subject to extensive rebuilding over time, finalised in 1994. It’s built from flint ‘flush-work’, a building material and style characteristic of the region. The church site dates back to the Domesday Book, making it steeped in ecclesiastical history. While I was inside there were rays of golden sunlight filtering through the windows, casting ripples and shimmers of light across the red carpeted floor.
One of the most moving things in the church was the board of Prayer Requests. It’s incredibly moving. Some were written by children, some by the elderly, but all of them were alike in their desperate, fervent hope for someone to answer their prayers. Perhaps the saddest was one dedicated to Joan, “with advanced breast cancer, who delayed treatment because she was caring for another.” Another was the Roll of Honour listing those who died in the war:
Having taken my fill of church photos and feeling slightly more zen and refreshed, I headed out into the sunshine and on to the Rec (Recreation Ground, essentially a large playing field), a place I have walked around a few times but without really giving it much thought, looking for autumnal leaves and colours to capture.
I really enjoy doing photo walks like this, because it helps me to appreciate the things I would normally overlook. We rush around so much these days, going about our business and trying to juggle extremely hectic lives, that we don’t take enough time to appreciate the little things in life. Like the rays of sunshine filtering through those church windows. Like the richly coloured and embroidered banners hanging up in the church bearing the name of the town. Like the detailed carving of gravestones to much-loved relatives. Like the swirl of orange autumn leaves collecting on the ground. Like the beauty of a bright blue, endless sky. I whiled away a few very enjoyable hours with Ben’s camera wandering around on this sunny Autumn day and capturing both the Rec and the church in all their glory.
I left Suffolk feeling, as I always do, like the visit wasn’t nearly long enough. It’s my little haven from my hectic life, and I will be jumping back on that train out from Liverpool St again as soon as I can!