Thursday 18 August 2016

Pigs Gone Wild In Ipswich

Suffolk Online - Pigs Gone Wild

Not before time, there seem to be quite a few good things happening in Ipswich. One of the very best projects  for a long time is Pigs Gone Wild. Bright, happy art and a variety of pigs with clever, corny titles forming part of a trail around town. Kids love it, it really has motivated many people to walk around and discover more of our county town, and the sight of a beautifully decorated, lifesize pig always makes me smile. So what a shame to say goodbye to the likes of “Ed Sheerham” and “Porkman Road” in early September and how I do wish I was rich enough to buy one of them when they are auctioned for St Elizabeth’s Hospice.

What a sparky idea, well executed and with so many facets. Brilliant!!!!

For more information go to The Pigs Gone Wild Website

Tuesday 13 May 2014

The Suffolk Walking Festival

High res artwork Suffolk Walking Fest. Portrait


The Suffolk Walking Festival takes place from 10th May to 1st June 2014 with nearly 80 guided walks covering the whole of the county - a mix of short strolls around medieval villages and market towns, and longer rambles through Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and along the Suffolk coast. Serious walkers might consider one, two or all six days of The Discover Suffolk Challenge Walk which follows The Angles Way, 90 miles along the border with Norfolk, through the scenic Waveney Valley and the sandy landscape of The Brecks. More recreational walkers may be tempted by some of the themed, guided walks with such intriguing titles as 'Across the Marshes to the Castle', 'A Point to my Ramblings', 'Tiptoe Through the Heather' and ‘Prickles’ Story Walk’, or even a free taster session of Nordic Walking. Perhaps even more tempting are the walks that include a cream tea or a glass of local wine!

For more information, link to Suffolk Walking Festival Website

Don’t Miss This Year’s Suffolk Show

Suffolk Show Wildlife Area

No May in Suffolk would be complete without a day out to the Suffolk Show, especially as children under 14 can enter free and dogs are now welcome again! The event takes place on the 28th and 28th May at Trinity Park and there’s even a conservation and wildlife area, next to the existing ancient woodland, that includes a large pond, marshland, heathland and hedgerows.

For full details go to Suffolk Show Website

Monday 6 August 2012

A Walk On The Wild Side In A Good Cause

Garry prepares for his walk

Many of us enjoy a stroll along Suffolk’s beautiful coastal path. Few of us would attempt it all 50 miles of it in one go and fewer still would turn round and walk all the way back again! That is exactly what The Rural Coffee Caravan Information Project’s Garry Simmonds intends to do in order to raise much needed funds for this unique and much loved Suffolk charity.

Garry’s expedition begins on 5 September 2012. His journey starts at Landguard Fort in Felixstowe and over the following 8 days he will walk to Lowestoft and back again, around 100 miles in total. His challenge includes a sense of survival as he will camp out in the dunes most nights and arriving back at Landguard Fort on 13 September hopefully around 4pm.

Garry has been a project officer for the Coffee Caravan charity since April 2010 and is passionate about the work it does:  ‘I am constantly amazed when I speak to rural residents that haven’t heard of some of the wonderful supportive services we have here in Suffolk and so don’t receive the help they need. It is vital that we try to reach as many people as possible to give them access to everything that is available’.

The charity is a member of The Campaign to End Loneliness and also tackles the problem of rural isolation, defined as “the feeling of powerlessness and disconnection experienced by individuals or groups as a consequence of living in a rural area”. Its services focus on supporting rural people by travelling throughout the county and setting up the Coffee Caravan (mobile café) to deliver free social meeting and event opportunities. These provide, not only information on vital services and initiatives, but tea and cake and the chance for a chat, something many service users have said they sorely miss.

Canon Sally Fogden, Project Founder, is delighted that Garry has volunteered for this mammoth undertaking and has promised that the project will support him every inch of the way. Sally says ‘We are very much hoping to turn this into a bit of an event and ask people to support Garry, not only with donations but also by walking a little way with him or by joining him in the evening for a much needed drink and some company’.

The Rural Coffee Caravan service needs to reach more people living in rural areas and enable them to access vital services to improve their lives. By sponsoring Garry's mammoth effort, you can help us to achieve this.

Gary’s fundraising pages are: Garry's My Donate Page

Or see the link on our website: Rural Coffee Caravan

Garry will tweet along the way so keep up with his progress and give him support by following @garrysimmonds


Today’s photo is of Garry preparing for his trip. Thanks to the Rural Coffee Caravan for photos and text.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Secrets Around Shottisham

Suffolk Online - Sorrel Horse Shottisham c

When we wrote our Secrets Around Shottisham Trail, little did we realise that we’d end up having a small stake in the star of the show – The Sorrel Horse. Or that we’d find such a small village that had so much going for it. Serendipity!

Just a 15 minute drive from Woodbridge, you couldn’t get more rural, yet this small band of villagers had the guts and clear mindedness successfully to invest in the future of their local pub. Last summer, in a few short weeks, they decided to buy it and managed to raise most of the money to do so. The core investors put up the additional cash, pending selling the remaining few shares, and Shottisham hasn’t looked back. It’s an absolutely gorgeous pub, inside and out, and the new owners also had the sense to plan for reinvestment. The roof gets rethatched in May and there’s a craft weekend planned around it for the spring bank holiday. Here’s what the latest newsletter says about it:

Spring Bank Holiday 5-7th May
To coincide with the upcoming major project of re-thatching the pub we've organised a Craft Weekend which will allow visitors not only to see how the roof is re-thatched but also to peruse some visiting craft stalls. We also have the Morris Men visiting, plus a number of folk music groups are playing AND we'll have the obligatory bank-holiday BBQ on offer.

More details to follow in due course but do make this weekend a date in your diary as hopefully the pub won't need to be re-thatched for another 30 years !

Apart from the pub itself, there’s a lovely church nearby, and  a great playground, with plenty to amuse all ages, just behind. Great dog walks too and, as if that wasn’t enough, just down the road is a brilliant camp site – St Margaret’s Caravan/Camping Site.

The Camping site’s website is very comprehensive but here are a few highlights:

* £12 per night for up to 2 people with car and caravan, campervan or tent (+£2 on bank holidays and in high summer)

* £8 per night for up to 2 people with tent but no vehicle (+£2 on bank holidays and in high summer)

* £4 for electricity hook up

* Pets free

* Cute caravans for hire

* Hot showers, hot water to basins, flush toilets, covered dish-washing areas, septic emptying point

* Fridge/freezer available for campers to use and Calor camping gas available for sale.

* Hire of fire pits & sale of  wood for open fires on your pitch

* Hire of picnic tables

* Home grown organic fruit and vegetables, and home-made jams, jellies and chutneys for sale.

* Multi-coloured eggs from very free-range hens for sale


I think I’ll have to rename my Trail – the secret’s out!!

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Fascinating Framlingham


Today we revisited the lovely Framlingham to retest our Framlingham Treasure Trail and what a fantastic afternoon we had. This Trail is great for dogs, with two parks and a footpath round the castle. Barnie our dog (see previous posting) loves  it and in such great weather he didn’t need his coat!

Apart from the history, the castle and a fabulous rural setting there are so many other things to love about the place:

In the small square there’s an equally small but surprisingly abundant market so we treated ourselves to fresh salmon and scallops for dinner, accompanied by a selection of the freshest vegetables from a huge choice. We could have gone really mad, and bought some artisan cheese or some quality meat, but we settled for a lovely French crepe, with sweet chestnut filling, and a cup of cappuccino sitting in the open air watching the world go by. The stall  has a choice of crepe fillings that would embarrass the Parisians, and plenty more besides, but it’s not “fast food”, especially at lunchtime in this kind of weather, particularly when all the customers keep going back for more!

The biggest thing that marks “Fram” out from many other places across the UK, but seems common in Suffolk, is how well loved it appears to be. There’s always something new and it always looks cared for but not too “chintzy”.  This time, we found that one of the parks had a newish set of heavy duty outdoor fitness equipment for adults, just outside the children’s playground – something to pull yourself up and down on, a static pedalling machine,  a “leg swinger” and something to do sit ups on. I’m sure there are more technical terms for all these things but how great to provide mum and dad with something useful to play with while the kiddies are letting off steam on all their pieces of kit or in the skate park.

Even the ducks have a safe place, away from inquisitive dogs like Barnie – they all seem to collect in the other fenced off children’s playground, waiting for the after school feeding session no doubt.

Framlingham is a really great place for a day out with the kids, especially when you have a Treasure Trail to take you around the highlights and get both adult and child brains whirring. Try it and see! Just wait a couple of days before you buy your Framlingham Trail as we have a few new discoveries to include to make the existing one even better! Keep an eye on the Suffolk Trails Website for news on new Trails and revised editions.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Barnie’s New Coat

Lucky Barnie has a favourite auntie who has just knitted him a new (and his first) winter coat. He absolutely adores it, it doesn’t bother him at all and here he is modelling it.

Thank you Diana!!

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Ipswich Town Centre Draft Master Plan

Suffolk Online - Ipswich Rugby Legend Statue

This week, Ipswich Borough Council invited discussion for their draft Master Plan for Ipswich town centre. The aim is to enhance, remodel and develop the town centre over a 15 year period ending in 2026.

Highlights include:
• the re shaping of the town centre so that its orientation
extends more north to south
• an additional 40,000m2 shopping floor space on three different sites 
• creation of street networks which promote leisure shopping that are attractive and convenient for all pedestrians
• promotion of a “café culture” by permitting more food and drink uses in the town centre retail heart
• an improved open air market
•any large scale office development focused in the Ipswich Village/Portman Road areas
• promotion of residential development, particularly family units, throughout the town centre
• provision of a series of medium size short stay multi storey car parks 
• improved bus access to the central area
• relocation of the two bus stations to a single bus station on the Tacket Street car park and creation of enhanced satellite bus stops strategically positioned around the town centre
• improved cultural and leisure facilities, enhanced Museum & Arts Hub (High Street) and Arts & Conference facility (Education Quarter on the Waterfront)
• improved linkages for pedestrians between the Waterfront and town centre
• a comprehensive pedestrian information system, Walk Ipswich
Project (previously known as the Wayfinding Project) to aid movements for sustainable modes of travel

The plan is open for consultation until 23rd December 2011 – link to Ipswich Borough Council Web Page for full details and to have your say.

Bury St Edmunds–Remembrance Sunday 2011

Suffolk Online - Remembrance Sunday In Bury St Edmunds

Bury St Edmunds really is the place to be on a special occasion. Remembrance Sunday was no exception and the sun also came out in honour of those who were being remembered.

A moving service in Angel Square was followed by a spectacular parade past the Cathedral and to St Mary’s Church. Participants came from a wide variety of military and military related organisations.  The youngest were around six years old; the oldest probably in their nineties. And, as usual, the people of Bury, and those from further afield, turned out in their masses to participate themselves.

Monday 10 October 2011

BBC Local Radio Cuts Continued

Suffolk Online - Radio

Readers will see from the posting below that we have set up an e-petition, to preserve the integrity of BBC Radio Suffolk, on the relevant government website. We’re using this posting to collect together various sources of information and links to help those that want to research the matter more thoroughly and/or make their voice heard:

Preserve BBC Radio Suffolk Afternoon SchedulesEpetition

Please register you’re vote here – you’ll see the detail of the “case” we’re making if you click on the link. Voting here may help focus any government intervention in the BBC’s plans.

A Summary Of The Proposals

Interesting to note here that the totality of “radio” spend - national and local - represents only 17% of the licence fee.

Proposals in Detail And Link To Full Document

Public Consultation

I’ve just filled the response documents in and it took me about an hour to read through properly and then comment. It was an interesting exercise and, in my humble opinion, local radio and local news of any sort seem to be the soft targets at the expense of “headline” areas such as drama. The results of consultation will be available in spring 2012.

Friday 7 October 2011

BBC Radio Suffolk–Afternoon Schedules Deserve Preserving

Suffolk Online - Lesley Dolphin

Once again, the BBC, in it’s infinite wisdom, has decided on local radio as a soft target for its cuts. Local Radio can never win when size of audience matters and that seems to be the main rationale behind the cuts – which changes will affect most people and are therefore best avoided. The decision appears to be (though there now follows a consultation process) that local radio morning schedules will be left in tact, having been allegedly “beefed up” in line with earlier edicts, but afternoon schedules are under threat of becoming far less local. The “sharing” could be with Norfolk or a wider area.

As a relative newcomer to Suffolk (ex Croatia and London where Capital Radio was my favoured local station) I’ve been very impressed with the quality and content of all the BBC Radio Suffolk programmes. However Lesley Dolphin’s afternoon program has been a particular godsend.  It consistently get’s under the skin of Suffolk, and its huge variety of places and personalities. It’s hot onto anything new happening in the county, delves into its history, and helps us all realise what a county full of talent, artisans and heritage it is.  And it’s presented in a way that draws out the very best from the many Suffolk residents that participate on a daily basis - by email, phone, twitter and the wealth of other social media. In short, it’s an interesting, enjoyable and relevant programme that seems to  deliver exactly what anyone, no matter how demanding, might expect from a good local radio program, paid for by a miniscule part of our licence fee.

For me BBC Radio Suffolk, and particularly the afternoon program, has become an essential part of Suffolk culture. The afternoon program is widely recognised for its value and quality so why make it a part of a general budget cutting edict just because there are less people listening to local radio in the afternoon than watching obscure drama, broadcast nationally, in prime time?

I’m very fond of Norfolk, and the rest of the country for that matter, and Lesley is the first to admit to her Norfolk roots. This is not a question of xenophobia or being insular; it’s a question of trying to prevent the dilution of local news and information so that it becomes no more than an echo of national radio. Suffolk may not be that densely populated but it covers a big area and has plenty going on. Doubling, or more, the size of the catchment area  will turn it from “local radio” to “remote radio” and if we want that there are plenty of existing choices. As far as the BBC is concerned, I fear they will end up losing out too as people turn to more local commercial radio stations to find out what’s happening nearby.

Anyone who feels this is a backward step, can voice their feelings effectively by signing up to the following petition:

Preserve BBC Radio Suffolk Afternoon Schedules

The website is run by the government and if we get 100,000 signatures, we’ll get a debate in Parliament! That’s a tall order for a county with a population of around 720,000 but the principle applies nationwide even though the specific detail may differ county to county.

Pictured above is Lesley Dolphin who has been presenting the BBC Radio Suffolk afternoon program for some time. You can read more about her on her profile page.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Walking Woodbridge

Suffolk Online - Woodbridge Birds

Spurred on by all round ace tweep, @artisanfoodman, it’s way past time for another Suffolk Online posting. In fact there are at least twenty waiting in the wings but, today, we have to share our Woodbridge walk inspired, again, by Artisan Foodman.

Albeit relative newbies to Suffolk, we thought we knew Woodbridge pretty well. Certainly the town centre and around, and the great river walks by the station.  A friend mentioned another bit of river last week and @artisanfoodman tweeted poetically about dewy cobwebs, wildlife and mystic views.  So we decided to make yesterday’s dog walk a mission to find them. In fact it’s one of those discoveries you’re torn about sharing. Better perhaps for it to remain a best kept secret so you can keep it to yourself and a few chosen friends.

We’re not going to tell you too much about how to find it but it’s not that hard. Just find the river and a nature reserve somewhere west of Woodbridge centre.  If you get the time and the light right nature’s designed the scenery to frame great photos of the birds there. Unfortunately we didn’t quite perfect it so you either just get the birds or the frame and we decided on the birds!

As we’ve tweeted at least 100 times in the past few weeks, Suffolk is an amazing place and there’s so much more to discover!

Wednesday 15 June 2011

BBC Radio Suffolk

Suffolk Online - Radio

This week BBC Radio Suffolk has announced a pretty massive revamp of its schedules to accommodate the new imported star – Terry Baxter.  The Breakfast Show is the prime slot for obvious reasons so Terry displaces Mark Murphy as Breakfast Show presenter, Mark takes  James Hazell’s mid morning slot and James moves to weekends. Lesley Dolphin appears, thankfully, untouched by all of this.

Mark and James are no doubt, and understandably, feeling somewhat perturbed but, certainly, if I was Mark I’d be jumping for joy. No more ridiculously early starts and, I would imagine, a more loyal and focused audience than can be found amongst those of us looking for a quick traffic and weather report, and a bit of news, before rushing off to work.

Previously a 5 Live fan, and before that, Capital Radio, I was converted to Radio Suffolk a few months ago, mostly by Twitter chatter, and I haven’t looked back since. Apologies to Mark, and also Nick Pandolfi on the equally good Town 102 Commercial Radio station, but I can no longer “accommodate” Breakfast Shows in my daily routine. They were a key part of my life when I was driving around London in my former life as a city whizz kid but now the radio’s for keeping me company as I work from my shed in the back garden.

Having spent a great part of my life working in London, then Croatia (where I barely understood 1 word in 5 of the local radio station but still listened to it) local radio in Suffolk does, I believe, have an audience demographic completely different from that of our capital city and other large urban areas. It’s a rural area, commuting times within the county are relatively short compared with our city neighbours, and those that are commuting to London are probably more interested in world and country affairs rather than those of the county, not of course to say that these are mutually exclusive!

I was told by an eminent political figure that there are more businesses registered, per square mile, in Suffolk than in any other county in the UK. That reinforces my belief that there are an awful lot of entrepreneurs like me running their own businesses from home or close to home. In theory that gives us a lot more control over our working environment and working hours – if it suits us to listen to the radio while we work then that’s what we do. And for small local businesses, what’s going on in the immediate and wider county community can be very important indeed.

I have never been disappointed with any Radio Suffolk Show or presenter but I love the Lesley Dolphin Show in the afternoons because it is always so relevant to everything I do – work and play. As a journalist and naturally curious person, everything to do with my locality is potentially relevant; as a Suffolk Treasure Trail writer I’m always looking for a head start on research on a new village or town to be explored, and as someone who loves quality home grown produce and entertainment, news of what’s on and interviews with local personalities can be a mine of information. And Lesley presents it all in such a cheerful, informed and natural way that brings out the best in everyone she talks to.

James Hazell’s show is equally entertaining, and just as well presented, but not so much of a must, for me, on the work  front. James covers some serious news subjects very skilfully, and incorporates more than a fair share of not so serious subjects and good humour, but to get the best out of the show you need to concentrate on the issues. So listening to James, mid morning, is a bit of a luxury- fine when I’m striding through the admin and emails but, when it comes to serious concentration for long periods, the radio has to go. I have to admit though I’m finding it increasingly difficult to turn that switch off.

I’m sure Mark will do an excellent job in the mid morning show and I’m looking forward to hearing what I’ve missed by not listening to breakfast radio; I’m equally sure that James’ audience, myself included, will now find a good reason to turn on the radio over the weekend. I just hope that the powers that be value the voices that we know and love as much as we do, and look after them for a long time to come. BBC Radio Suffolk is, to me, an infinitely valuable part of my media resources and I count it, with Twitter as,one of the most effective uses of my time – for business and pleasure. 

For more information on the changes go to BBC News Suffolk

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Dogs In Suffolk


This post is inspired by the start, today, of  The Suffolk Show. I wrote a slightly churlish Tweet this morning about its decision to ban dogs from the show and thought it better to give vent to my frustrations, once and for all, here, rather than carry on sniping.

I Tweeted before on the subject but that was in the hope of bolstering support for overturning the decision or at least making sure that the subject was prominent when decisions for next year’s show are made. Now it just seems churlish, and I wouldn’t wish to do anything than support the various organisations that are participating, even if  am still a little “frustrated” with the organisers.

What I love about Suffolk, as far as dogs are concerned, is the fact that if any county has achieved a very sensible and balanced attitude to dogs, it is Suffolk. In some places dogs are either spoilt and turned into an extension of their human owners,  or neglected. In Croatia we mostly saw them chained up.  When we walked the adorable, well trained and harmless Springer Spaniel, Rosie, especially off the lead, many Croatians would visibly flinch in anticipation of an attack. Wherever we went, dogs were never allowed into a house almost as if it was a heathen act. In western capital cities some dogs wear pom poms and many have lost their dignity in other respects. However in Suffolk, to me, it appears that dogs are dogs, in harmonious co-existence with humans, each bringing out the best of each other’s qualities.

That being the case, our county show has decided to ban dogs. I think the decision is short sighted but could have lived with it were it not for the justifications given. The most infuriating reason supplied was that it was not in the dogs’ interests to be at the show.  To me, this is Big Brother at its worst. The fact that the show organisers think they can decide for the 99% of sensible and caring dog owners is one thing; the fact that they think they will improve the lives of the 1% of dogs by dictating to their owners for two days is another. I suspect that the 1% is of the type that would leave their dogs alone for far too long while they have fun at the show.

I spent a very happy two days at the show manning a stand last year and loved the fact that it was a family day out, including canine members of the family. Most dog owners didn’t have to be told to make sure their dog had water, or shade, or rest and most of them wouldn’t dream of not picking up poop. Peer pressure invariably prevails on the rest.

There were other reasons of course but I listened to an organiser from the Norfolk Show and, I’m sorry to say, that they seem to have got it exactly right - no dogs in food areas but generally allowed and a creche is provided for up to two hours.

Suffolk is a county that has animals at its heart and a county show that forces dog owners to leave their animals at home for long hours is just not representative of the county. Fortunately there are plenty of other shows that have a happier attitude to dogs, leaving the important decisions to the owners. I do so hope that the Suffolk Show organisers try and find a more constructive alternative to an outright dog ban next year.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

A “Big Walk” Around Rendlesham Forest

Suffolk Online - 1st Big Walkies

Mary-Ann (pictured in light blue jacket) of Holiday Dogs in Kesgrave led Suffolk’s first “Big Walkies”. The concept originated in Cambridgeshire and is designed to provide a focal point for dogs and humans to socialise and get some exercise and fresh air.

There were about 20 of us all told and we enjoyed a fabulous 3 mile walk around Rendlesham Forest with a chance to chat and for the doggies to have fun. The next event will be in about a month’s time.

For more information link to Big Walkies. Anyone looking for a grooming, dog walking or dog sitting service in the Kesgrave area couldn’t do better than contact Mary-Ann at Holiday Dogs.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Smallest House In Suffolk?

Suffolk Online - Aldeburgh Small House

East Suffolk News today tweeted “Is this house in Framlingham the smallest in Suffolk?” Link to East Suffolk News for a picture and the whole story.

However we’d like to think the house pictured above might give the Framlingham house a good run for its money.  We found it on the seafront in Aldeburgh whilst researching and writing our  Aldeburgh Murder Mystery Treasure Trail.

Though we don’t know the exact square footage I’m sure Estate Agents would describe it as “bijou” or “compact”.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Falkenham – Its Walks And Views

Suffolk Online - Falkenham 2

We’ve already explored the east side of the River Deben, in some detail, writing one of our favourite Trails - Secrets Around Shottisham. However, the weekend before last, after a tip off from a friend, we found the footpaths around Falkenham. And what a delight they are, particularly in sunshine and despite a bracing wind.

If you park near St Ethelbert’s Church in Falkenham you are spoilt for choice. We took the footpath that goes past the church and did a right. Follow the path to the river and climb the bank to be rewarded by a fantastic view – the estuary, Ramsholt on the other side of the river and a few boats. Our walk there and back was about an hour and a half but there is a longer circular one if you’ve more time.

Falkenham is just east of Kirton, both quite isolated villages but, as elsewhere in Suffolk, they conceal some fascinating history. Link to the Kirton & Falkenham Website for more information on these hidden gems.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Suffolk’s Sensational Songbirds

Suffolk Online - Twitter

A bit of a cheat title and photo; this posting is about Twitter, and the “songbirds” are the Tweeters that I follow. Those of you that haven’t yet engaged in Twitter will no doubt be stifling a yawn already but, speaking as a recent convert and near “addict”, I hope you will give it another go.

It took me three attempts to get my confidence on it, helped by some colleagues and friends. Now, in less than four weeks, I have discovered some amazing artisans, food producers, pubs, hotels and all round lovely individuals, right on my doorstep. In fact it was partly due to such discoveries that Suffolk Online has been quiet for a while – I just didn’t feel qualified to write about it with so many experts out there. The main downside is that having compressed my normal lengthy utterings into 140 characters, with such relative intensity, I was getting a little concerned as to whether I could still write for more “normal” media outlets – we shall see!

Suffolk Online is designed mainly to report on first hand experiences out and about in Suffolk. However we’re going to make an occasional exception for interesting sites we come across on Twitter so watch this space!

Friday 20 August 2010

Suffolk’s Winning Wines

Suffolk Online - Suffolk Wine

Our Croatian wine loving pals and experts (see sister site Croatia Online - Gold Medal Winning Wines) may well be drowning their sorrows in a swift glass of rakija (grapa) or two when they read this posting. Not only did we experience the quality of Suffolk’s wines today, but it was also suggested to us that grapeseed oil might be more healthy than olive oil. That’s something we will need to sound out our Croatian friends on as, during the whole of our eight years on the Dalmatian Coast, Croatia’s best olive oil was feted as the nearest thing to the fountain of youth available to mankind! See  Croatia Online - Solta The Island Of Olives for more information. Whether or not Croatia simply prefers to process its pips into fiery rakija rather than oil is something to be discovered.

That’s not all we learnt during a fascinating day out at Shawsgate Vineyard and Winery, thanks to cashing in a birthday present “experience voucher”. These Experience Days run from May until the end of August and start with a gentle introduction followed by a trip around the vineyards and then the winery, culminating in a tasting session and a delicious lunch.

Run by a charming  father and son team, a pair of pros if ever there was one, you’ll learn about the whole process of making wine and what makes for a good and bad one. The Shawsgate Winery concentrates on quality rather than quantity and with taxes, duty etc making up nearly the first £4 of any bottle of wine sold in the UK that seems a sensible choice. We tasted some very different and very delicious wines made from grapes that are “squeezed” at less than 2 bars pressure so as not to harm the delicate components that lend the distinctive and superior taste.

Some other great snippets:

1. The highly sophisticated German made pressing machine has every form of technology except something that indicates when the grape juice tray is full. For that Shawsgate use fluid level indicators, normally a favourite of the blind, that vibrate when the liquid reaches the indicator.

2. The rows of vines run from east to west and if you walk between them, you will notice an increase in temperature.

3. There is a science to everything, from the best way to train the vines, through sterilising and cleaning the equipment, to bottling and the stoppers that go in the bottles.

Rather than divulge more of the secrets, have a look at the Shawsgate website and maybe taste some of it yourself. For those that want to debate the pros and cons of the health giving qualities of olive oil and grapeseed oil  have a look at Ehow and the following You Tube link which may offer a bit more than you were looking for!

Thursday 19 August 2010

Rural But Rekindled Redlingfield

Suffolk Online - Redlingfield RCC

The Rural Coffee Caravan Information Project (RCCIP) features heavily in these early postings on Suffolk Online but no more than it deserves. Not only do we get a chance to put a little bit back into the community,  but we also get to explore some of the most remote parts of rural Suffolk.

Redlingfield is a credit to itself, Suffolk and the project. On Tuesday when we visited we were told that there were only 54 homes in the village yet 30 locals turned up for coffee which put the mug collection to the test! Also something of a record we believe across the whole of the county, and all the more impressive as the weather wasn’t great for sitting out on the small village green.

Redlingfield has no pub and no shop and is a prime example of what the RCCIP can help to achieve with a willing, enthusiastic and resourceful local audience. Acting as a catalyst the project provides a periodic focal point to help Redlingfield’s residents get to know each other better, to the extent that the social life of the village seems to have taken off. That’s in addition to the project’s main purpose of bringing helpful information and resources to the doorsteps of isolated communities.

We also had the chance to meet the indomitable founder and inspiration for the project, Sally Fogden. RCCIP was borne out of another cause that Sally put plenty of time and energy into - “Farms in Crisis” - and it seems that the farmers themselves were instrumental in helping Sally  take her fight for help for rural communities to a higher level.

Redlingfield is intrinsically a charming village with plenty of history and much to be proud of, not least the spirit of its community. It also has a great website and local magazine where you can find out more  - Redlingfield. Our only regret is that the demand for refreshments prevented us spending more time chatting to the locals. However a reasonably prompt cup of builders strength tea or coffee was the least we could provide on a cool showery “summer’s day”!