We all enjoy a day out but they can denude the bank account somewhat once you have paid for travel, entrance fees, parking, food and the hard to avoid souvenirs, ice creams and other treats. The constant attempts at avoiding these expenses can be wearying and upsetting, especially when family finances are reduced and so we have set out to compile some suggestions for things to do that don’t cost a lot. We have tried to find places to visit and activities that are free but where this is impossible or will at least involve travel costs, we’ve tried to take into account whether there is still fun to be had that does not require more expenditure or where the cost can be mitigated. Many of these places allow you to bring packed lunches or picnics and we have indicated when this is allowed. In addition, some attractions that charge an entrance fee offer reductions or even free entry after a certain time of day and it is worth contacting them for more details about these special offers. If you use public transport it is also a good idea to cost out the savings potential of a season ticket or weekly pass-especially for those half term and other holiday periods. Organisations like the RSPB, the National Trust and The Woodland Trust offer reduced or free entry for members and a years membership makes a lovely birthday and Christmas gift if you have a family member who is keen on the outdoors, history or wildlife. We’d also like to hear from anybody with further suggestions as to activities available locally that we might not have heard about.
(1) Star gazing – The rural skies of Norfolk and Suffolk mean minimal light pollution and lower levels of atmospheric dust making them wonderful for spotting all manner of astronomical wonders. From the beaches of Norfolk- Salthouse or Cley and Kelling Heath to the rural back roads of Suffolk – the TV mast at Arger Fen in South Suffolk standing sentinel over the wide Stour Valley skies- it isn’t too much trouble to bundle up and drive or walk to a site away from lit areas. If you want to go stargazing on the beach, Cley Windmill offers accommodation too in an historic conversion close by. Book for the Spring Star Party at Kelling Heath in April 2015, organised by the Norfolk Astronomical Society (NAS) and a chance to meet knowledgeable people in a safe environment. Remember to buy or borrow a torch with a red light and a telescope if you can find one, pack a thermos of warm coffee or tea and some thick woolly throws to huddle under – some families take small pop up tents to shelter in. The NAS also has its own Seething observatory available for visits on a 2 acre site at the edge of Seething Airfield in South Norfolk, just 8 miles south of Norwich in the middle of the countryside (details on their website).
(2) Witness the deer rut – Nature itself doesn’t charge for its year round spectacle although the management of our glorious rural environments and nature reserves does cost money. The RSPB charges a small fee for some of its events alongside the entrance fees to reserves such as Minsmere but also offers a wide range of events at no cost. The annual deer rut in the mid to late Autumn is an impressive spectacle and this year the RSPB has arranged for people to witness this on Westleton Heath, near Dunwich free of charge. Simply turn up, dressed warmly between noon to dusk on the dates listed in the link and enjoy free use of binoculars and telescopes provided by the RSPB.
(3) Enjoy walks around wetlands and spot the wildlife– Lackford Lakes is one of the great Suffolk Wildlife Trust sites, only a few miles from Bury St Edmunds and charges just a £1 (or whatever you want to offer) to park there and use the facilities. There is also a full timetable of activities aimed at all age groups for a small extra charge. However if you are on a budget, wear warm waterproof walking clothing, bring a backpack with some snacks and drinks, a bird and wildlife guide book or app and enjoy the trails punctuated with bird hides in scenic overlooks. Rivers and lakes, streams, marshes and reeds, woodland, breckland and open pasture stuffed with wildlife- Lackford has it all alongside their visitors centre overlooking the pond with a small cafe, education facilities and knowledgeable staff. Should you not drive, the website features a handy bus route planner. The Winter swan feeds at the Welney Wetland Centre involve an admission charge although there are discounts and family tickets (under 4’s go free) whilst you can feed the swans free of charge at Brundon Mill in Sudbury then walk the Stour Valley Path alongside the eponymous river enjoying stunning rural views and peacefulness. Parking nearby is free or you can walk along Melford Road from the direction of Sudbury. Buses go past every twenty minutes too from Long Melford on their way to and from Bury St Edmunds. Many reserves like Minsmere have buggy-friendly paths meandering through the reserve and ramps up to some of the hides so if you have pushchairs or are disabled, you will not be left out.
(4) Hunt the Woodpecker in Foxley Woods– Home to green and great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatch, treecreeper, marsh tit and jays, Foxley Woods is Norfolks oldest surviving woodland and is extrenely beautiful. One of many woodlands across East Anglia, it is a great and free place to spend a few hours, listen out for these amazing birds and even take a picnic as long as you remember to take everything back home with you afterwards.
(5) Roam the beaches– The Norfolk and Suffolk coastline is diverse, dramatic and freely accessible to all. Choose between pebbled, sandy or rock pool punctuated beaches, backed by cliffs or dunes or piney woods. There are wilderness and deserted coastal enclaves or the traditional bright lights, bucket and spade attractions. If you want to save money, avoid the resorts and entertain yourself and the kids by building castles, walking the dunes or exploring the coastal villages that are perched along seafronts- slowly being beaten back by time and tide. Eat fish and chips at the Flora Cafe in Dunwich or a dressed crab from Cookies Crab Shop, shared among the family (pack wet wipes). Parking is often free and there are bus services too. The North Norfolk Railway runs along the coastline with regular stopping off points- check their timetable for prices and times although this can work out a little costlier for larger families. Definitely worth a treat though and an activity in itself- children will be more than satisfied with the trip. Lastly, why not walk from Snape Maltings to Iken? The internationally renowned Snape Maltings and concert hall with interactive and fun public art from Sarah Lucas and Henry Moore is great for kids but we’d encourage you to walk out from the Maltings towards Iken along the River Alde. This offers superb views and is one of the prettiest parts of Suffolk- children adore clattering along the boardwalk that runs past the Maltings and out through the reeds and grass towards the sea and the walk is a relatively easy one. If you want to spend some time in Felixstowe, use one of the free car parking spaces along the front (avoid peak times) and you can take the short walk to the promenade so the children can scoot or ride their bikes from one end to other. The wide flat promenade is perfect for free range children- you can keep an eye on them from a safe distance. Appreciate how Norfolk is indeed the cradle of civilisation by visiting Happisburgh where 800,000 year old footprints have been found in the silt, the earliest evidence of man found in the UK. Or visit Seahenge, discovered at Holme-next-the-Sea (and now kept at King’s Lynn Museum) and the 700,000 year old West Runton Elephant, the most complete specimen of the species to have been found in the world and the oldest mammoth skeleton found in the United Kingdom. (Parts of the skeleton are at Cromer Museum.)
(6) Play in a park-Victorian floral splendours and Medieval ruins at Bury St Edmunds Abbey Gardens and the tangled woodland and follies of Nowton Park. Country Parks at Clare Castle and orienteering in the 100 acre woodland at Holt plus water sports and waterside walks at Whitlingham Country park near Norwich. Smaller town parks at Belle Vue in Sudbury and the majestic Christchurch Park in Ipswich offer all manner of urban and semi rural pastimes and Bourne Park in Ipswich also has a popular paddling pool for children- vital on a hot day or go to Holywells Park and let them run through the water sprays. Playgrounds, skateparks, small animal enclosures, tennis, duck feeding and formal flower gardens are all on offer and the admission is free. Small parking charges apply at Clare. Or how about a park with a view? Mousehold Heath is a lovely park high above Norwich and has great views looking down on the cathedral, castle and city centre. If you are looking for a park with good municipal facilities then Normaston Park in Lowestoft has plenty of sports provision- cricket tables, football and cricket pitches and two types of tennis court. For all park related information, local government sites all have details of the parks in their region, the opening times and lists of amenities. Our parks are a fantastic resource and should be treasured.
(7) Explore the forests – The UFO trail at Rendlesham Forest is based upon the rumours that a mysterious craft landed in the forest and its existence subsequently covered up by authorities. Cycle there or take the bikes on the back of the car and explore via two cycle routes or walk the marked trails and take a picnic. There is a play park with zip wire and other play equipment. All day parking is less than £4. The famous forests at Thetford and Brandon Country Park offer miles of trails for exploration under a canopy of mixed pine and broadleaf trees. Parking fees are charged at High Lodge but there are plenty of free car parks and stopping points all over the forests and public transport links are detailed on the websites. For more suggestions of local forests and woodlands, visit the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust– we particularly love Cornard Mere because it is a lovely example of a community resource and it is also possible to join in with the woodland management working parties, helping to maintain this gorgeous part of Suffolk. Finally, why not check out an art and craft website before your trip to a forest for some great ideas for things to do? From leaf art to downloadable trail questionnaires (available on most woodland and RSPB type sites), there’ll be something to engage the imagination and keep them occupied after they come home. Local Blogger ‘Put up with Rain’ recently wrote a charming post about all the fun to be had whilst catching leaves – particularly apropos.
(8) Find that Gruffalo– In addition to the more free form forest and woodland activities, why not take part in one of the Forestry Commission’s Gruffalo themed activities? Whilst they are designed for use in the commissions own woodlands, there is nothing to stop you using them over and over again on walks and hikes or even for some back garden fun and the downloadable activity sheets are perfect for this. Marked Gruffalo trails and Gruffalo sculptures can be found in some of the forests managed by the commission- High Lodge at Thetford Forest is our nearest one in East Anglia. Or why not stage your own Teddy Bears Picnic for the littler ones? Take teddy themed food, a blanket to sit on and some favourite toys and read to them from ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ before staging your own. Plenty of woodlands locally have toilet facilities alongside picnic benches and good parking- all useful for those littler woodland guests.
(9) Street sports– We have some excellent skate and BMX parks in both counties including the recently refurbished one at Bury St Edmunds. We are lucky enough here to have a council that actively supports and promotes the skatepark, resulting in plenty of activities around it that develop it as a resource. My own stepson Harley Miller is part of the steering and design committee and is a skilled skater himself. He formerly worked at the local street sports store – anybody wanting more information and to meet local skaters is well advised to visit Hardcore Hobbies in Bury St Edmunds which stocks a wealth of equipment and clothing alongside its role as point of contact and source of information for street sports. The Shed in Kings Lynn offers indoor skate facilities and Sloughbottom Park near Norwich has a BMX track and is home to the Norwich Flyers BMX Club. Click on the link to find the street sports facilities nearest to you.
(10) Parkour and Free Running– The Mix in Stowmarket has dedicated itself to helping young people to feel inspired, develop confidence and experience creativity. Held under one roof, costs of activities are kept low and there is the chance to gain experience in a range of activities hitherto out of reach finances wise. Parkour sessions are hosted by Parkour Suffolk, are open to people from 5+ and cover safety rolls, vaults and other Parkour, FreeRunning movements alongside encouraging fitness and body conditioning elements. Once kids are proficient in the basics, they can then venture outside to put it into practice in a real world environment. Norfolk based potential free runners can access tutoring via Parkour Alliance who offer classes in a variety of locations around the county.
(11) Geocaching– The challenge of geocaching involves using a GPS device to follow digital way markers points to find the hidden treasure boxes where you can add your name to the log book and even find a special treasure secreted (cached) away inside. The locations of the caches are held online and you can also access formal geocaching events via organisations such as The National Trust who have hidden caches at hundreds of locations on their properties. The beautiful gorse covered countryside at Dunwich Heath is home to one of the trusts geocaching sites and their website carries details of all the others. Many sites have also teamed up with experts Garmin, to introduce more people to the fun of geocaching and have Garmin GPS devices available for you to try geocaching for free.
(12) Wild swimming– Yes you’ll need a wet suit and dry suit and a warm towel and flask of something very hot for when you get out but wild swimming is wonderful in a different way in colder months, offering an unparalleled way of connecting with the countryside and with nature. The River Bure at Lamas is recommended by several wild swimming sites as a gentle and bucolic place for those of us not partial to chlorine and the indoor hyper amplified noise of other swimmers. With its river of deep, clear water flowing past houses, fields and woodland, this swim can be accessed at Bure Valley Railway car park in Buxton (not brilliantly signposted and the footpath has ‘private signs’ put up by local householders). Take the footpath toward Oxnead, cross over the bridge, turn right along the footpath (keeping an eye out for the line of poplars by river bank). Where the poplars finish, there’s a field where you can get into the water pretty easily although the banks can be muddy and a bit weed covered. Coastal swimmers should head to Walberswick which has a sandy, shingle-backed, gently sloping beach. It’s popular, so get there early in the morning or just before dusk for an evening swim. If you are after a longer haul swim, sea hike southwards towards neighbouring Dunwich – swim in the knowledge that below you in the waters lies the lost drowned village of Dunwich. Covehithe Beach can be found further along the coast, between Southwold and Lowestoft. The sea is slowly advancing inland: tree stumps dot the sandy beach as the sand-dune cliffs continue to crumble and the start of the Broads leads to a collision between these two watery elements . This in turn translates to a wildlife paradise- you might not see another human soul but you will be surrounded by bird life. Holkham Beach, part of the Holkham Estate offers wide skies and long stretches of golden sand. Lie on your back in the calm waters, kick lazily and watch the castle builders, the kite flyers and horseback riders canter along the sands. Keep surf shoes on to avoid weaver fish stings and maintain an eye on the tides. Finally, follow in the footsteps of Mellis Nature writer Roger Deakin and swim the River Waveney at Outney Common, near Bungay. Curving indolently around lush meadows of cow parsley and grazing cows, you will need to dodge the occasional canoe and pleasure boat in this popular river area but otherwise, time grows still in this wonderfully green and pleasant location. When you get home, warm up with a hot chocolate and read Roger Deakin’s seminal tribute to British wild swimming, ‘Waterlog’.
(13) Cast your eyes upwards – We think we appreciate what is around us but we often connect with it in very fixed ways and miss as much out as we take in. Suffolk and Norfolk are full of historic, quirky towns and villages, packed with architectural and historical treasures, many of them everyday and unnoticed. Why not spend a few hours walking around some of them and cast your eyes upwards? It is amazing how much we miss when our gaze is set to the default of eye level. A recent wander around Bury St Edmunds revealed intricate shop fronts above the mess of plastic High Street tat- dolls cemented into ancient abbey walls, elaborate and bestial gargoyles on the churches and cathedral, houses built into those same flint abbey walls and ancient symbols of wealth, status and occupation embedded and encoded into the town. Or try Norwich with over 1500 historic buildings within its city walls including the stunning Royal Arcade- head for Gentleman’s Walk, through the Royal Arcade, then left along London Street, finishing off at the wonderfully named Tombland and the Cathedral precinct. Most tourist offices will have walking guides alongside other local history resources if you want something more structured and indeed many towns also run guided walks too. From the wool villages and towns of Lavenham and Hadleigh to the magnificence of churches such as Norfolk’s St Agnes in Cawston with its painting showing St. Matthew wearing Harry Potter spectacles and the carvings of angels high up in the hammer beam roof, there is much to admire and boggle at in the manner of “How did they build that?” If you are taking children with you, pack some sketch pads, crayons and pencils and get them drawing what they see. Most churches are amenable to brass rubbing also and will happily play host to your budding artist. Books such as Matthew Rice’s Architectural Primer or his ‘Church Primer’ are greatly appealing to children, offering quirky and easily copied examples of vernacular architecture and Rice is himself, a local man. Print out some examples of techniques and styles and get the kids looking for them in real life. If you are interested in the cultural phenomenon of graffiti, you will know that this is not a recent tradition. There are wonderful examples of graffiti throughout the ages in this region and plenty of good websites that offer information as to where best to find it. Try the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey.
(14) Spend time with equines– Redwings has two sanctuaries in Norfolk and both are free entry although donations are much appreciated- the sites run on these charitable donations. It is unusual to find a place like this that doesn’t charge entrance fees: Redwings does offer extra activities that they have to charge for but there is plenty to see and do that costs nothing. Caldecott Visitor Centre near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk has over seventy acres of paddocks and is home to some very special rescued horses, ponies, donkeys and mules whilst the new centre in Aylsham, North Norfolk is now open every week from Friday to Monday, and is home to gorgeous Gulliver and the Gangster Shetlands. In addition, the headquarters at Hopton, not usually open to the public, nonetheless does open for two weekends a year so you can have a chance to see behind the scenes and visit their specialist Horse hospital and Re-homing centre. The Aylsham centre runs quiz trails around the visitor centre, walk and talk tours, handling demonstrations and daily pony grooming taster sessions for children over five years old. Pony grooming carries a £3 surcharge. Caldicott offers the ever popular weekend donkey talks and many other activities alongside a playpark, education centre and cafe serving hot food. Hollow Tree Farms in Semer is at time of writing (Autumn 2014) is only £2:50 entrance and families can have hours of fun feeding the animals and playing on the playground. It’s also a great place to picnic.
(15) Do a Turner and paint – Get out to Pin Mill with some paints, a comfy seat and suitably artistic clothing (grin) and get inspired by the stunning, often sere and dramatic watery scenery. Should you get hungry, the Butt and Oyster is one of the best known and situated pubs in Suffolk with great views, looking out onto the River Orwell with its Thames barges moored on the mud flats, silver fields of reeds and stands of woodlands on the bluffs above the river. Inspire the kids by showing them some famous landscape paintings then take a walk along the river before settling down to put down on paper or canvas, what you all see.
(16) Inexpensive entertainment– the region is packed with free and inexpensive music and cultural events all year round. From the Summer afternoon concerts on Southwold’s greens to the free Music Day at Ipswich, there is something for everyone. The Norfolk & Norwich Festival has many low prices events plus free street theatre over a few weeks in May in the historic surroundings of Norwich and other towns in the region and Out There, an international festival of street arts and circus blends international acts and local artists with the opportunity for everyone to try their hand in a range of crazy activities. This Summer we particularly enjoyed Pulse Festival in Ipswich- ten days of keenly priced fringe theatre and entertainment, specially priced to be inclusive and an event to be looked out for next year. Don’t forget the plethora of food festivals and farmers markets either. There’s always plenty of food and drink samples and the chance to chat with some of the UK’s most engaging and passionate growers and foodies. Suffolk markets are detailed here and you can find locations and times of those in Norfolk here.
(17) Inland beaches– Keep an eye out for Bury Beach, a town centre beach area complete with deckchairs and toys for sand play in the middle of the market town of Bury St Edmunds. A feature of the bank holiday markets, the beach can usually be found on the Buttermarket alongside a host of other attractions, many free of charge. We have seen Mad Science in the Arc shopping centre, mini farms and reindeer petting at the Christmas Fair and live cooking displays outside Moyses Hall.
(18) On the buses- Living in such a lovely region means that a bus trip can in itself be a good thing to do- you could even do what my stepdaughter does on her return home from a shift as a student midwife and have a mini late supper on the back of the double decker going over Chelsea Bridge (although some buses do frown on back seat banqueting!). The return journey from Bury St Edmunds to Sudbury trundles through some stellar landscape – the famous villages of Lavenham and Long Melford and the long curving country roads around Cockfield and Waldingfield. The trip is approximately one hour, departs each hour and costs around £5-6 each way. Stop off at any of the points and return when you are ready- the service commences around 0800 and the last bus leaves Sudbury at 1700 and Bury St Eds at 1800 so there’s ample time to spend the entire day exploring. A trip on the open top bus which goes over the Orwell bridge is £2 and is the only way you’ll get to enjoy the bridge top view when you are on it as it is not visible from a car- you’ll need to be on the top deck. Or enjoy superb views of the North Norfolk coastline from the the Coast Hopper bus service which makes it easy to get to just about any part of the Norfolk Coastal Path if you also wish to walk part of this or just visit one of the lovely seaside towns. Alternatively take an old school drive like our grandparents used to do of a Sunday afternoon. Drive the scenic Great Yarmouth to Cromer A149 coast road, starting on the Golden Mile, then going through beautiful countryside and quaint, quiet villages until you arrive at the seafront 34 miles later.
(19) Zombie adventure- Pick your park, woods or outdoor space (probably best to choose a relatively small woodland that is quiet and not packed with other visitors), find an online site that has great Zombie make up and costume ideas like this one (or try Pinterest), get the kids dressed up and stage your own Zombie adventure deep in the woods. Set up some rules about how far you all roam, how you ‘catch’ each other and pack a Zombie picnic. Then get out there and try not to give the locals a heart attack. If you have a budding film director, get them to record it all too. There are some organisations that do Zombie days in towns and cities but nothing to stop you doing your own. Check out the great online guides for authentic Zombie movements too. Gotta get it right…
(20) Climb every mountain– Prove to yourself that Norfolk is NOT flat by climbing to the highest point in the county, Beacon Hill, less than a mile south of West Runton on the North Norfolk coast with a summit of 338 feet above sea level (and shout abuse at Noel Coward from the top). Part of a cluster of old glacial moraines, this is the highest land in East Anglia. Choose a clear day, take some food, a bottle of wine and picnic before making your way back down. If you’ve got the kids, get them sketching what they see. Or why not take a kite and fly it from Beeston Bump, the 203 feet highest point of the Cromer Ridge? Otherwise known as a kame and looking for all the world like an enormous molehill, after you’ve climbed it, wander down to the beach below to explore the unusual flint formations, called paramoudras and known locally as ‘pot stones’.
(21) Castles on a budget- Although the full price of entrance to Norwich castle is nearly £8 for an adult, enter an hour before closing time and you only have to pay £2. Obviously this doesn’t leave much time but in conjunction with other activities in the city, it can be a great way of rounding off a day out. Plan your visit in advance so you don’t waste valuable time wondering where to go (and finding it) and you’ll make good use of that hour. If you travel by Park & Ride show your bus ticket (purchased the same day) to get admission for up to 5 people for just £3.80 each and disabled people can be accompanied by one person who gets in for free. Castle Rising charges £12 for a family ticket and was once home to Queen Isabella, the ‘She-Wolf of France’ (a name kids seem to be enthralled by) who plotted the murder of her husband Edward II, The huge 12th century keep stands in the centre of massive earthworks, and there are wonderful views from the ramparts. The village of Castle Acre is packed full of history and is a very rare and complete survival of a Norman planned settlement, including a castle, town, parish church and associated monastery. Entrance to Castle Acre Castle and the bailey is free of charge. Stunningly dramatic and as romantic a sight as any castle can be, Framlingham Castle in Suffolk can be enjoyed free of charge from the surrounding greensward although a family ticket is a bit steep at around £17 if you are on a budget. Wall walks, interactive displays and a full range of special events makes this one of the most popular days out around. Admission to the Castle Keep at Bungay is free of charge although donations are welcome (and much needed) while Orford Castle is a warren of old stone passageways and secret chambers. Admission, like Framlingham is not the cheapest but the amazing views from the top makes it worth a visit.
(22) Museums-From the Alfred Corry lifeboat museum in Southwold which charts and honours the history of the local lifeboat service and is free of charge to Leiston’s Long Shop Museum with its entrance concessions for locals, there are some quaint and very specific museums locally. The Long Shop Museum offers all manner of interactive and changing activities, inspiring stories and feats of engineering, interesting designs and the Long Shop itself. Entrance to the museum shop is free. The reconstructed Anglo Saxon village at West Stowe in Suffolk is now 40 years old and still continues, with the help of the Trust, to interpret the life of the first pagan Anglo-Saxon settlers in East Anglia. Explore these houses, smell the wood smoke and see the wildlife, crops, pigs or hens. It is easy to absorb yourself in the atmosphere, imagining yourselves living in early Anglo-Saxon times. With a cafe, shop, playground and country park with wetlands and bird hides, the latter abutting Lackford Lakes, you get a lot for your admission price. In addition, for every full price ticket bought for West Stowe, you get a years free admission to Moyses Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds. This museum, with books bound in the skin of Red Barn murderer William Corder, mummified cats and copy of the tardis is housed in a lovely old building and regularly hosts temporary exhibitions too. Be transported back to an early 19th century fishermans cottage at Cromer Museum with a good range of concessions and an adult charge of just £4. Children and students pay just £2 at Sudbury’s Gainsborough House with its collection of artworks and other artefacts by the town’s ‘son’. Thetford’s Ancient House Museum charges a flat £1 admission for all entrances in the hour prior to closure. This Grade I listed Tudor merchant’s house has a lively and engaging programme of special events and is particularly child friendly. In the Winter, admission is free Tues-Sat between 10-4 pm and family events cost just £2. Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich is free to enter with lovely grounds, a cafe and beautiful Tudor surroundings. The Friends of Ipswich Museums offer free short daily tours of the Mansion called ‘A Peep into the Past’. These take place at 11am, Tuesday – Saturday and 2pm on Sunday, March to November only. Enjoy free entry at the Ipswich Museum also and take the kids to visit its famous woolly mammoth, the elegant towering giraffe and other wonderful curiosities from the natural world . There are exhibits from our Iron Age past onto Saxon times but it is not only Suffolk’s past that is covered- you can take a trip down the Nile too via its Egyptian Gallery.
(23) Art for all -Admissions to the permanent exhibitions at the Sainsburys Centre is free with their works of art spanning 5,000 years of human creativity. From Picasso to Lalique, children will find many of the exhibits absorbing and stimulating in this fabulous space, sited on the University of East Anglia campus and built by architect Norman Foster in 1973 to house the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. Check out the site for details of temporary exhibitions and activities. Ipswich Art School shows exhibitions of international importance and provides a unique stage for local artists to show their work and to showcase the region’s artistic talents and doesn’t charge admission for all its events. In Bury St Edmunds, the Smiths Row Gallery is a contemporary art gallery curating an exciting programme of exhibitions and public art projects, accompanied by a range of tours, talks and workshops. Admission to all exhibitions is free and there are ceramics, jewellery, textiles and printmaking, alongside artist-designed cards and wrapping paper for sale. Lowestoft’s Ferrini Gallery incorporates a gallery, photographic studio and video production and editing facilities with art described as mirroring the light and vibrancy of its Suffolk coastal setting. The Gallery at Snape Maltings displays the work of established artist Maggi Hambling alongside lesser known artists. This space in the Snape Maltings complex is well worth a visit, then go and discover Sarah Lucas’s work in show outside as part of Snap Art. ‘Perceval’ is a life size sculpture of a Suffolk working horse, both tribute and pastiche of working class horse brass ornaments and comment and contribution to the debate on what is art, what is design and what is ornament. Large Interior Form Sculpture by Henry Moore can be found on the lawns at Snape and is very popular with children who like to touch its sinuous coldness and many a child has been photographed playing around Barbara Hepworths ‘Family of Man’ which overlooks the reed beds. The Norwich Arts Centre delivers a lively and eclectic programme of live music, theatre, live art, comedy, live literature, new media and photography at different price points. Keep an eye on its programme of events for details of art exhibitions.
(24) Take a trip to a windmill and start to learn where bread comes from. The restoration of the windmill at Bardwell has been a labour of love and testimony to the patience of the Wheelers who have been responsible for it. Visit during one of the Threshing Days or other fundraising events or drop by and have a look at the small exhibition inside, climb up onto the platform and buy some of their own milled flour- we use this and it is great. Pakenham watermill is unique in Britain in having both a working watermill and working windmill. Visit it and see how it works, especially the old kitchen with its eighteenth century brewing vat and bread oven then buy some of the excellent flours. Finally, visit the market at Bury St Edmunds on either a Saturday or Wednesday and look out for the stall selling bread and baked goods by the Friendly Loaf Company. Their Pakenham Wholemeal loaf is made from the eponymous mill flour and is exceptionally good. Mark Proctor, the baker is happy to chat about his products and the local ingredients that go into them. He also runs baking classes at his beautiful headquarters on a Suffolk farm in the village of Rede.
(25) Watch a sports match – Buying tickets to premier league matches cost a lot of money even though we hear that Ipswich Town are considering reduced ticket prices for people on some benefits. However attending local matches, whether they be rugby, football, hockey or any other sport can be surprisingly inexpensive and a friendly way to spend an afternoon. BurySt Edmunds rugby club charges £5 to enter the ground on match days and offer a variety of concessions and season ticket rates. Tickets to watch the Suffolk Roller Derby Team play are around a fiver depending upon the venue and this fast paced sport is amazing to watch. Local schools also organise and participate in several regional sports events which provide good spectator opportunities. (Check out their websites for details.)
(26) Row, row, row a boat- It costs a mere 90p to be rowed from Walberswick to Southwold via the Blythe Estuary. Taking the car would involve an 8 mile journey through this watery, river and creek riddled region whereas this way is easier and a lot more fun. A bargain way to enjoy the stunning scenery- the sea and Southwold lighthouse and back towards Walberswick with its clusters of rooftops surrounded by marshland and the strength of the female rower- Dani Church who is the fifth generation of her family to row passengers across the estuary. Dani’s great-great-grandfather’s brother, Benjamin Cross, a Walberswick fisherman, was the first ferryman of her family, in 1885 and she is part of an extraordinary unbroken lineage. There are three more ‘foot’ ferries operating in Suffolk- The Felixstowe to Bawdsey ferry crosses the Deben Estuary between Bawdsey Quay and Felixstowe from early May – end September with daily trips between 10am-6pm and October weekends 10am-5pm. Contact John Barber Ferryman (07709 411511) or wander down to the jetty at Old Felixstowe. The Butley Ferry crosses the Butley River (Alde and Ore) and is manned by volunteers who row between the Gedgrave banks of the Butley River. There has been a ferry crossing here since the mid 16th century making it one of the oldest in the United Kingdom and the crossing cuts 5 miles off the section from the walk from Butley to Orford. The Harwich ferry crosses the Stour and Orwell Estuaries, running 9.45-5pm week days and 9.45 – 5.35pm weekend and school holidays. A regular passenger ferry traverses the estuary between Kings Lynn and West Lynn although it is not a rowing boat. The service has been running since 1285 and provides an ideal way to view the beautiful historic quayside of King’s Lynn from the other side of the River Great Ouse at West Lynn and also provides a convenient service for commuters and shoppers who wish to avoid travelling and parking in the town centre.