Ten reasons to visit….Bury St Edmunds

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Look up when you walk around a town. This is the upper story of the building housing WH Smith

I consider myself a home girl despite having lived in Bury St Eds less than fifteen years although I also attended two years of sixth form in the town, back at the turn of the eighties. Initially Bury St Eds appeared bogged down by an older, pretty staid and intractable right of right wing sensibility but it is changing and improving, becoming more culturally and socially diverse and we are starting to hear the voices of the next generation in planning and development. There is no doubt that it is a great place to raise a young family with green space, several large (and free of charge) parks, good sports facilities and excellent schools and Bury has great eco-credentials too with a proactive recycling policy based not on penalty but education and convenience. Businesses appear well supported too by the local Bury Free Press newspaper, thriving business forums and support via OurBuryStEdmunds. Anyway, here are ten reasons to visit and live here- there are, of course, a lot more so do feel free to add them via the comments section…

Disclaimer: We regularly update this feature but please bear in mind that businesses do close- contact them before making a special journey.

(1) The glorious market

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Martin Hart & Sons have been trading for more than eighty years

Had William the Conqueror visited Bury St Edmunds, he’d have found a market already established and today, it has grown to over 80 stalls with 1600 feet or more of frontage, from the Buttermarket to Cornhill and held bi weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There are regular bank holiday, flower and Christmas markets where the selling space expands to include Angel Hill and our Christmas Market has been named one of the best in Europe, rivalling the famous German markets. You will find local food producers and stallholders from further afield selling fruit, vegetables, freshly cooked foods, coffee, books, clothing and a lot more: the market is diverse and especially fun for children. Many of the stallholders are third and fourth generation, have established close relationships with their customers and will go that extra mile to source produce. Ask them if you don’t see what you want on their stall- I have ordered and got bergamots, tomatillos and chiles from my favourite fruit and veg stall.

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BuryBeach

Particular favourites are stalls selling freshly cooked Japanese breakfasts (try Yakitori Suzuki), the Filipino stand with crockpots brimming with savoury beef stews, the Mexican food truck and the guy selling almonds roasted while you wait. Al Chile sell freshly-made tacos, burritos and quesadillas, including nopales-stuffed ones for non-meat eaters whilst Souvlaki Shack’s kebabs are made with meat from Blythburgh Pork. Buy a bag of fresh cinnamon ring doughnuts or fruit in season, a cup of fresh coffee, a porchetta-stuffed roll, pint of prawns or a pattie from the Caribbean food stall, have a wander or sit down by Moyses Hall Museum to eat them and people watch. Keep an eye out for stalls selling the produce of South Africa or the USA. Look out too, for Bury Beach where sand and deckchairs are brought in to transform part of the town during bank holiday fairs- you can find details of when these extra events are held at Our Bury St Edmunds.

 (2) Plenty of green space

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Ickworth Park and gardens

From the manicured precision of the flower beds and lawns, punctuated by ruins in the famous Abbey Gardens to the rambling Nowton Park at the edge of the town, Bury definitely qualifies as a green and leafy town. Take a picnic to the Abbey Gardens as suggested on twitter by Sophie in the Sticks or eat an ice cream from its kiosk: the nearby cathedral Refectory cafe is great should you want a more substantial meal. There’s an adventure playground, tennis courts, ducks to feed and aviaries plus plenty of smooth tarmac paths for little people to run and scooter and it’s free. We often walk the dog at the Spring Lane nature reserve next to King Edward VI School and Hardwick Heath along Hardwick Lane with its fabulous Cedars of Lebanon has long been a refuge for the staff working at the hospital next door and is home to weekend football and rugby games.

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The entrance to the Abbey Gardens

A few miles away can be found Ickworth Park, a National Trust site with acres of park with magnificent views over the Suffolk landscape, manicured and walled gardens and the famous house to visit plus cafe and plant nurseries. The Trust organise lots of family orientated events and exhibitions in the house, detailed on the website or just go, park up and walk. Or visit Lackford Lakes a few miles out of Bury. Run expertly by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, this reclaimed gravel pit landscape is home to miles of woodland walks and trails, lakes and wetlands, all with bird hides to sit in and watch the Kingfishers, otters, bitterns and egrets. There is an extensive programme of family events including bird ringing, art and crafts and conservation days plus the visitors centre sells cake, drinks and Alder Carr ice creams.

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Fullers Mill

The nearby Fullers Mill Trust gardens are so lovely, perfect for plant fanatics- seven acres of woodland, streams and lakes, sensitively planted with rare specimens. Open April- September, you can see them over the meadows as you walk by the streams in Lackford lakes. In the town, the Greene King flood meadows have a well maintained system of tarmac paths that cross the water meadows with a wildlife conservation area, part of the flood meadows of the river Linnet, popular with dog walkers and runners. Dogs on leads please because sheep graze here.

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West Stowe

Finally, West Stow Anglo Saxon village is somewhere to spend the larger part of a day with miles of trails to explore, bird hides, indoor galleries and the stunning recreation of an Anglo-Saxon village. The adventure playground is well designed, safe and a great place for kids to work off energy. There is a cafe and toilet facilities, parking charges will apply. The village has a brilliant calendar of events, many themed (RingQuest) and offering the chance to fully immerse in the time period through dress up and reenactment.

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St Mary’s churchyard

(3) Our chefs & cooks punch well above their weight

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Photo by Cafe Kottani

Just lately, Bury St Edmunds has become a bit of a destination for those of us who love our food. We have bistros and cafes, delicatessens with take out or seating, burger bars that pre-date and beat the recent metropolitan craze for ‘designer’ things in buns and some seriously accomplished ‘faine dining’ that has attracted the attention of the Observer awards, The Telegraph and The Times. I asked Twitter for some recommendations and Helen Johnson, organiser of the Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club rates Gastrono-me and @Graceparetree loves the burgers at No4 at Abbeygate Cinema. I cannot argue with their excellent taste having eaten at both places and I was delighted to discover Poutine (oh joy!) and Hawaiian poké on the menu at the latter, a gorgeous bistro and coffee shop next to Abbeygate Cinema where the Canadian chef has brought in a menu heavily influenced by the eating places of Vancouver. There’s Hawaiian-inflected lunches, bowl food and he bakes real Cuban bread (fluffy crumb, light crunchy crust) which is incredibly hard to find anywhere else in the UK. Gastrono-me in St Johns St has a window display piled high with fresh bread and pastries, cakes and tarts alongside slabs of cheese, charcuterie and salads and a new menu. The French toast, syrup and strawberry breakfast plate is Disney on a plate, theirs the ever-popular shakshuka for a hit of heat and their brownies will slay you. Further along you’ll find the Bay Tree Bistro and Baitong Thai Cuisine, the latter serving both well known and less familiar regional Thai dishes. They operate a small food market next door too should you wish to replicate what you ate there at home and Faraway Foods nearby is where I go to buy Brazilian Pão de Queijo (cheesebread), pomelo, dragon fruit and plantain, the best blood-oranges in town, fresh herbs including turmeric tubers and creamy miniature Thai aubergines and all the salt-cod, flats of shrimp and cotton sacks of rice you could want.

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Pasteis De Nata

Castle Torrejano is the place to buy authentic, fresh Pasteis de Nata and other Portugese foods, served in the cafe and take-out or from the basement market. Buy a bag of their orange scented pastries and nip into the Abbey Gardens via the Mustow Street entrance nearby to scarf them but stick your nose inside the brown paper bag first and inhale that glorious scent. Cafe Kottani on the Buttermarket makes a cinnamon spiked Pasticcio that is eye-rollingly good, among other Greek and Levantine goodies and keep the scions of the town going with real coffee. A take-out box of their baklava is our weekly treat. I particularly like the take out sandwiches from Toppers also on the Buttermarket and lost my heart to the Italian gelato it sold last summer…I seem to remember a pear flavour….

Out of town on the Moreton Hall Estate can be found the Coffee House on Lawson Place: do take a trip there because it is a little gem and they don’t shove you out on the end of a broom after twenty minutes. Honey comes from the hives in the grounds of a nearby prep school, the meat is from the butcher father of one of the owners and the menu is small but creative and most of all, tastes great. Sofa’s, a bookshelf and newspapers make this a good place to meet, work or relax.

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Dark chocolate & pistachio tart- photo by Gastrono-me

For a total blow out, visit the recently refurbished Pea Porridge where chef owner Justin Sharp knocks out honest, modern food from parsley soup to local game (muntjac, rabbit and hare) and also studs the menu with international delicacies such as nduja. Then there’s that hardy perennial of great restaurants- Maison Bleu. Justifiably famous, this seafood restaurant on Churchgate St continues to impress. We have decent pub food too: the Cannon Street Brewery is over the road from Pea Porridge, has its own micro brewery and rooms if you cannot roll more than ten yards after feasting. They aren’t snobby either. We have rocked up covered in mud from our allotment which is in the next street and they didn’t blink. For more luxury, both in food and accommodation, drive a little way out of town to Tuddenham Mill where you can eat chef Lee Bye’s top notch food and then walk it off afterwards in the lovely grounds and surrounding countryside. Oakes Barn is an award-winning community pub with the best cheese-board around and a small, but perfect menu which is basically soup, a charcuterie board and a few other specials. Their beer is expertly kept (doesn’t matter how good the list of ales is if a place doesn’t know how to look after them) and sourced from the best small, and not so small, breweries around. We’re real fans of Shortts Farm Brewery in Thorndon whose ales are usually on at Oakes Barn. They’re named after bands and Strummer, their first beer, received the seal of approval from the family of the late Joe.

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Food by Maison Bleu- from their website

When we want a fix of Indian food, Orissa in Risbygate Street  is our choice because alongside the usual suspects, it serves beautifully plated modern interpretations. The Abafado de Camarao shows its Goan-Portugese heritage in its name: a plate of saffron infused giant shrimp, chilli hot and jazzed up with palm vinegar or go for the spiced apple and salmon or Imli duck with tamarind. Finally, if you are on a budget but want to eat food cooked by student chefs at a high standard, then head over to the West Suffolk College and book a seat at Zest, their student training restaurant which serves lunch and evening meals including catered banquets and special events. There’s a newly-opened coffee bar there too.

(4) Great local food producers and gastro related businesses

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Photo by the Bury Chocolate Shop

It’s getting better and having a market and a few good independent food stores helps promote the lovely local foodstuffs that living in a predominately rural and agricultural region results in. I buy my lamb from Justin Hammond who grazes his flock of Jacob sheep in the fields around Bury. Try his mutton and hogget which has all the flavour that very young spring lamb can lack- the website details the local markets he sells at and Lackford Lakes sells his meat frozen. You can also see his sheep ambling around the lakeside there too- just remember to disconnect your guilt gland beforehand. For ingredients less ordinary such as specially blended loose tea and fresh coffee in bean and ground, Butterworths in the Traverse is the place to go. I pined for fresh rooted herbs, Caribbean ingredients and niche veggies after leaving London and this shop with roots of fresh turrmeric, bushels of coriander and decent sized sacks of rice and pulses is an absolute tardis and where I go to find interesting items for food hamper gifts. Holders of a 5 star Which? rating for customer service, they richly deserve it. Another very welcome addition to the food store scene here are the shops selling Eastern European produce and the one I use the most is Europa Maxi on St Andrews St South. Rammed with an eclectic and excellent range, their cooked and preserved meats are superb. My last haul included a tub of freshly pickled cucumbers, high quality speck, fresh carp, frozen pierogi stuffed with wild mushrooms and chocolate coated plums. They also sell Cheeto’s twirls (Not Eastern European I know) which makes me want to fall at their feet and worship them.

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Spinach, Red Onion and Goats Cheese Quiche from Friendly Loaf Company

The Bury Chocolate Shop on the lovely St John’s St stocks a wide range of fresh truffles, diabetic treats made with stevia and other candies and the street it is on is one of the nicest parts of retail Bury, well worth a stroll down. Further down is the International Food Shop where I was able to buy Far Eastern, Brazilian and other South American ingredients, fresh exotic fruit and veg such as yams, custard apples, bunched herbs and durian. Mark Proctor of the Friendly Loaf Company is a friend but I’d still recommend his bread and pastries whether I liked him or not. Made and baked in his farm premises in Risby, they can be bought from Bury market and any leftover loaves are sold in the Dove pub. Hospital Rd on Wednesday evenings. For freshly milled local flour, try Pakenham Mill and the windmill at Bardwell and if you want cheese to go with that loaf, Suffolk Cheese makes a lovely blue and a hard ‘Gold’ cheddar style- both are sold on the market.

Infusions 4 Chefs is based a few miles from the town in Rougham and stocks the most amazing range of ingredients, equipment and tools for professional and domestic cooks. They do mail order, can be visited and I lose myself for days on their site. If you want to pootle around a cook shop, Bury has quite a few from Palmers Homestore and Steamer Trading to the little Kitchen Kave (not named by the Kardashians) on Brentgovel St which is a treasure trove of equipment at pocket money prices for the kids and a brilliant range of cake decorating products. If you are in search of quality eggs for your baking, then the egg man, Dan Schlpher sells high quality ones from ducks or chickens alongside meat and game on the market. Finally, if you can get out to the Risby Farm Shop and Nursery you won’t be disappointed. There’s a nursery stuffed with plants at ridiculously low prices plus seasonal and local fruit, veg, eggs, chutneys and jams plus a range of biscuits. Chickens and a pair of Spaniels roam at will and they also stock animal feed.

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Risby Farm Shop.

(5) Greene King, micro breweries and all matters alcohol

Obviously Bury is the home of Greene King and even if you don’t drink ale, a visit and tour around their headquarters visitor centre, museum and brew house is pretty interesting and you can always give the pint included in the admission price to the one who accompanies you (unless it is your kid-wouldn’t recommend that). Other local brewers include the Old Cannon Brewery and independent brew pub; drink a pint of Gunners Daughter on a brew day (usually mon/tues) and watch them make the next lot. Adnams have recently opened up a kitchen shop which also sells their complete range of ales and spirits alongside an in-store cafe. It. is a beautifully designed space.

Wander along to Tayfen Road (not the loveliest part of town, sadly) and visit the Bury Beerhouse, home of traditional cask ales, spit roasted pork from its own fires, a small changing menu of snacks and bar food and its own festival, all done so well that the Observer Food Monthly named it runner up for the best place in Britain to taste craft beers. For a stripped back to the ale drinking experience, try The Dove in Hospital Rd, a CAMRA recommended six pump pub selling mainly East Anglian ales and wicked pork scratchings plus some pork pies. The pub hosts folk nights, a men’s book club and a quiz night, details on the website.

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Wingspan Bar

Oakes Barn is a beautifully decorated (award-winning) community pub selling quality ales, ciders and other drinks. A small menu of pies, cheeseboards and other simple meals keeps you going in between drinks, all freshly-cooked. The pub is home to Bury Folk Collective, quiz and music nights, a book and crochet club, French and Spanish conversational evenings plus paella evenings, sausages and ale nights and food tastings. For something more intimate, try the Wingspan Bar at the Angel Hotel, located in the 12th Century vault that runs underneath the hotel, part of the system of tunnels fashioned out of the chalk that the town is bedded upon. The bar created from half an aircraft engine, tables are designed from aeroplane doors and the sofas upholstered in German flour sacks. Not particularly salubrious, the Con Club on Guildhall St is home to Kevin Cawsers guitar club, held monthly and getting very popular now. The bar sells the usual variety of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks but it is the astonishingly accomplished musical ability of those attending that is the draw.

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The Nutshell

Should you want to buy alcohol in an informative, non chain atmosphere, Beautiful Beers stocks products from all over Europe whilst Thos Peatling stocks fine wines and offers wine tasting sessions which make sensible presents for the person who has everything. Finally, how could we leave out The Nutshell, Britain’s smallest pub with a bar that measures just 15ft by 7ft, as confirmed in the Guinness Book of Records- especially after I was reminded by @TWoollams on Twitter. A major tourist draw, nonetheless you should be able to find a perch on the padded benches lining the walls and the beers are great.

(6) Street sports

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Bury skatepark

Bury Skatepark has recently been redeveloped and as a result is one of the best skate and BMX parks in England, The local council has been very supportive of street sports in the town and helped establish a planning and steering committee manned by users of the skatepark to help in the process of acquiring funding. With its own Facebook page, the park is the venue for frequent fundraising events (Skatejam) and is a registered charity. Located on Olding Road, this new concrete facility replaced the popular wooden structure and is suitable for bikes, scooters and boards with a mixture of both street and transitioned based features. For kids in need of both equipment, advice and another place to meet fellow street sport enthusiasts, Hardcore Hobbies on Risbygate Street is an excellent resource. The owners and staff are seriously connected in the street sport world and can offer help with safety and tuition alongside competitions and sponsorship guidance.

(7) Help and support

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Cavern Four

According to St Edmundsbury Borough Council, the local area is  recycling approximately 9000 tonnes of dry recyclable material through the blue bin scheme and 13,000 tonnes of compostable waste through the brown bin scheme each year. In total, we are recycling and composting approximately 50% of the household waste we produce and it is in part due to campaigners like Karen Cannard from the Rubbish Diet that we are doing so well. If you want to find ways of reducing your household waste and cut down also on food waste, Karen is an amazing first point of contact and a local treasure. For help with food poverty, the food bank at the Gatehouse is a voluntary group formed of local people and organisations. They need donations too. Cavern Four is a gorgeous little shop in Whiting Street that exhibits and sells the work of regional artists and craftspeople alongside its remit of showcasing the skills of people who attend Workwise, the work based training and rehabilitation service for local people with mental health problems. Selling high quality furnishings, art, crafts and jewellery, the shop is run by Workwise staff and employees-I have bought some stunning pieces from here.

I have always thought it scandalous that our government does not entirely fund hospice and palliative care services and the wonderful local one, Saint Nicholas has to raise £10,000 every single day of every single year to provide the right type of care for its patients. To this end, the local community is involved in a myriad of fund raising events and there is also a hospice charity shop on St Johns St. Although there are many valuable charities in the town, all deserving of our help, palliative and bereavement care is something that WILL touch us all and out of self interest alone, we should all get involved in supporting St Nics and maybe enquire of our government why such a vital service is not fully funded from the public purse.

(8) Theatre, antiques and galleries

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Theatre Royal

The exquisite Georgian Theatre Royal may be small but it is mighty, putting on a varied programme of entertainment in the face of Arts Council and other cuts. From well known comedians, national touring ballet companies and childrens entertaimnent to the popular pantomime, the theatre works hard to represent the myriad tastes of the town. The educational programme works with local children, there are opportunities for work experience and summer schools plus the ‘Costume Creators’ sessions offering an authentic and supportive work experience for young people with mild to moderate learning difficulties. At the much newer Apex, inside the Arc shopping centre, comedy, dance, live music and performance finds a home in a venue known for its acoustic excellence. There is a foyer cafe, an exhibition space and pre concert dining whilst Saturdays sees regular craft sales via the March Hare Collective.

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The Apex

St Edmundsbury Cathedral is an extraordinarily dramatic home to a programme of musical entertainment, home to the Bach Choir and and boasts two superb musical instruments: the Cathedral organ is a large four manual instrument and a Steinway grand piano. Major stars such as Philip Voss and Robert Hardy have performed here in recent years, and the Cathedral has been a venue for musical productions by the Suffolk Young People’s Theatre and various talks.

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John Dilnot – Moth Collection, 2013. Printed papers, wood and glass from Smiths Row

For art lovers, the Smiths Row gallery in its town centre setting is a free of charge setting for art that doesn’t shy away from challenging audiences and exploring new avenues of artistic expression. Contemporary crafts including jewellery can be purchased alongside a good range of prints and there are regular talks and chances to meet the artists in a pretty impressive setting. The gallery is located on the first floor of an elegant Grade 1 listed building originally designed as a theatre in the 1770s by Robert Adam, which has retained its high ceilings, Georgian façade and elegant arched windows and is lit by a pair of magnificent Venetian crystal chandeliers. There is a disabled lift to the gallery. *Update* The Gallery is in the process of being moved to a new location by the rail station and is closed. However their website is regularly updated with information so do keep an eye on it.

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Blackthorpe Barns at Christmas

Blackthorpe Barn near to the town is a wonderful multi use space with an art gallery and exhibitions, a Christmas shop and craft fair in the medieval thatched barn plus a cafe. The Christmas festivities are pretty cool here- kids love them. Start a family tradition of choosing a tree from the piles out back, meet the reindeers that sometimes appear and chug down mugs of spiced apple and hot toddies. The surrounding Rougham Woods are a great place to walk off that cake and jacket potato you ate in the cafe. Don’t forget the end of year and graduate art shows at the West Suffolk College and University College, Suffolk on Out Risbygate either. Contact the art department for information about when they are held and if you are lucky, you’ll score yourself an original artwork or get to commission one. The last time I attended, a haunting piece of art based upon the effects of Dementia stayed with me for months: unavailable for sale it is, for me, THE one that got away.

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Past and Present at Risby antiques barns- photo by Risby Antique Barns/Past & Present

The internet has decimated the antiques trade: Lovejoy would barely recognise Suffolk now as the antiques trail has kind of trailed off. Fortunately the antiques barns at Risby, near to the town appear to go from strength to strength: both barns are rammed with all manner of items from big ticket items to pocket money pieces. Open seven days a week, including bank holidays and with a cafe opposite, find clothing, vintage garden furniture, household furnishings, silverware and shelves of books alongside a fabulous collection of paste and real jewellery. I recently bought a rare Thierry Mugler cream wool and cashmere jacket from here for less than £30, a thirties dragonfly brooch of semi precious stones, Kosta Boda crystal candleholders, milk glass, a set of mid century modern chairs and vintage French pastis glasses., I love it here. Check out the plant nursery and Cosy Cabin, a sewing and quilting emporium and The Vintage Shack towards the back of the site and purveyor of vintage clothing, reclaimed Swedish style Gustavian furniture and some very cool geometric printed fabrics and vintage linens. The owner will restore to customers specifications.

(9) Sport and wellness

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St Edmunds wolf on the Southgate roundabout wearing the scarf of the rugby club. Photo by the East Anglian Daily Times

Home to its own Rugby, football and cricket clubs, these are just some of the sporting opportunities available in the town and you can even learn to fly over the town or drive a hovercraft at Rougham Airfield. Prices to attend local matches are reasonable, the clubs all have a lively social calendar and active youth and community programmes. Curvemotion is an indoor interactive venue offering activities for all the family including roller skating, soft play, slides and a bistro. Zorbing is also on offer. The Bury Foxes are the local female rugby team or if netball is more your bag, try the Jetts Netball Club. Located on the Moreton Hall Estate, the Wellness Centre is somewhere to go to unwind with a programme of yoga, tai chi and other complementary therapies for all ages. Run as a social enterprise, there is also hair and beauty therapies available and a vegan cafe called The Happy Cow selling smoothies, salads, tea, coffee, snacks, and cake.  For really competitive hair and beauty treatments go along to the In Vogue training salons at the West Suffolk College where well supervised (and appropriately competent) students offer everything from cuts and colours to facials, sports massage and hair removal. A fraction of the cost of normal salon prices, they may take a little longer, the surroundings are more utilitarian but the results are just as good. Call or email for appointments during term time. Lastlye, stroll down Risbygate Street and you’ll find the Body and Mind Studio which offers all manner of therapuetic massage and other treatments. From Indian head massages to healing and nutritional advice, they’ll sort you out.

(10) Festivals and fairs (or fayres if you prefer)

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We have quite a few of these now from the (relatively) venerable Bury Festival and its ten days of mixed arts and entertainment to the newcomers such as Homegrown which had its inaugural festival at Rougham last Summer (2014). In addition, the town puts on various market based events on bank holidays and in the run up to Christmas, the latter being one of the loveliest and most evocative I have been to in the UK and named by Buzzfeed as one of the best in Europe in a guide where Bury St Edmunds is the only town to be chosen among major cities and European capitals. Situated on Angel Hill in front of the Dickensian Angel Hotel, the combination of food, stalls, music and carols is lovely. Heralded by the Christmas light switch on event, the usual street market becomes turbo charged with an evening mini fairground, late night shopping, free parking and other attractions. It gives me an excuse to eat roasted chestnuts until I can barely stand the sight of them-until next December anyway.

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The Greene King Summer Festival, held in the gardens and grounds of the brewery is rapidly expanding from just a few stalls a few years ago to several days of events. Look out for food and drink tasting, cookery demonstrations and live music in the evening whilst the town centre itself has several food and drink festivals during the year. Speakers and public demo’s from chefs such as Brian Turner and Ollie Dabous draw the crowds. For lovers of gardens, architecture and the plain nosy, Bury Hidden Gardens is a day of heaven- the chance to explore unexpected gardens found within the historic streets of Bury St Edmunds, laid out in a grid pattern by the monks from the town’s 12th Century abbey, plus some gems from other architectural periods. Memorable for me in many ways, not least because of an afternoon spent making small talk about gunneras in a garden with the OBGYN who had operated on me just weeks before (we both pretended not to recognise each other in that very English manner), I love this event held in the Summer and a fundraiser for St Nicholas Hospice. Keep an eye out too for the Chinese New Years celebrations along Hatter Street in January with prancing dragons, lanterns and music.

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Quite a few of the walking tours that formed part of the 2014 Suffolk Walking Festival were located in and around the town. I attended the launch party and inaugural walk around Ickworth park (green and stunning despite the pelting rain) and one of the local history walks setting off from the tourist office on Angel Hill. Discovering local curiosities such as the miniature doll embedded in the flint walls near the rear entrance of the Abbey Gardens and the encouragement to look up at the architecture above shop fronts in the town centre made the small charge for these walks worth it. Other routes took walkers along the St Edmund Way, along the rivers Lark and Linnet or a walk to discover the unusual trees in Nowton Park – redwood giants, a spinning twisted yew, Indian Bean Trees that have ‘swallowed’ a fence, explosive Jeffery’s and a lightning struck Douglas. I hope this wonderful festival will be repeated next year but in the interim, Bury tourist office has details of other guided walks including the spooky ghost walks (highly recommended although when I went on it, I apparently whimpered most of the route like an oversized frightened kitten).

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The doll in the wall…..
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