Let's face it, we all have a romantic side, or at least an urge to treat oneself and a loved one to something special every once in a while, whether it be for an occasion - honeymoon, wedding anniversary or birthday for example, these are all very valid reasons to indulge in a little bit of luxury leaving the grand gesture of red roses and chocolates behind. Suffolk holds the secret to this in my humble opinion and Lavenham by night is really rather mesmerising, especially in the winter months. The weirdly wonderful wonky medieval buildings lit up by decedent candelabras and grand chandeliers help to set the scene, she's guaranteed to say yes, even if you weren't planning on popping the question.
If you're interested in a more nomadic break, venturing out into the nearby villages and towns in a bid to find romantic things to do is highly recommended.
Jump on a rowing boat at Flatford Mill and take in the glorious scenery while drifting along the river Stour. Feed the ducks at the meticulously maintained Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds. Meander along Ipswich's grand Marina - coffee in hand. Drive out to the stunning heritage coastline for fish & chips on the beach in Aldeburgh. You could even leave the car in Woodbridge and travel in style by hiring a classic car from Open Top Touring, they provide driving routes along the unspoilt coastline and quiet country lanes, lots of traditional pubs to stop at along the way. Or perhaps simply stay in Lavenham for a relaxing spa day and afternoon tea at The Swan, followed by a romantic dinner at the award winning restaurant The Great House in the market place and an evening tipple at Number 10. After a blissful nights sleep, you can take full advantage of your welcome pack left for you at the cottage, local juice straight from the Orchard, free range eggs and a fresh loaf from the bakers for breakfast, followed by a stroll around the village and a spot of souvenir shopping. There are so many wonderful places to explore, hopefully some of these ideas will inspire your romantic escape to Lavenham, Suffolk and beyond!
Lavenham is a spellbinding place, like stepping back in time to the middle ages. It's magical and charming, yet slightly eerie when you delve into its history. Lavenham prospered from the wool trade in the 15th century and was once among the wealthiest towns in Britain, however, the industry floundered when Dutch refugees settled in nearby Colchester in the 1600's and were able to produce far cheaper and better cloth. Lavenham's reputation as a major trading town no longer existed. These were undoubtedly hard times for Lavenham's residents, but what a great preservation of history it has cherished us with today. Many of the old buildings remain untouched as over the years Lavenham simply didn't have the wealth to rebuild and modernise houses in the latest styles. Now it is once again a thriving village scattered with independent shops and restaurants promoting wonderful local produce and embracing local trades, attracting visitors from around the globe to admire its crooked houses which line the narrow streets; the streets of which the nursery rhyme 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' was born.
My husband grew up in Lavenham in the 80's, his old house today sits proudly in the market square, tangled in Wisteria that his mother planted many moons ago. A couple of doors along is the bakery which is still just as popular today, the smell of freshly baked bread and pastries lures you in as you are wandering by, it's nigh impossible to resist temptation. His grandparents owned The Priory which is just opposite Blacksmith's Cottage, it has an enchanting presence as it stares back at you from the cottage bedroom window. His grandparents (A&G as they are more informally known) began work on the Priory in the late 70's. It was a huge restoration project which the whole family got involved with, including my husband when he was just a little boy. They worked tirelessly for many years bringing it back to life, they opened its doors to the public and ran guided tours in order to share the history of the building and their renovation story. But, most importantly to them, they had created a home, their home, one which they were very proud of and have many fond memories of today. A&G do still live in Lavenham, but sold The Priory in the mid 90's and are now writing a book about the time they spent restoring it.
We were very lucky to have the opportunity to refurbish number 8 Water Street earlier this year. At the time it was a lovely shop called The Gardeners Home, which has since moved onto the high street, they sell a beautifully curated collection of antique and reclaimed garden tools, pots and home ware, well worth a visit when you come to Lavenham. It has also previously been a florist and an antiques shop. What I found really fascinating was its use as part of a blacksmith's workshop in the 1940's. Mr Frederick Huffey was the Smithy and he served the village and neighbouring towns with all of their metalwork needs. Trades like Mr Huffey's around this period in time were vital to Lavenham's survival. Sadly, the building has since been split into two dwellings.
I've loved uncovering the story behind this incredibly old building, finding photographs and films of its previous life has inspired our refurbishment hugely. I am collecting antique tools and hand forged metal work to create a display in the cottage, two horseshoes were found in a nearby garden and have been kindly donated to us; they are believed to have been made by Mr Huffey himself. It's not easy working on old properties, especially listed ones, so progress has been painstakingly slow at times and restoring the exposed timber beams has almost killed us, but we made it and live to tell the tale! We are incredibly pleased with the result and we hope that we have done Mr Huffey proud in its revival and created an interesting base for you stay, relax and explore Lavenham and beyond!