Having spent much of my childhood climbing apple trees, playing pooh sticks and putting out milk for hedgehogs at my grandfather’s home in Suffolk, it felt natural to kick off this monthly travel column by revisiting the South East with my own family in tow (hubby, bump, two year-old Clementine).
We packed up the car and hit the A12 with the promise of fresh air, homemade marmalade and pub lunches and were thrilled to discover the epitome of country house chic at the Old Rectory, a converted Grade II-listed Georgian building near Woodbridge. Officially, it is a B&B, but unofficially, it’s a hell of lot more. For starters, they offer dinner Monday-Friday, and an excellent three courses at that.
Sally and Mike, who have been running the place since 2002, have a relaxed, easy manner and impeccable taste. Above all, they didn’t look horrified when we pulled into the drive with a topless toddler and bag of sick-covered clothes (swiftly removed and returned washed and pressed a few hours later). We couldn’t have been made more welcome.
On our first night, we put Clem to bed with our baby monitor on, then tucked into a home-cooked dinner of goat’s cheese tart, roast rack of lamb with carrots and baby leeks from the garden and rhubarb crumble. Afterwards, we retired to the living room for coffee and were left to help ourselves from an antique Chinese cabinet housing an honesty bar, which we did, numerous times.
Up early the next morning, we made the most of the Rectory’s gardens, which offer plenty of scope for hide and seek or a kickaround. There’s a huge, beautiful lawn, a vegetable patch, an orchard, a rabbit hutch, a couple of rope swings and a chicken coop, which we visited the next morning and found some fresh-laid eggs. Said prizes were swiftly scrambled into some of the tastiest and yellowest eggs, we’ve ever had.
Of course there’s plenty to see and do in the area (our top choices are the Anglo-Saxon burial mounds at Sutton Hoo and lunch on the River Deben at Waldringfield’s Maybush Inn), but we were happiest pottering about at the Rectory where Clem had bangers and mash on demand, sticky ginger cake at tea time, and an endless supply of toys and children’s books.
Upon leaving, clutching a pot of local Suffolk marmalade – a going-home present from Sally – I glanced back and noticed a strangely familiar wooden bench. Turns out we celebrated my dear grandfather’s 80th birthday at the Old Rectory 20 years ago.
I knew this was a special place.