Situated right on our doorstep, Harleston is a vibrant market town, filled with historic buildings, a beautiful chapel and plenty of character around every corner. The town is home to a delightful array of individual speciality shops, bustling market stalls, food and music festivals and a thriving centre for the arts, there's plenty to see and do in this beautiful little town which is just ten minutes from the park.
Images provided by Harleston Information Plus and Ian Carstairs
Set out on The Discover Trail and explore the distinctive buildings and streets of the town. Take a journey back in time and discover the secrets of the magnificent Langley Abbey complex, or visit the nearby Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, with its impressive collection of 60 aircraft, 23,000 artefacts and 8 themed buildings on an 8 acre site.
Artists and Artisans:
Visit local artists in their studios and workshops, or the two award-winning microbreweries (Grain Brewery and St Peter's Brewery) within a stone's throw of the town.
Why not sample some delicious local food and drink at the Waveney Valley Food Festival? Or enjoy the music and arts at the weeklong Harleston and Waveney Festival? With a packed programme of events held throughout the summer months and plenty of interactive workshops to enjoy, there's sure to be something to interest and entertain you in this charming market town.
Hoxne is a beautiful and historic Suffolk village and well worth a visit. The village is also well known because of the so-called Hoxne Hoard which was discovered by a metal detectorist in 1992. It is the largest hoard of Roman silver and gold discovered in Britain. Horne today is a busy, friendly village with a good community spirit plus an excellent public house with restaurant.
Images provided by Harleston Information Plus and Ian Carstairs
The Hoxne Artisan Market takes please in the Village Hall on the second Saturday of every month from 10am - 2pm. The market brings together local craftspeople selling their artisan food produce, art and crafts. There is usually a demonstration or two of local crafts people at work at the event. There's also a café selling homemade cakes and biscuits, soups with freshly baked rolls, bacon butties and the usual tea and coffee.
Beccles town is made up of small market squares and winding streets nestled by the River Waveney. Around every corner you'll find quirky, independent shops, restaurants and cafés. Look out for a host of community events, festivals and entertainment held throughout the year.
Images provided by Ian Carstairs
The River Waveney:
There are plenty of opportunities to take to the river when you visit Beccles. Hire a canoe, kayak, or day boat and explore on your own or climb aboard a skippered boat and take a guided tour of these placid waterways. Beccles Lido is one of those 'must see and do' experiences for the spring/summer, this traditional outdoor heated swimming pool sits right alongside the river, with plenty of paved and grassy places to sunbathe! If riding on top of the waves is more your style than getting wet in the water, you can hire an canoe or day boat from the lido. Or let a skipper take control and enjoy a beautiful boat trip with Waveney River Tours, you can wind your way up to Geldeston Locks taking in the beauty of the river banks on your way. The Big Dog Ferry also runs river trips from the pontoon right next to the Lido.
If you'd prefer to stay on dry ground, there are plenty of walks to take you through the lush Waveney Valley. Follow the river as it meanders through the pretty Suffolk countryside, or head northwards and explore the Beccles Marshes.
Shopping in Beccles:
A unique retail experience! Eccles town is home to some fabulous independent shops from designer fashions and delicatessens to exclusive gifts and 'knick-knacks'.
The Market town of Bungay has been the focus of this part of the Suffolk countryside since the Anglo-Saxons called the area home. It's a town that has so much to recommend: scenic walking, good shopping, historic buildings and of course the River Waveney that has been the lifeblood of the town over the centuries.
Images provided by Ian Carstairs
Walk the historic trails:
Two official walks are available to take - The Bigod Way Trail and the Town Trail. The Bigod Way Trail is a series of walks all entered on Bigod's Castle, the remains of a large Norman castle dating back to 1165 that nestles in the centre of Bungay. The Town Trail includes most of Bungay's historic buildings and churches along with the River Waveney. The route is ideal for visitors to the town and offers you the chance to explore the 'old world charm' of Bungay.
Visit the theatre:
The Fisher Theatre, built relatively recently in the nineteenth century, is one of the oldest provincial theatres in the UK, but still acts as a hub for social events such as films, plays, exhibitions and other gatherings. Bungay is a town with a strong literary tradition, modern writers such as Elizabeth Jane Howard and Louis de Berniéres have lived in the town as well as classic novelist H. Rider Haggard. It's also home to 'Clays' - established in 1795 - one of the largest print works in the country, and the reason why Harry Potter first saw the light of day in this quiet corner of Suffolk!
Browse the independent shops
There are plenty of independent local stores to browse, selling everything from arts and antiques to cutting edge fashion and stylish jewellery. And of course, being a quintessential Suffolk market town there are some wonderful places to eat and drink.
The ancient market town of Framlingham is nestled in the Suffolk countryside and is a firm favourite with visitors and locals alike. So much so that it was voted 'the best place to live in the country' by Country Life magazine in 2006!
Shop and stroll
Framlingham is the perfect town for a stroll, shop and glimpse of history - there's even a Town Trail marking all the primary sites of historic interest. Market Hill is the town's centre and still hosts markets on Saturday and Tuesday offering great local produce together with trinkets and collectibles. There are excellent shops too, for gifts, food, fashion and antiques and a mouth-watering selection of cafés, tea shops, pubs and restaurants.
Discover the Kings and Queen's of years gone by
You can't visit Framlingham without taking in its magnificent late 12th century castle. It is surrounded by parkland and estates and was once at the centre of a vast network of power and influence. The castle is a great place to explore - a historic treat not to be missed.
Spot plants and birds
Surrounding the Castle is The Mere, a natural haven full of wildlife and popular with walkers, where dogs are allowed. There Mere is property of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and contains nearly 300 species of plants and 80 species of birds. It lives up to its name, though - Mere means 'lake' - so remember your wellies if you're going to walk its banks during winter months.
Halesworth is a town that prides itself on offering shopping like it used to be. The town is centred around the Thoroughfare, a pedestrianised area where many buildings date back to the sixteenth century.
Images provided by Ian Carstairs
Catch a concert or exhibition
The New Cut Arts Centre holds events throughout the year, including dance, drama, film and exhibitions.
Discover Suffolk's agricultural and brewing history
The Halesworth Museum is housed at the railway station. Spend some time with the displays which will take you across 10,000 years, from the earliest settlers in the Blyth Valley to the busy hub of malting, brewing and agriculture which Halesworth was well-known for in Victorian times.
Visit the largest Millennium Green in the UK
Just to the east of the town centre is the largest Millennium Green in the UK - 44 acres of grazing marsh and flood plain converted for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike. The Trust that runs it puts on events throughout the year, great for exploring this wonderful piece of nature.
Enjoy the splendid selection of cafés, restaurants and delis
Great café culture exists in Halesworth with the likes of Tilly's, Café Frapa, Pinky's Café not to mention restaurants making good use of all the wonderful local produce like Cleone's at The Angel, Edwards and delicious Thai and Indian food at Sing tong Neeyom Thai and the Raj Put Restaurant. If you want treats to take home don't miss Focus Organic where you can have a lovely coffee too!
Diss is a thriving and picturesque market town which borders a lovely mere, has some beautiful timber framed buildings dating from the 16th century: a Grade II listed Corn Hall - now a thriving entertainment venue and its market and auction take place each Friday. Diss is also the start of the popular Boudicca Way walking path to Norwich, which goes past the old Roman town of Venta Icenorum.
Right image provided by Harleston Information Plus
Diss Park and Mere
Situated in the heart of the historic market town, this Green Flag award-winning park is an oasis on the edge of town, highly valued by the locals and perfect for a picnic. The park is complemented by the 6 acre mere; a unique habitat for a variety of wildlife. A pretty, mere-side walkway joins the park to the town centre, boasting views of the beautiful perennial borders, the fountains, and the historic buildings that fringe the mere. The Pavilion holds open air performances of music and drama and events such as the annual Proms in the Park.
Explore the history
Explore the fine examples of Georgian architecture throughout the town and discover the history of the town and its people at the Diss Museum, which is open Wednesday-Saturday (and Sunday's in August).
For those who love Dad's Army, Steam trains and beautiful gardens Bressingham Gardens are just 2.5 miles from the town centre. There is also a large garden centre with restaurant.
The pretty Suffolk town of Eye derives its name from the old English word for 'island' and it's believed that the first settlement on the site where the village now is, was once surrounded by water and marshland. Eye has a fascinating history and there are many timber framed buildings, lovely thatched cottages and the stunning Church. It even has a castle ruin with some splendid views from the top of the hill where it stands.
Images provided by Ian Carstairs
The Church and Castle
In the magnificent Church of St Peter and St Paul, the 15th century wooden rood screen with its intricate carving and painted saints, kings and bishops is well worth a visit. The Church also has a fair-trade shop, selling food, gifts and jewellery, among other things. One of the few surviving motte-and-bailey castles from the early Norman period Eye Castle was built shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066. Largely destroyed in 1265 the castle now offers a tranquil, fun and interesting place to visit. The castle site has recently been restored and revamped, opening up new areas to explore and providing a viewing platform offering wonderful views of the church, the castle is open daily from Easter until the end of October. During the winer months it is open on weekdays only.
Shops and Cafés
For a town of its size, Eye has an impressive array go shops. Ranging from everyday amenities to specialist retailers, Eye is particularly well-served with antique, home furnishing and gift shops, not to mention a haberdashery, popular second-hand women's clothing boutique and a chocolatier (complete with café). If you need a break from shopping, there are several places to eat, whether you're looking for a light lunch, some pub grub, a tea and cake or even a convenient takeaway. Additionally, there is an award-winning, weekly 'Country Market' in the Town Hall (Wednesday) where fresh, seasonal produce and locally home-made cakes, quiches and preserves are available.
Surrounded by lovely countryside Eye is conveniently close to Thornham Walks, on the 2,000 acre Thornham estate. Here you can enjoy walking along 12 miles of way marked walks and also visit the Thornham walled gardens, which are designed to provide a therapeutic environment and promote well-being.
Loddon is one of South Norfolk's finest towns. Its lively history is reflected in its Georgian and Victorian architecture, reminders of a more commercial age. Now a delightful market town that has a selection of speciality shops and waterside picnic area. In the summer it is busy with boating holiday makers who choose to experience the Norfolk broads - unspoilt South Norfolk style.
The Wherryman's Way is a 35 mile recreational route following the course of the River Yare between Norwich and Great Yarmouth. The route takes its name from the wherry - a large cargo-carrying barge whose elegant black sails were once a common sight on these waters. You can walk the whole route or explore parts of it by cycle, train and river bus. Alternatively you can explore one of the ten circular village walks en-route. Look out for the unique waymarkers along the route, which include figures, sculpture, information panels and audio.
Loddon sits close to the centre of the Southern Broads, part of the Broads National Park. There are a number of boatyards in Loddon and in Chedgrave that provide day boat hire.
The historic heart of Norfolk, Norwich is a unique city, where diversity comes as standard. With a retail and cafe experience to suit all tastes, set amongst ten centuries of history you’ll have a challenge knowing where to start. Norwich is a destination to which you can return again and again.
At the centre of the city Norwich Castle is a former Norman Royal Palace which now houses the Norwich Museum & Art Gallery, a treasure trove of archaeology, art and natural history. Close by is the historic Elm Hill, a beautifully preserved medieval street with cobbled stone road and lovely buildings dating back to the Tudor period. Elm Hill is also close to Norwich Cathedral, one of England’s most awe inspiring Cathedrals with an interior which tells almost 1000 years of history. The surrounding Cathedral Quarter and Tombland, with its crooked beams, is an ideal lunch stop with its cobbled area lined with cafes and shops on one side and the cathedral precinct on the other. No matter where you look in Norwich, there is history.
Situated on Gentleman's Walk, Norwich Market is the largest six-day-a-week undercover market in Europe. Monday to Saturday it’s buzzing with bargains under a colourful canopy. You'll find a fantastic range of goods and service available, and stalls selling a delicious range of quality local foods and produce. If you are looking for something different, or value the original and quirky then there is a wide range of independent shops, galleries and cafes to be found in Norwich Lanes where a variety of independent retailers and businesses offer exciting choices against a backdrop of narrow alleys and beautiful historic buildings. If it’s the more mainstream retailers you are looking for then you will be well catered for also. With not one but two very different shopping malls located only a few minutes walk from each other. Situated within the main shopping area of the city centre, it's easy to wander in and explore the shops, restaurants and cinema of either intu Chapelfield or the Castle Mall.
Choose Riverside Walking and Gardens
Looping around the Cathedral Quarter and Tombland the River Wensum is perhaps, one of the best features of the city. The Riverside Walk starts near the South end of King Street, close to two boom towers, where the city walls meet the river. Along its course the walk passes many fine medieval and post medieval buildings, and the river flows under a number of bridges, each with a tale to tell. Arguably the oldest river crossing is Fye Bridge, gateway to the area of the city known as "Norwich Over the Water". Along its banks there are many beauty spots to look out for including the 15th century water gate, known as Pull's Ferry in the Cathedral Close. Just a short walk from the city centre The Plantation Garden is a unique 2½ acre Victorian town garden with delights that include the extraordinary ‘mediaeval’ fountain, rustic bridge and summerhouse and woodland path. A little further afield lies Eaton Park, one of Norwich’s most beautiful historic parks spread over 80 glorious acres and packed with great things to see and do.
A little distance from the Park, Soutwold is well worth a trip if you fancy a visit to the coast. With its sandy beach and beach hut-lined promenade. Southward offers a wonderful environment for days out, as well as a thriving market town atmosphere.
Visit the world famous Adnams Brewery
Southwold is home to the Adnams Brewery, winner of The Good Pub Guide 2011's 'Brewery of the Year'. The brewery itself is very much the focal point of the town with its brewing rooms set just behind the High Street and adjacent to the town's lighthouse. Brewery tours are on offer throughout the year and there is no shortage of pubs and restaurants at which to sample the variety of Adnams beers on offer. More recently they have added a distillery, which as well as the wine shop, guarantees your favourite 'tipple' will be available.
Head out to sea on The Pier
Yet another focal point of the town's landscape, Southworld Pier was refurbished in 2005, the pretty pier offers a range of shops, eating places and amusements, from traditional two penny pushers to Tim Hunkin's eccentric inventions. Don't miss out on the famous Water Clock which causes a snigger every 30 minutes!
You'll lose yourself for hours wandering around the array of shops in Southwold. Choose from designer labels, to traditional sweet shops and quirky gift stores.
Take a tour of the Lighthouse
The lighthouse at Southward has been an important landmark for years, a coastal mark for passing shipping that guides vessels into Southwold Harbour. The tour lasts 20 minutes. Opening subject to weather conditions and Trinity House's operational requirements.
At less than an hour away, Snape is certainly worth a visit, either for a day out or to enjoy one of the regular musical performances at The Snape Maltings Concert Hall. The history of the village of Snape spans back over 2,000 years. In this time it's been a Roman settlement, an Ango-Saxon burial site, a priory, a Victorian maltings and from 1937-1947 the favourite home place of Benjamin Britten, one of the most celebrated British composers in history.
Listen to world class composers
Aldeburgh Music and Snape Maltings Concert Hall - Home to the Aldeburgh Festival founded by composer Benjamin Britten in 1948. Aside from the well-known June festival, this 832 seat venue also plays host to many concerts, workshops and performances of dance and literature throughout the year. Aldeburgh music has become established as a centre for talented young musicians from all over the world and remains a world-renowned cultural mecca.
Visit the Maltings
The Snape Maltings complex houses art galleries, restaurants, cafés, shops and stunning holiday cottages inside an intricate network of beautiful brick buildings. Unsurprisingly, it's a favourite place for visitors and locals alike.
A popular day out at Snape Maltings, operated by the team from Waveney River Tours. The river trips sail on the tide and last for around one hour. The journey from The Maltings travels along the estuary to Iken Cliff and back to The Maltings - A haven for wildlife.
The River Alde at the Maltings is a haven for birdlife with its expansive estuary. Being tidal it's a place of glistening mud and shallow open water, filled twice a day by the incoming tide and rich in wildlife during migrating months. Here's a selection of walks with varying distances: Snape Warren along the river is a 2 mile return walk. Sailors Path walk from the Maltings to Aldeburgh is a 12 mile return walk - Iken Cliff walk is approximately a 2 mile return walk. Iken Church walk is approximately a 4.6 mile return walk.
A Portrait of the Waveney Valley
Many of the images used on the page were captured by Ian Carstairs and can be found in his book 'Portrait of the Waveney Valley', a beautiful, pictorial tour of the River Waveney along the Suffolk and Norfolk border.
More information about the Waveney Valley can be found at www.visitwaveneyvalley.co.uk