If beach holidays aren’t your bag, a trip to destinations that have inspired others might be on your list. Suffolk Cottage Holidays treads in the footsteps of some of Britain’s literary greats and the scenery that inspired them.
1. Gallery Cottage, Aldeburgh
In the 1950s this was the home of the novelist E M Forster, the writer of Howard’s End and A Room with a View. He also worked with two other great Suffolk folk: George Orwell and Benjamin Britten. For Britten, Forster wrote the Billy Budd libretto, possibly whilst at the cottage. It is now a part time home for the artist Tessa Henderson.
This village on the Norfolk/Suffolk border is perhaps best known as being the “birthplace” of David Copperfield. While there, look for the plaque on the wall marking the alleged spot Barkis used to drive his cart from. It is not known whether Dickens visited the village, but it is said that he saw a sign for it while visiting nearby Great Yarmouth.
Before her phenomenal literary career, Enid Blyton trained as a nursery school teacher in Ipswich in 1916. She trained both as part of the National Froebel Union and Ipswich High School. Meanwhile at Ipswich Grammar School, Sir Henry Rider Haggard (author of King Solomon’s Mines) was educated. This was somewhat a status dip at the time as Haggard’s older brothers had been educated privately.
This small Suffolk village was home to thriller writer Hammond Innes before his death in 1998. He lived there with his wife, Dorothy, who had also been both a writer and actress. It is said he wrote his thrillers by spending six months researching and then another six months writing, aided by the solitude in this quiet Suffolk backwater.
After serving with the Colonial Service in South Africa, Rider Haggard returned to this country and after a time in Norfolk, lived in a cliff-top house called The Grange at Kessingland with his wife and children. One of the visitors to the house was his close friend Rudyard Kipling. In more recent times Kessingland has been the home and inspiration for authors such as Joseph Freeman and W. G. Sebald.
6. Long Melford
The children’s author Beatrix Potter was a frequent visitor to Melford Hall, now a National Trust property, as her cousin Ethel was married to Sir William Hyde-Parker whose family owned it. The west bedroom is furnished as it would have been in her time. The Tale of Jeremy Fisher is dedicated to Stephanie, one of the Hyde-Parker children. It is thought Potter did many of her illustrations while there and a Jemima Puddleduck drawing she gave the children is on display to the public.
7. Pin Mill
2017 is the year to visit Pin Mill near Ipswich. The village is the setting for We didn’t mean to go to sea, one of the books in the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. 2017 marks 80 years since the book was published and 50 years since the death of Ransome. There are celebrations throughout the year and a chance to see Ransome’s actual boat “Nancy Blackett”.
Who knows how many mysteries were inspired during Ruth Rendell’s time in Polstead. We do know that she loved Suffolk though. The county features in many of her published works and she even illustrated the work Ruth Rendell’s Suffolk. Fans of her work will spot Polstead, Nayland, Orford and Sudbury in her works of fiction.
Eric Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell (the name taken from a local river) lived in Southwold twice during his life. On both occasions, he lived at his parent’s house, which now displays a blue plaque. It was during his second sojourn he wrote A Clergyman’s Daughter. Another author who had a second home in Southwold is the late thriller writer P.D. James. The plots of several of her Adam Dalgliesh novels are based around the area.
10. Wickham Market
The area and villages around Wickham Market were used in the filming of Akenfield: portrait of an English village. This low budget movie was based on the book Akenfield written by Ronald Blythe who was born in Acton in Suffolk, and educated in Sudbury. Set pre-World War I it reflects on rural life in Suffolk in the early 20th century.