Last Saturday we packed up our sturdy (and now very elderly) car: bikes, food, clothes, swimming trunks, boots, waterproofs, umbrellas (British summers being unpredictable at best). Being the type of family we are this took us a fair while; with a generous amount of colourful language; double checking of things, last minute trips to bathroom, bedroom, etc...
"I've forgotten: Tiger, bear, book, batteries etc!"
Eventually we set off, it was so reminiscent of my family holidays as a child and so different from anything my boys have experienced so far. We are lucky as we spend our summers with family in Finland each year, however this means we rarely take the boys away on our own. Anyway, digressions aside, we set off, east and south, past Melton Mowbray, Oakham, Stamford, Stilton, stopping off in St Ives for lunch. What a lovely town, with the most fantastic bridge, along the middle of which hangs a chapel.
After a quick exploration of the town we got back in the car and set off again. Past Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds and on down into Suffolk; until we reached the little village of Friston. One of the great pleasures of travelling along minor A and B roads is the collection of wonderful town and village names; each one laden with the history of its settlement and founding. Our home for the week was to be in a village with a long history, and a name generally believed to mean "Settlement of the Fristans" (Fristans being an ethnic group of tribal Germans from the coast of the Netherlands).
Over the course of the week we explored the local area, by bike and on foot. The boys loved cycling on the quiet country lanes, although they were less keen on the sandy and rutted bridleways. We took a late evening walk with them, each evening the weather allowed it. John map read, using a local walks map from the community centre, Matthew played at different games as they entered his head. Suffolk is immensely flat, having been scraped over by a glacier, it is therefore a lovely place to cycle with children as there are not too many hills for them to negotiate. The same holds true for the walking, there are also a number of windmills, churches, trees ideal for climbing and fields to run through.
One of the true joys of this holiday (for me especially) was the absence of games machines. I did a deal with the boys that we would manage with out for the week, they were allowed some TV and a film on the day the weather was truly awful but otherwise we went without electronica. Instead we taught the boys to play scrabble, read stories, walked and played on the park with them. The local park was on the village green, safe enough for them to be able to go to on their own; we could see them from the garden but they could not see us. A taste of the precious freedom from adults they are deprived of at home (main roads, badly controlled dogs and inner city teenagers mean our park is out of bounds with out an adult). They were able to play as Tim and I did when we were young, grab breakfast then out the door to explore.
Having said that being chased by daddy in a game of dobby off ground/big bad troll/obstacle course/kick daddy on the bottom is immense fun, the giggle factor for this was massive.
Our first full day brought a mix of clouds and sunshine, so we thought we would explore the local town of Aldeburgh, just before the start of its festival season. This is a truly pretty seaside town, with an impressive church. It is picturesque and full of galleries, old inns, a martello tower and some architectural gems. The beach is a ness (a bank of pebbles swept in by the tide each day) these ness give their name to many coastal resorts in the area, they vary in size and length and are ever changing. Aldeburgh was once on the mouth of the Alde estuary; changing tides and weathers have moved the ness over the years and now the river mouth is far away from the original town. The beach is not sandy at all, but full of an infinite variety of flints and stones, polished and shape by the sea. But that doesn't matter...