By Joan Whicher
Orford in Suffolk is where we would spend a long weekend in August for many years. We’d normally arrive by way of Lavenham and Woodbridge. This was something of a ritual and was looked forward to hugely, as it was, during those years the sum total of our annual holiday, short but very sweet. The beautiful medieval town of Lavenham was where we often spent the first night. Then onwards to Woodbridge the following day for a stroll round the town, taking in the shops where the sales were on, picking up some wonderful bargains from the expensive boutiques. And of course checking out local house prices. I had long hankered to up sticks and move to the area. Sadly that never materialised despite my legendary powers of persuasion.
I loved the familiarity of this annual trip. As we approached Orford I would have an overwhelming feeling of joy, and looking back, I don’t ever remember it raining during these short stays. Each year we knew that everything would be exactly the same. The Kings Head pub on the corner, the Crown and Castle hotel with its dated feel where we would usually stay, and the little ruined castle in sight just a short walk away. We would pass the pretty flint stone cottages on the walk down to the harbour. There was what appeared to be a perpetual book sale in the garden of one the larger cottages on the opposite side of the road, always worth a rummage.
The harbour itself boasts a thriving sailing club. A little motor boat takes people on trips up the river Ore and over to Orford Ness now a nature reserve, but previously owned and used by the Ministry of Defence. A few children would be fishing off the harbour wall, carefully supervised by parents, catching crabs. These would be kept in a holding bucket to be thrown back in at the end of the day.
So Orford would become our base for the next two or three days and from where we would visit Snape with its large antique centre, Aldeburgh, and finally on the last day Southwold. All these towns are popular with the sailing fraternity, and in the main, people who return year after year. Many are second home owners. Southwold is famous for Adnam’s beer where sometimes Suffolk Punch horses can be seen pulling the drays. But the common factor is that all these towns have the air of a bygone age, as if time really has passed them by and for me and many others this is their appeal. There are also many eateries selling locally caught produce catering for the huge influx of visitors during the season.
But the real highlight of the trip for us was the nightly visit to the Butley Orford Oysterage where superb food was served unfailingly. It is truly a gourmet’s delight for those of us who enjoy fish and sea food and if that weren’t enough, they had a choice of two exceptional deserts, both made on the premises. One was a rum baba, soaked in rum, absolutely no stinting going on here and the other was what I recognised as Delia Smith’s very indulgent Chocolate Truffle Torte. Both were scrumptious, and we would buy some to take home to be enjoyed as we talked about yet another memorable stay.