Why I love Suffolk: Gemma Brown

Gemma and Marcus Brown of Wooden Roots, Suffolk

Gemma and Marcus Brown of Wooden Roots, Suffolk - Credit: Contributed


November 15, 2017 we locked the front door of our California ranch house in Los Angeles and handed the keys to our estate agent. Twenty-five hours later we were in Colchester, at a friend's house and what was to be our base for the next two weeks. No sooner had we touched down on UK soil our house in California was sold – so the race was on to find our new home! We travelled 2,000 miles in two weeks, literally the length and breadth of East Anglia. This two week whistle-stop tour would reveal where we would settle for our first two years – Halesworth! 


The Scallop at Aldeburgh beach. This sculpture was featured on the front page of Suffolk Magazine in  February 2019 and Wooden Roots had an exclusive five-page feature in the magazine laying out our story and our journey. We couldn’t have felt more proud to be living in Suffolk and featured in this prestigious magazine. In the summer months we can occasionally be found drumming by this sculpture. 


Southwold Beach, a 10 minute drive away, is our favourite beach so far since moving to Suffolk. We have very fond memories of walking our dogs from the pier up to the town and eating fish and chips on our knees whilst looking out at the cold North Sea. A far cry from the stunning Pacific ocean of course but we are very happy with our move from sunny California by the sea to sunny Suffolk by the sea.   


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Halesworth a small town sandwiched between Ipswich and Lowestoft off the A12. They say that Disney World is the happiest place on earth but we beg to differ that it’s actually Halesworth. On arriving to our new home we were immediately welcomed by all our neighbours and we went on to make so many friends. Having Halesworth as our landing place from the US was so helpful with our transition. It immediately felt like home and allowed us to take breath and rest before starting our new journey in the UK with Wooden Roots. 

Place to eat 

When you live in another country for a long time, you really get to reflect on foods that you miss from your home country.  Whilst you can find replacements or substitutes for lots of foods there is one category of food that they just can’t seem to get right in America – fish and chips. Since returning to the UK we have frequented our local chippy more times than we care to mention. We now live in Woodbridge as it’s closer to our shop and studio and it would be remiss of us to not mention the most amazing chip shop that we frequent, Woodbridge Quality Fish & Chips. 


The Oyster Inn, Butley. It was over by Jane Palmer a month before the country went into its first lockdown. Jane has become a personal friend of ours and what she’s managed to achieve at this pub through lockdown and coming out of it is tremendous. We don’t get to go out much but when we do you can find us at The Oyster Inn. There's good food (and loads of vegan options), good beer and it's always so incredibly friendly.  Whether you show up on your own or with a group of friends you are always made to feel welcome. And behold the view from their beer garden – it’s got to be the best place to watch a Suffolk sunset! 


We may be biased but Wooden Roots is the place to shop in Suffolk, especially if you have a passion for West African Djembes. We are based on a disused US Air Force base (ironic and comforting given that we started from the USA). Wooden Roots is first and foremost a drum shop selling high quality djembe's, but we also do repairs, plus we have weekly Djembe classes where we teach traditional West African rhythms. We also have workshops, pop-up drumming, team building events and work with local community groups from Walton on the Naze to Lowestoft. 


Rhythms Sans Frontières is a new visionary music festival concept in Suffolk which aims to inspire, enlighten and entertain. This event is brought to you by Wooden Roots and Music Worldwide and it will be hosted at Euston Park (just outside Thetford) on July 1 to 3, 2022.   

At RSF we celebrate cultural diversity. We will have dedicated venues for interactive daytime music and dance workshops including African drumming, beatbox, street dance, yoga and much more. With a global village market place, amazing global food caterers, enticing bars and well-being areas your day will be full and you can also party late into the night.  

We are also giving a voice to good causes and organisations that support human rights, the environment and climate change action. Our main sponsor is solar power company Rowan Energy, the world’s first Community Fed Green energy company. 

For tickets go to rsffestival.co.uk/tickets.asp 


Marcus Brown, owner of Wooden Roots is a world-renowned drum builder and all the drums built by Marcus are now made in Suffolk. Our drums can be found all over the world and are being played by total beginners to accomplished artists on stage. We are proud to have brought our business to Suffolk and we hope you are too.