Why I Love Suffolk: Jan Etherington

Jan Etherington with her dog Jagger

Jan Etherington with her dog Jagger - Credit: Contributed

Memory

Ten years ago, my husband and I decided that, as comedy writers, we could live anywhere. We wanted to move out of London and live by the sea. But where? We knew nothing about Suffolk but our daughter and family had moved to the county a year before, so one weekend we drove up to meet them in Southwold. We walked past the lighthouse and beach huts, to the pier and back along the beach. That was the day our decision was made. We were going to move to the Suffolk coast. That same afternoon we found an arts and crafts house, within walking distance of the sea. We’ve been in paradise ever since.

Landmark

There’s something about the crazy House In The Clouds in Thorpeness that makes me smile. I also love Maggie Hambling’s shiny, magical SCALLOP sculpture on the beach. I call Southwold Lighthouse ‘the office’ because I was a volunteer tour guide for five happy years and enjoyed the chorus of ‘Wow!’s as visitors reached the lamp room at the top and saw the view.

Attraction

The Suffolk Punch horse is a star of Suffolk, the logo of Ipswich Town FC and the oldest breed of working heavy horse. Approaching the Suffolk Punch Trust, near Hollesley is like skipping down the yellow brick road to a magic kingdom. Patchwork fields scattered with heavy horses, foals and Shetland ponies. Excited children on a tractor ride, stopping at the Pets’ Paddock to feed the animals. Inside a large barn, we watched a beautiful stallion being patiently schooled. There’s an Easter Egg Trail coming up. A perfect family outing.

Town

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Halesworth is a quietly welcoming town, with great community spirit. It may not have the glamour or glitz of the coast but it has a wonderful selection of independent shops and local businesses. The Cut Arts Centre hosts the INK Festival this month. The town has more than its fair share of great places to eat and drink. Many of the cafes line the pedestrian thoroughfare, so you can people-watch, while enjoying a croissant and cappuccino.

Shop

We’re lucky to have so many farm shops in Suffolk, where the food miles are often about 100 yards! I rarely use a supermarket anymore. At least once a week, I head for Holton Garden Centre to stock up on dog food for my greedy English Setter, Jagger, and delicious local, cakes, meat and fish. At this time of year, I optimistically pick up some veggie seedlings, in the hope they’ll survive

Beach

It has to be Walberswick, where I swim every morning of the year with a bunch of other saltwater junkies. (no, we don’t wear wetsuits!) Walberswick has no pavements or streetlights and plain black beach huts. I like to think of it as the ‘Diane Keaton’ to its neighbour, Southwold’s ‘Beyonce’. Walberswick’s bohemian, laid-back artistic charm contrasts with glossy Southwold’s ice cream coloured beach huts, star quality and hectic buzz. I love them both.

Export

Cheese. Every time I visit friends they ask me to bring Suffolk cheese. Baron Bigod brie, Binham Blue, Suffolk Gold. However much I take, it disappears instantly. Oh, and I never travel without Andy Storer’s award-winning sausage rolls from the Black Dog Deli. One is never enough…

Pub

Wherever you are in Suffolk, chances are you’ll come across a smashing pub, serving local food and drinks. I love both The Bell and The Anchor at Walberswick but we celebrated our wedding anniversary at The Unruly Pig, where the walls are decorated with artwork. David Bowie joined us for lunch – very nicely framed.

The final episode in the third series of Conversations From a Long Marriage, written by Jan Etherington and starring Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam, will be on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday 6th April at 6.30pm. All three series are available on BBC Sounds. Jan also has plays at the INK FESTIVAL from April 21 to 24, inkfestival.org