Why I Love Suffolk - Linda Duffin

Linda Duffin of Mrs Portly's Kitchen

Linda Duffin - Credit: Contributed

Memory

This is an easy one. The first time I visited Suffolk was the first time I met my husband. His sister had invited me to a weekend-long birthday party at their father’s home in Stoke-by-Nayland. He was digging a trench in the garden (don’t ask) and the attraction was instant. Basically, I chased him until he agreed to marry me. Twenty-three years later he’s still digging (my readers know him as Him Outdoors), we’re still married and living in Suffolk ourselves. Anyone who’s ever got together with a Suffolk person knows they have an inbuilt homing instinct but I’ve never regretted being Suffolkated. He’s the key reason I love Suffolk (apart from the food). 

Landmark

I love Holy Trinity church in Blythburgh with its soaring angel roof but my favourite landmark is the Mendlesham Mast. An odd choice, I know, in a county famous for its beautiful buildings but the old 1,000 feet high TV and radio mast is just up the road from us and when I’m driving late at night I look out for its red warning lights as a beacon to draw me home. There’s something comforting about seeing it in the distance and knowing I’ll soon be cosied up in front of the fire with a glass of wine. 

Beach

Covehithe. Coastal erosion means you have to take the long way round but that’s part of why I like it. I enjoy the deferred pleasure of walking the field edges before reaching the shore with its twisted, wind and tide-sculpted trees embedded in the beach, trees that once lined the crumbling cliffs. It’s beautiful, wild, romantic and a little sad and in the unlikely event I ever write a novel would definitely be one of the key characters. 

Town

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I’m probably drawn to Bury St Edmund’s most, for its buildings, restaurants, shops and market. If I had to move to a town it’d be BSE. Or Beccles or Bungay. All the Bs. But I like taking visitors to Lavenham because it houses my favourite museum, the endearingly eccentric Little Hall. Once owned by the Gayer-Anderson twins, it’s now run by the Suffolk Buildings Preservation Trust and their amazing team of volunteers. I always hope for a quiet moment when I can sneakily close all the doors in the painted room and pretend I live there.  

Place to eat

You’re putting me on the spot. We’re lucky in Suffolk to have some excellent restaurants and pubs and I’ve had good meals at many of them. I’m reluctant to choose one but if you were asking for recommendations I’d suggest Pea Porridge and Maison Bleue in Bury, The Unruly Pig in Bromeswell, Watson and Walpole in Fram, The Boarding House in Halesworth and the Fox and Goose at Fressingfield. All with great chefs and great food. 

Event

It has to be Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, where for a number of years I’ve had the privilege of standing on stage compering chefs’ demos. It epitomises the vibrancy of the county’s food scene and the passion and commitment of our producers. I’m proud to say that over the years some of them have become good friends and now work with me delivering classes at my cookery school. Of course, it takes three times as long to get round all the stands these days, as I’m so busy nattering and catching up.  

Shop

When I can I buy food direct from producers as so many are small, independent family concerns and they make more money this way. I love Suffolk’s farmers' markets, like those run by Justine Paul of Suffolk Market Events, and farm shops like the always excellent Alder Carr. Faraway Foods in Bury is my favourite place to get international foodstuffs – it looks tiny from outside but is like a Tardis inside and equally out of this world. I’m also a sucker for an auction, a vintage sale or an antique shop. I always claim I’m just buying photographic props for my food pictures but actually, I’m a magpie.