Suffolk is a walkers’ paradise says Poirot actor Hugh Fraser

Actor and author Hugh Fraser at his home in Woodbridge. Photo: Phil Morley

Actor and author Hugh Fraser at his home in Woodbridge. Photo: Phil Morley - Credit: Archant

Wonderful walks, the best fish and chips, friendly people. Actor and author Hugh Fraser talks about why he loves living in Suffolk. Just don’t mention the trains...

The Deben estuary. Photo: Terry Hunt

The Deben estuary. Photo: Terry Hunt - Credit: Archant

Suffolk is a walkers’ paradise says Hugh, who’s lived in Woodbridge six years now. An avid ambler, he walks the banks of the Deben in both directions and loves the beach at Bawdsey; sometimes hopping on the ferry for Felixstowe for fish and chips. Although he tells me Cumberland Fish Bar in Woodbridge rivals all others anytime.

“It’s absolutely excellent, highly recommend it,” he says.

He also strolls in Tunstall Forest, Walberswick, Dunwich and sometimes Southwold where he really enjoys walking north from the pier along the sandy stretch.

“You can’t beat an icy cold day with the wind blowing and the sun shining you know, looking at the Deben estuary under those conditions it’s just magical.”

Harm by Hugh Fraser

Harm by Hugh Fraser - Credit: Archant

He splits his time between Woodbridge and his London flat as work dictates. Suffolk is where his heart is and, for the last few months, where he’s been writing most; working on the third of his Rina Walker books from his little office. Although he sometimes writes on the train to London.

“I’ve almost finished it. It’s scheduled for June publication. She gets involved in gangland corruption, competition and betrayal; people trying to take over other people’s rackets and things like that,” adds Hugh, loved by millions as Poirot’s sidekick Captain Hastings, of the sequel to 2015’s Harm and last year’s Threat.

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Born in London, he grew up in the Midlands until returning to the capital at 18 to train as an actor. He has his great friend, the late writer, documentary maker and environmentalist Roger Deakin, to thank for his love of Suffolk.

“I used to spend a lot of time at Roger’s place at Mellis, near Eye. I started to really become attached to the county at that point because Roger, as is well known, was actually more of a swimmer than a walker,” laughs Hugh. “We used to swim and walk together and I came to appreciate the beauty and calm of the county.”

Agatha Christie's Poirot starring David Suchet and Hugh Fraser. Photo: LWT

Agatha Christie's Poirot starring David Suchet and Hugh Fraser. Photo: LWT - Credit: LWT

Peace and quiet aside, another attraction is the friendliness of the people, which he enjoys enormously. That moment on a walk when you see someone coming the other way and share a “hi, good morning” or chat to people in the shops. There’s an unhurried quality compared with London which he values very much.

“London is a very exciting, exhilarating place to be. It’s also rather a tiring place to be; there are pressures and downsides to that type of pace, that intensity the city has. There’s so much entertainment, a massive choice of restaurants and all of that. I really enjoy the contrast, being able to inhabit both worlds, I feel very privileged.”

If you don’t see him at Woodbridge’s regular Saturday farmers’ market, you might also see the keen cinema-goer queuing at The Riverside.

“The cinema here in Woodbridge is excellent; the projection and sound is superb and the seats are comfortable, which is not always the case,” laughs Hugh, also a big fan of Aldeburgh Cinema’s Documentary Festival last year.

Greater Anglia. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown

Greater Anglia. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

“I do a bit of volunteering at Snape with Aldeburgh Music in dementia homes at the moment so I know what’s going on in Snape and go to concerts and events there.”

There’s not much he doesn’t like about living in Woodbridge.

“The obvious thing I suppose is when Greater Anglia have a bit of a nervous breakdown,” laughs Hugh.

“I find that quite frustrating but at that point I just think ‘thank goodness we’re not on Southern Rail’. We get off comparatively lightly. A big traffic jam on the A12, something like that, those are obvious frustrations. To be honest there’s nothing I can see that is a disadvantage.”

With so much going for it, can we expect to see the region immortalised in his next Walker novel?

“She travels to Germany in the second book and in this one goes to Spain and spends time in Birmingham too so, yeah, I can’t see why not. Although I can’t see there’d be very much for her to do as a contract killer,” he laughs.

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