12 great places for a picnic this summer in Suffolk and north Essex
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As summer arrives, there are all kinds of beautiful places to go for a picnic across Suffolk and Essex. Here are 12 of our top picks.
Rendlesham Forest, Woodbridge
One of the most popular activity areas in the Suffolk countryside, Rendlesham Forest is just a short distance from Woodbridge. You can work up an appetite by following the walking and cycling trails. Bring your own bike or hire one.
An unusual walking trail is the UFO trail, taking in some of the areas connected with the claimed sighting in December 1980. The site also includes adventure play areas, pony rides during school holidays, and much more.
The forest centre has its own picnic area, which includes concrete bases for barbecues. However, if you do bring a barbecue, you need to fill in a barbecue permit form. Hot and cold food is also available from Bear Grills Forest Caterer, in the main car park during most summer weekends and in the school holidays.
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There are many great places to enjoy a picnic all along Felixstowe seafront, including the beautifully restored seafront gardens,
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The stunning floral displays and landscaped areas stretch over nearly a kilometre along the prom, and won the Green Flag Award and Green Heritage accreditation in both 2016 and 2017. The gardens include many seats and two pavilions.
Of course, it is also fun to picnic on the beach itself, spreading out your picnic rug and taking care to keep the sand out of your sandwiches.
Close to the beach at the south-west end of the seafront, Martello Park includes a picnic area and seating as well as play equipment and water features. There are also food kiosks available.
Cattawade Picnic Site, near Manningtree
Wildlife watchers will enjoy this site on the edge of the Stour estuary, which is known as a good spot for birdwatching.
Redshank, lapwings and oystercatchers are among the birds which breed on nearby Cattawade Marshes, maintained by the RSPB.
It’s possible to fish or canoe from purpose-built platforms, or, if you are a keen walker, once you’ve enjoyed some food, you can set out on the 60-mile Stour Valley Path route, which runs all the way to Newmarket.
Alton Water, near Ipswich
Covering around 400 acres, Alton Water is a great place for a day in the great outdoors.
Walks range from short strolls beside the reservoir to eight-mile rambles, while you can also enjoy cycling, fishing and water sports. There is also play equipment for children to enjoy.
The water park includes a designated picnic area with seating. Barbecues are also allowed in this area, but need to be kept off the ground and disposed of using the hot bins on the site. There is also a cafe offering locally-sourced refreshments.
Clare Castle Country Park, near Sudbury
Close to the Essex border, this varied country park is just a short walk from Clare town centre, and includes the remains of the 13th-century stone castle keep, as well as the inner and outer baileys. These are ideal areas for picnics - sit on one of the many benches, or lay your rug down on the wide green spaces
Children will enjoy the playground which was renovated in 2017, with new benches and picnic tables alongside the equipment.
The park also includes old station buildings, and there is a cafe in the 19th-century booking hall.
Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds
Set right in the town centre, these beautiful gardens are a perfect picnic location. You can admire the wonderful displays in the colourful flower beds, and also explore the ruins of the Benedictine abbey.
As well as the children’s play area, the aviary, with birds including canaries, budgies, ducks and finches, is always a favourite with youngsters too. The park’s many attractions include the rose garden, riverside area, sensory garden with scented herbs and plants, and water garden, as well as a special wildlife feeding area.
There are various benches to sit on while you eat, and if you need any additions to your picnic a kiosk is open from 11am to 4pm daily.
Castle Park, Colchester
This historic park, to the north east of Colchester town centre, has become an increasingly popular picnic spot over recent years.
Colchester is known as the oldest town in Britain, and you can combine a visit to the park with a look around the Castle Museum and the Hollytrees Museum. Outdoor activities include a play park, bouncy castle, boating lake and crazy golf.
With 27 acres of land you’re bound to find the perfect picnic spot. There are numerous benches where you can sit to eat.
Thetford Forest, Thetford
Exploring the UK’s largest man-made lowland forest makes for a great day out, Many people visit to go walking or running along the forest trails, while other activities include mountain biking, horse riding and Cani-X, which is running with a dog attached!
The WildPlay area at the High Lodge centre has a wide range of play equipment for the full age range, including a Toddler Tower. More adventurous visitors might also want to book a session amid the tree tops at Go Ape.
There are 35 picnic benches and tables around High Lodge, close to the parking areas. It’s also possible to book barbecues online, up to three months ahead. There are also catering outlets for both hot and cold food.
Holywells Park, Ipswich
This park is always a favourite with children, with its large play area designed around a galleon theme, a hi-tech teen play area, and a wet play facility to help youngsters cool down during the summer.
The play area includes sheltered picnic areas, so you can enjoy a leisurely snack and keep your eye on your children at the same time. There is an also an ice-cream hut right next to the play area and a café opposite the pretty lake with a bridge.
The park is 67 acres, so if you are looking for somewhere to enjoy a more peaceful picnic, there is plenty of space.
Promenade Park, Maldon
This park has been a favourite summer playground for more than 100 years. You can go on a riverside walk offering views of the estuary, and admire the ornamental lake with its fountains.
The kids will have hours of fun in the splash park, while other attractions for children range from mechanical ponies to crazy golf and a sand play area.
The park has designated picnic areas with tables, and it is also possible to hire beach huts.
The sand and shingle beach at Aldeburgh must be one of Suffolk’s best-known seaside destinations, with the colourful seafront houses adding to the atmosphere, while a model yacht pond is another attraction.
The town is famous not only for its classical music festival, founded by Benjamin Britten, but also for its fish and chips, so you might be tempted to eat some of these on the seafront. If you do opt for a traditional picnic, though, there are some good independent shops where you can pick up delicatessen items to add.
Other good nearby beaches for picnics include Dunwich, Walberswick, Thorpeness and Southwold.
Flatford Mill, Dedham Vale
Constable Country is known as one of the most beautiful areas of East Anglia, and is the perfect setting for a picnic. However, the area does get crowded during the summer, so it is a good idea to set off early.
There are plenty of lovely places to sit by the water, and you might be tempted to take a boat trip while you’re there.
The National Trust has a cafe in Flatford.