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Ten things to love about Stowmarket and Needham Market

PUBLISHED: 11:50 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:51 18 September 2019

Autumn beauty at Needham Lake  Picture: Peter Gaskin/citizenside.com

Autumn beauty at Needham Lake Picture: Peter Gaskin/citizenside.com

(c) copyright citizenside.com

We've got Needham Lake and The Regal cinema and theatre. Can you think of others?

An Easter scene from Baylham Rare Breeds Farm  

Picture: RACHEL EDGEAn Easter scene from Baylham Rare Breeds Farm Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Needham Lake, off B1078 Coddenham Road

Can't picture a hectare? Pop to Needham Lake for 13 glorious hectares to raise the spirits. Free to park and enter.

The centrepiece is a flooded gravel pit. Stroll around the lakeside path. There's play equipment for youngsters, picnic tables, ice-cream outlet (check opening hours), climbing boulder, orienteering courses…

Part of the site is a nature reserve with wetland, woodland and meadows.

Poppies in the Church of St John the Baptist in Needham Market  Picture: LUCY TAYLORPoppies in the Church of St John the Baptist in Needham Market Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Mid-Suffolk Light Railway

Yes, out of peak season now, but the Santa Specials will be here before we know it.

The "Middy" - based at Brockford Station, Wetheringsett - is Suffolk's only standard-gauge heritage railway. It runs open days with steam locomotives, when its museum, shop, refreshment room, model railway and real ale bar are open.

The John Peel Centre in Stowmarket  PICTURE: RACHEL EDGEThe John Peel Centre in Stowmarket PICTURE: RACHEL EDGE

Check website for details.

Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre, Gainsborough Road, Stowmarket

Something for everyone, surely? A 25-metre, six-lane main swimming pool - plus toddlers' and learners' pools. A 60-station air-conditioned gym. The Cragg climbing wall (330 square metres of climbing surface). Play World (indoor play area for children). Indoor bowls rinks. Squash courts, and more.

Age-old family favourite. Queues at the Regal in Stowmarket to watch Snow White in 1981  Picture: ARCHANTAge-old family favourite. Queues at the Regal in Stowmarket to watch Snow White in 1981 Picture: ARCHANT

The Museum of East Anglian Life, Iliffe Way, Stowmarket

This site (75 acres; 17 historic buildings) was part of the Abbot's Hall estate owned by sisters Vera and Ena Longe. Now, it's a showcase of the past.

Nearly 40,000 objects range from a delivery boy's bike (almost 100 years old) to a tin of clay marbles made in 1920.

Christmas trees at St Peter & St Marys Church, Stowmarket  Picture: graham meadows/citizenside.comChristmas trees at St Peter & St Marys Church, Stowmarket Picture: graham meadows/citizenside.com

The Regal cinema and theatre, Ipswich Street, Stowmarket

You may also want to watch:

Treasure a local venue like this, which offers major new film releases (such as Downton Abbey), live shows (country music, for instance) and even Pocket Money Movies for children (£2.50; with one adult admitted free per child).

Guard John Taylor at Mid-Suffolk Light Railway  Picture: Su AndersonGuard John Taylor at Mid-Suffolk Light Railway Picture: Su Anderson

Church of St John the Baptist, off High Street, Needham Market

The town council calls it a medieval masterpiece - no idle boast. The church of St John the Baptist attracts visitors from around the globe to admire its architectural delights.

There was a time, recently, when leaks, wet rot and deathwatch beetle threatened the rare hammerbeam roof. Happily, the generosity of individuals and organisations raised money for vital repair work that finished about a year ago.

Abbot's Hall at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket

Picture: RACHEL EDGEAbbot's Hall at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket Picture: RACHEL EDGE

John Peel Centre for Creative Arts, Church Walk, Stowmarket

A fine and lasting tribute to the late, lamented broadcaster born on The Wirral but very much an independently-minded East Anglian in spirit. Every town needs a place to nurture music, comedy, poetry, film and theatre - and offering space to hire. Stowmarket has a great one.

Stowmarket street market

Many places struggle to sustain a market. Stowmarket has one twice a week - Thursdays and Saturdays, in the Market Place, Meadow Centre and Ipswich Street.

Permanent stallholders are supplemented by casual traders. You could find sellers offering anything from coins and lingerie to vacuum cleaners and spare parts.

St Peter & St Mary's Church, Station Road West, Stowmarket

Well-known for its Christmas tree festival: Last year had 370 trees - created by groups, organisations and businesses - that attracted 31,000 visitors from around the country. The 2019 festival begins on Friday, November 22.

Note, too, the cheery "Four Seasons" stained glass, including a bee.

Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, Mill Lane, Baylham

A couple of miles or so the Ipswich side of Needham Market, this breeds animals once common but now rare. They grow up free-range and as stress-free as possible.

Visitors can meet the animals - and feed pigs and lambs at certain times.

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