Festivals, flower gardens and Medieval Suffolk

With our last few days in European summer looming, Christina and I are getting as much outdoor time in as possible before we return to chilly Sydney.

In this Weekly Edition, we’re hitting a music festival, visiting a famous landscape garden and seeing more of south-eastern England’s historic countryside… and eating lots of food of course!

We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Wrabfest festival

This evening, we’re all off to a festival called Wrabfest. You might not have heard of this festival, and that’s not to surprising. It started as a local village fete in the little coastal town of Wrabness, on the Essex Suffolk border.

Since its beginnings, Wrabfest’s annual summer events have grown to hold over 2,500 people. These days it has much more of a festival feel than the tombolas and tin can alleys of its provincial past.

Wrabfest festival

There’s still a lovely country feel to the festival though. The six of us, Clare, Dave, their dogs Flo and Ruby, and Christina and I have created our own little enclosure in one of the marquees, sitting on hay bales and enjoying some of the local beers from Colchester Brewery.

Wrabfest festival

There’s a great party vibe at Wrabfest, though as the sun goes down, these oil drum men start looking a little ominous. Somewhere between Ned Kelly and the wicker man!

Wrabfest festival

As we explore the festival, Christina and I discover one of our favourite things to do when we’re travelling: a ‘faceout’! I wish I knew what was going on in this one, but it seems I’ve chosen some kind of impressionist druid Gaia bee and Christina’s a muscular Alice in Welly Land!

Wrabfest festival

The festival really gets going when the Guns n Roses tribute band – apparently the best in Europe – kicks off on the main stage. They’re pretty good, but all the bands have been impressive this evening. There was one on the second stage that really impressed us. I wish I’d got their name.

This morning, the dogs are quite relaxed. I think they both enjoyed the thrill of the festival, but all the people, the sounds, smells and lights tired them out.

Ruby is in her favourite chair biding her time till dinner.

Flo, meanwhile, is still eager to play, even though she’s almost 10. If only there were a way to harness springer spaniel energy!

Beth Chatto Gardens

This afternoon, five of us – Christina, myself, Clare, and my mum and dad – are at Beth Chatto’s Gardens. An institution and home to one of the most beautiful ornamental landscape gardens in the country, the ponds, flowerbeds, woodlands and meadows of this place are perfect for a summer stroll.

But first, lunch.

Beth Chatto Gardens cafe

The cafe at Beth Chatto’s has come a long way since the last time we were here. Clare’s ham and cheese sandwich is so packed with filling, she has to take some out to eat the sarny!

I have a baked potato with tuna mayonnaise, which is equally as generous.

Beth Chatto Gardens cafe

We’re impressed with the vegan and vegetarian options too. Mum has the vegan ploughman’s, which comes with vegan mozzarella, humous, chutneys and a fruit-filled salad.

The mozzarella will never be as good as the dairy version, but it’s not terrible.

While we enjoy lunch, a summer rain shower soaks the gardens, making us feel thankful we’ve brought our brollies. But just as we finish our meal, the clouds break up and the sun comes back out.

Beth Chatto Gardens

The gardens at Beth Chatto’s really are beautiful. This is our favourite shot of the day. Christina manages to catch this giant bumble bee at it comes in to land.

Beth Chatto Gardens

Droplets of rainwater cling to leaves

Beth Chatto Gardens

A Red Admiral butterfly makes its move after the rain

If you’re ever in this part of England, Beth Chatto’s Gardens are a lovely way to spend an hour or two. And as you can see, the cafe’s worth a look as well!

Hair Romance straw hair video

This morning, Christina and I are in a nearby field filming a new video for Christina’s site Hair Romance, where she’s explaining the many reasons why your hair might feel like straw occasionally.

It’s quite strange to be in fields when the farmer’s finished harvesting and baling up the crop*, but it gives the perfect backdrop to the topic of the video.

You can watch the Q&A vid here.

*We did get the ok from the farmer to be here.

Lavenham, Suffolk

It’s time for lunch again, and today we’re back in one of our all-time favourite places with Clare, and my mum and dad.

Lavenham in Suffolk is absolutely packed with history, a lot of which you can see just from its buildings. This is the Crooked House and home to the best tea rooms you’ll find in the UK.

Munnings Tea Rooms does superb food and the most impressive ploughman’s you’re likely to find anywhere. Either cooked from scratch by our lovely host and Munnings’ owner Everyl Madell or sourced locally by her, the plateful you get is incredible.

Everyl also has her own blend of tea, which – even if you’re not a tea drinker – will make you ask for more hot water to top up your pot.

Handmade by Hadley's ice cream, Lavenham

After lunch, we wade out into the street and explore the little streets for a while. It’s almost impossible to walk past the ice cream shop – Hadley’s Ice Cream Parlour.

Everything here is also either made from scratch by Jane Hadley herself or sourced locally. You can tell simply by the flavours – the ice cream here is remarkable.

Lavenham, Suffolk

Lavenham, Suffolk

The houses and details of Lavenham show you that this town has seen some very wealthy times. In fact, thanks to the cotton trade in the Middle Ages, Lavenham was one of the 15 richest towns in the country.

The Tudor and Medieval houses, with their signature exposed wooden frames are wonkier here than in most places because of the sudden influx of money.

With a burst the population came the need for more houses. The wood used in the buildings was too young and warped shortly after construction. It must have been annoying at the time, but it gives Lavenham a wonderfully quaint look.

It even inspired the directors of the Harry Potter films to base Godrick’s Hollow on one of the streets here.

For more on Lavenham, Suffolk, check out our post on this pretty little town here.

'nduja pizza Dough & Co

Tonight I’m staying with Mum and Dad, so we’re indulging in a pizza night. They’ve been talking about this place they found in their closest town – Sudbury – for a while, so there’s no better opportunity!

The pizza from the Sudbury Dough & Co is already excellent – even by Italian standards – but there’s something extra special about their menu.

I’ve never seen this ingredient before, but it adds meatiness and spiciness to a pepperoni pizza I’d be happy with as is.

It’s called ‘nduja (pronounced ?n’dooya’) is a kind of salami from Calabria in southern Italy. It’s so soft even after curing that you can spread it. Or – like at Dough & Co – you can blob it on pizzas. Genius!

Sudbury, Suffolk

It’s more than time for a walk today after last night’s pizza fest. Mum and Dad have taken me out to one of Sudbury’s many walking trails.

For such a little, out-of-the-way town, Sudbury has plenty to it. Along the River Stour and through the woodlands surrounding the town, the pathways are perfect for a stroll.

But there’s only so much walking you can do before you feel peckish again. Thankfully, I’m spending two nights round my parents’ place, so we’ve got time for a bit of a platter session.

Mum loves doing this kind of dinner. She calls it ‘picky bits’, which sounds like a light, snacky kind of meal, but never turns out to be that way. All this cheese, the platter of pastries in the background, a huge bowl of potato salad and coleslaw and a leafy salad too are just for the three of us!


It’s been a great week, and we hope you’ve enjoyed seeing what we’ve been up to.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx


  • Reply August 17, 2019


    Great stuff. Looks like you may have cast yourself as the “Sheelagh na Gig” Jim. A manifestation of the Earth Mother. Good luck with that then.

    • Reply August 18, 2019

      Mr Romance

      Ha ha ha!! Brilliant. Thanks for that, Pa. That would make more sense than a giant, vaginous bee. My other thought was that – from the look of the head – I was a humanoid embodiment of a croissant. Probably not though. Ta – Jx

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