As Spring approaches, I think it is a good time to take full advantage of the natural beauty the awakening countryside can offer.
Top of the list my county of birth Suffolk and there is no better base than the pretty village of Orford.
The Crown and Castle will help you sleep and eat well and if you have a well behaved dog, that can stay too (www.crownandcastle.co.uk). The local fish smokehouse supplies The Butley Orford Restaurant (which they own) and bread gets no fresher than the selection from the Pump Street Bakery.
This village idyll is just a short distance from Orford Ness, an island for decades closely guarded to keep prying eyes away from its many secrets. Just one of those secrets, the work of The Atomic Weapons Research Establishment who arrived in 1955. Scientific experiments included a lot of the preparatory work on the first British atomic bomb Blue Danube, eventually successfully tested in Australia. Now run by The National Trust Ness allows us to see buildings bombs and explanations of what went on.
It is an eerie place on a damp drizzly day and people who once worked under the cloak of secrecy now move around Europe’s largest shingle spit by bicycle.Tasks include persuading visitors s to keep on well-marked paths to avoid unexploded ordnance and protect the rich wildlife that has found the perfect secure home. They act as guides too and what I hoped was a former scientist turned out to be a carpenter whose handy work included an original loo still standing. His stories of just how secret and just how well guarded this small stretch of Suffolk had been were fascinating.
The Royal Flying Corps were among the first of the military to move in and their flyers had a visit from Everard Calthrop. A highly successful railway engineer he spent the latter years of his working life promoting his parachute invention, The Guardian Angel. Some flyers were persuaded but those who ran the World War 1 fighter plane operations decided against parachutes. Official records suggest it was thought safety of a parachute might encourage pilots to give up action too soon and bale out.
This bleak place is the perfect area for keeping secrets and when you return to the Orford Village Quay by National Trust ferry you may well understand why in modern times people smugglers thought their secret was safe. The secret did not last long and they ended up in jail.
Nearby: TheMinsmere RSPB reserve is the best wild life visitor area I have ever visited. Aldeburgh, once ruled by Benjamin Brittan, still has one of the best fish and chip shops in Britain and at Snape the Maltings Concert Hall and the small arts and crafts shopping centre is well worth a visit.
On a very personal note, Covehithe – a few miles from Orford – was one of my favourite play areas as a child. To return as an adult and find that the coastguard station is now under the sea reminds me why this coastline has the highest erosion rate in the UK. The 14th/15th Century St Andrews Church ruins are still standing, the official population is around 20. If anywhere can turn solitude into somewhere special it is this little slice of the Suffolk coast. Well that is what I think anyway.