Sudbury is a lovely town to visit for its small shops, old buildings, hidden lanes, the Kingfisher Leisure Centre, and the River Stour. It’s only just over the border with Essex, and one of the best times of the year to visit is high summer,when the drive from Colchester is glorious. Today the fields were golden and combine harvesters were bringing the harvest in – on a day which started overcast and dull.
Leave Colchester on the A134 which will take you through Great Horkesley and out into the Essex/Suffolk countryside. You’ll pass the turning for Nayland – if you get a chance stop to have a look at St James Parish Church and walk around the village where there are some lovely old buildings. Nayland was once a working village involved in the wool trade and this is reflected in the quality of the buildings. A great pub for a drink or a meal is the Anchor.
Closer to Sudbury is Newton Green. I’ve never stopped here but I love passing through. Look out for the Second World War defences on the corner of Airey Close to the right just as you arrive into the village. The road is named after the original airey style houses that were built during the 1950’s. In the village are some very attractive houses which overlook Newton Green golf course. At any time of the year it’s picture perfect.
When you arrive in Sudbury park in the car park next to “Roys”, where there is free parking for up to 3 hours. Roys is famous across the whole of East Anglia. It sells all sorts of things – clothes, food, gardening products, decorating materials – you name it they sell it. If you want to go a bit more upmarket, there is a Waitrose close by!
Leave the car park and turn right and follow the road into town, and turn left.
In the centre of the town is Market Hill. A market is held every Thursday with a good mixture of stalls. Dominating the square is St Peter’s Church which is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. Many events are held in the church throughout the year including a Farmers Market one Friday a month. Standing outside the church is a statue of Thomas Gainsborough the artist who lived in Sudbury.
Walk through the town with the church behind you. You’ll pass several Winch and Blatch stories – they are a lovely independent department store. Take the left hand fork into Friars Street and walk down there for a few minutes, admiring the buildings
Turn left into Quay Lane, and just a short walk down there you’ll find the River Stour Trust. The trust cares for much of the River Stour as it winds its way through Suffolk and over the border into Dedham in Essex. The Stour appears in many of John Constables paintings and many of the scenes that he painted have remained unchanged.
At the quay its possible to hire a boat for a trip along the river – a lovely way to spend a hot sunny afternoon. There’s also a tea room, and a small museum. Nearby is the Quay Theatre which has a varied programme of events throughout the year.
Go back up Quay Street and turn left and continue down Friar Street, turning right at the point the road turns to the left. Go up Plough Lane (keep an eye open for some very rude garden gnomes!)
At the top of the street you can turn left and head down to the Water Meadows and the Mill Hotel. There is a lovely walk through the Water Meadows along the river – but for this walk turn right and follow the road back into town. Look out for Gainsborough’s House, which celebrates the life and work of Thomas Gainsborough. Check their website www.gainsborough.org for more details.
After all the walking you may be in need of some retail therapy. Sudbury has many independent shops including some attractive gift shops.
At the end of the walk you may well be feeling hungry -you will have past several several small independent tea shops by now, and on there a range of national restaurants in town – ranging from Baker’s Oven to Ask. Heading towards the church you will pass Gaol Lane on the left, and to the left in North Street. Head up there, and pay attention to the buildings, there is a lot of detail it’s easy to miss!
If you’re a fan of real ale then go further up North Street and find the Wetherspoons. The Grover and Allen is not the most inspired of buildings externally, but inside it’s huge, and not as dim as many Wetherspoons. The bar level is children-free, but there is plenty of space on the mezzanine levels for the little ones. The real ale is invariably of high quality (we had the Nethergate Old Growler today), and the food is also excellent (haddock fish cakes, and Moroccan meat balls and humous recommended) and very good value for money. And there’s no music so its surprisingly restful.
There has been a lot of work done in Sudbury in recent years, pedestrianising some roads, and with nice touches like a glass display explaining some of the history of the town, with a streetmap from 1714! There are bookshops to browse, walks to walk, rivers to row, and water meadows to explore. It’s got a touch of England in bygone years (there’s even a Wimpy Bar), but it’s a lively, vibrant small town and well worth a visit!