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On the platform at Woodbridge station the breeze brought a metallic clapping from dozens of halyards against the masts of small yachts at the edge of the Deben estuary. The same sound greeted me when I walked up the gentle slope, past the 17th-century inns, the Crown and the Cross, to Market Hill, the square lined with timber-framed and old brick houses. It’s a beautiful space.
Here the fainter percussion came from the halyard of the flagpole 108ft up on the tower of the parish church. St Mary’s flies a flag with a crowned letter M. Its design is taken from the panels built into the walls of the church porch about 560 years ago in a technique known as flint flushwork. Carefully knapped dark flints fit into spaces left between white masonry – in wheels and quatrefoils, cusps and heptagons. It’s pretty and it lasts.
The same could be said of Woodbridge as a whole. “The most attractive small town in Suffolk,” Norman Scarfe, the doyen of county historians, called it. Woodbridge has rivals – the rural-riding William Cobbett called Bury St Edmunds “the nicest town in the world”. I found an American couple staying overnight at the Crown to give Suffolk an extra day. I’d say that about a year would do it justice. […]