Why Suffolk is forever England

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Why Suffolk is forever England
English realism or pragmatism has been conserved, not violently adjusted in the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds

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Why Suffolk is forever England
English realism or pragmatism has been conserved, not violently adjusted in the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds

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. []

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