Explore the idyllic countryside and you’ll find it sprinkled with pretty villages in the Waveney Valley, under the vast East Anglian sky. Turn a corner, and you’ll stumble across chocolate-box cottages, ancient churches, quintessential village greens and welcoming local pubs that have remained unchanged through the passage of time.
In the quiet countryside south-west of Bungay is the area known locally as The Saints. It is a collection of hidden English hamlets and small villages, including St Nicholas, St James and St Michael to name but a few. The Saints was an exceptionally affluent area during the Middle Ages, due mainly to East Anglia’s profitable wool trade with the Low Countries. The wealth of this area can be seen through the high density of splendid churches, minsters and priories. Interestingly, the medieval field patterns of the Saints have remained virtually unchanged for centuries.
Perhaps the most famous village in The Saints is the village of St Peter. This is due to the 13th Century St Peter’s Hall, which in the mid 1990’s saw the formation of St Peter’s Brewery. The brewery produces a range of classic English cask-conditioned ales made from Suffolk malts and Kentish hops with water drawn from their own source within the chalk layer well, situated under the Hall.
Six miles north-east of Beccles is Burgh St Peter. Surrounded by the River Waveney and marsh lands to the south and east, the village has a rich history. Built on a staithe, the trading wherries would load and unload their goods, and a ferry took passengers across the river to walk or cycle to Lowestoft fish market. Today, this ferry service has been revived by the Waveney River Centre. Afloat or ashore, if you enjoy being close to the water then the award-winning Waveney River Centre is a must.
The church of the nearby village of Aldeby, although entirely rural in character has something of the proportions of a large priory church, and that is in fact precisely what it was – indeed, some ruins survive at adjacent priory farm. Down towards the river, you can still see the old pillars of the swing bridge that operated in the heady days of steam locomotives. Watch out for the azure blue of kingfishers that often fly along the river.
Between Harleston and Halesworth is the village of Metfield. Located in the heart of the beautiful Suffolk landcape, this thriving rural village has a stunning church housing a 17th century clock and bustling community-run shop, the Metfield Stores.
Nestled in rolling countryside of mid Suffolk, you will come across the delightful village of Hoxne. The village has a truly ancient history, and is famous for the Hoxne Hoard, the biggest discovery of Roman treasure in the UK, now on display in the British Museum. For refreshments, why not stop at the 15th century Swan Inn.