The Blyth Valley certainly conforms to this image, dotted as it is with attractive yet unassuming villages and hamlets. In bucolic settings, the villages tend to feature medieval churches and pretty pubs, so a church trail (or pub trail – they’re usually in quite close proximity!) is a great way to discover their charms. Follow this link to Churches or the link to Pubs to see where they are located and perhaps plot a route…
Overlooking the water and marshes of the lower Blyth as it does, the magnificent Church of St Trinity at Blythburgh is known as The Cathedral of the Marshes. Its famous angel roof (the iconoclasts couldn’t reach that far!) is illuminated by natural light from high clerestory windows, not a Victorian stained glass window in sight. The nearby pub overlooks the estuary, a great location for bird-watching.
Wenhaston‘s church boasts the famous ‘Doom’, one of England’s finest Judgement Day paintings and a visit is enhanced by its extraordinary backstory. No doubt there was once a nearby pub but nowadays the village hostelry is on a grassy slope a good mile away. Neighbouring Mells is a tiny hamlet on the south bank of the River Blyth – no surviving pub but the ruins of a Norman chapel sit upon a quiet knoll from where there are far-reaching views across the valley.
Part of the boundary of the Hall at Bramfield (and opposite the pub) is one of Suffolk’s famous crinkle crankle walls in lovely weathered brick. Nearby is the thatched church of St.Andrew, unique as its round tower is completely detached from the body of the church.
Heveningham is an appealing mix of colour-washed cottages and handsome houses, built around a triangular green on which stands its church – no pub – and downstream, tucked away into the valley side is Huntingfield which has both pub and church. The church’s traditional exterior hides a fabulous 19th century painted ceiling. Over the road is the Grade I-listed Palladian mansion of Heveningham Hall set amidst lush acres of sheep and tree-studded parkland. Its annual Country Fair and Run is a chance to take a closer look.
Sitting in a quintessential Suffolk rural landscape of arable farmland, the villages of Cookley & Walpole lie on either side of the River Blyth. Neither has a pub nowadays but do have churches and Walpole Od Chapel, the first non-conformist chapel in the country, is a building of sublime simplicity inside and out.
To the north of the Valley is Blyford where pub and church sit on opposite sides of the road in a way that was allegedly very convenient for smugglers when it came to storing their illicit wares. Then there’s Westhall where the church is definitely a discovery. Unusually, this is a case where the church is far from the village centre / pub but its very isolation at the foot of a tree-lined country lane adds to its natural glory.
And although Henham is barely more than a hamlet, it is firmly ‘on the map’ on account of the spectacular but family-friendly Latitude Festival featuring music, theatre, comedy, literature, poetry & dance.