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Our favourite Suffolk villages: Hollesley

PUBLISHED: 17:47 23 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:24 20 February 2013

Our favourite Suffolk villages: Hollesley

Our favourite Suffolk villages: Hollesley

It may be best known as the site of an open prison, but Hollesley has a multitude of attractions, says Cathy Brown

It may be best known as the site of an open prison, but Hollesley has a multitude of attractions, says Cathy Brown




Hollesley (pronounced Hose-lea) was originally a small port, situated on an inlet of the sea now reduced to a small brook and a drying marsh. The parish includes the hamlet of Shingle Street, where the Ore finally meets the sea, emerging from behind the shingle spit of Orford Ness, evidence of the changing shoreline which altered this villages fortunes so dramatically.
These days Hollesley is probably best known as the site of an open prison Lord Jeffrey Archer was a recent inmate, and young offenders institution at one time notorious for the number of absconders. Most tended to be caught fairly quickly, defeated by the remoteness of their location!
The Hollesley Bay Colony in fact started out in the mid 19th century as a training centre for young gentlemen farmers, heading for the far flung colonies of the British Empire. Later it taught country skills to unemployed Londoners, before in 1938 it became a Borstal immortalised in the book Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan, an IRA volunteer imprisoned there in 1941.
The 200-acre farm was the largest in the prison service and many young offenders benefited from working with the animals there, notably the renowned Colony stud of Suffolk Horses. The Prison Service eventually decided, however, that this was a luxury it could not afford.
Thanks to a major public appeal, the Suffolk Punch Trust was formed to safeguard the future of the stud and indeed the breed. The Trust now welcomes visitors, providing public access to this extremely picturesque and unspoiled corner of Suffolk. For details see www.suffolkpunchtrust.org.
Theres much more to Hollesley than the prison estate, however, although undoubtedly the staff have helped village facilities like school, shop and pub to survive and thrive.
The 15th century All Saints Church, is renowned as a centre for bell ringing. The peal of eight bells, hung in 1938, is reputed to be one of the finest in Suffolk.
The remote nature of the village, with very little through traffic, also makes it a mecca for walkers and especially horse riders. Poplar Park Equestrian Centre is home to an annual horse trials in March, which attracts top riders from all over the country. The sandy nature of the heathland soil makes it one of very few venues that can be virtually guaranteed to provide good going at the end of the winter.
But from the breezy delights of atmospheric Shingle Street to the natural riches of its heaths and woodlands, historic Hollesley has much to offer the visitor at any time of year.

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