CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Out of this world

PUBLISHED: 09:40 19 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:45 19 January 2016

Countryside walk

Countryside walk


Lindsay Want takes a winter wander through town and country to discover Suffolk’s rich pant heritage and some far-fetched flora and fauna

Countryside walkCountryside walk

Suffolk is always so full of surprises. There you are, all snaked up in your woolly scarf on a post-lunch crunch through the frosty fringes of Ixworth and just by the river, opposite Pakenham’s watermill, appear a couple of cunningly acclimatised crocodiles and a handful of hippos. Rarely could a few green hedge plants be so humorous or so heart-warming.

But over at Sudbourne in ancient Captain’s Wood or up near the vast vintage oaks of Staveton Thicks at Wantisden, there are more out of place finds, as the glossy leaves of Himalayan rhododendrons snuggle up to berry-bright holly bushes.

Take a brisk winter walk around the castle and greens of Haughley, then thaw out in the church and you might look up at the snow-crystal shapes of the floral roof-bosses fashioned in the Middle Ages. Beautiful though they be, you’ll probably wonder why parts resemble English roses rather than tulips or daffodils.

Countryside walkCountryside walk

Slowly going native

What a pity so many non-native species are taken for granted these days, their origins and difficult journeys from distant shores long forgotten. On a footpath foray from Framlingham, it’s hard to appreciate that Suffolk’s medieval maker of the weird wooden giraffe in Dennington church would never have seen such a beast. If he popped back home today, he’d only need to nip up the road towards Lowestoft to meet one for real.

Out of all the mighty trees in Christchurch Park, the beds of bulbs in Bury’s Abbey Gardens and the exotic plants in any town centre tub, so many are species originating from far across the globe and alas, now relegated to the ranks of run-of-the-mill and little more than just part of the scenery. But get on the trail around Halesworth and you’ll soon discover that many foreign plants have a bigger role to play in our local Suffolk colour than you’d think.

Although Walberswick was possibly the birthplace of John Tradescant, the famous 16th century horticulturist whose clan introduced England to all sorts including horse chestnuts and daffodils, there’s no doubt that the great Victorian botanist explorer, Joseph Hooker, hailed from Halesworth. The historic market town definitely thinks it’s something to celebrate. Starting at Hooker House, by the roundabout just down from The Cut Arts Centre, there’s a delightful little voyage of discovery. Joseph’s father, William (1785-1865), was a Halesworth maltster with a keen interest in botany, inspired during his Norwich school days by Dr James Smith, founder of the Linnaean Society encouraging interest in natural history.

Hooker House (formerly Brewery House) has two memorial plaques, but a single orchid in the first floor window is the most vivid reminder of a man, passionate about exotic species, who went from brewer to professor of botany and on to build the mighty hot houses and herbarium as director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Williams’ only expedition was to Iceland, but his son, born in this very house in 1817, soon fulfilled his father’s ambitions, circumnavigating the North Pole, collecting plants from Australia and New Zealand, America and India, the highest Himalayas and Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. The Suffolk lad brought us magnolias – the Hookers briefly owned Magnolia House on Station Road – the first rhododendrons and so much more.

Joseph would have no doubt influenced his close friend, Charles Darwin as he wrote On the Origin of Species and he finally succeeded his father as the director of Kew.

The sweet smell of success

Be sure to spot the Sarcococca hookerianaor sweet scented winter box in the planters, before crossing the road to the gardens of the United Reformed Church where green-topped plant labels point to Hooker heritage specimens. Heading on towards the shops past the offices and art gallery of the World Land Trust, you can’t help thinking how William and Joseph would have welcomed this charity, which seeks to safeguard the most biologically important and threatened habitats of the world today.

The little community herb beds by the library have a certain sense of place too, with a lovely stop-and-share attitude and informative culinary tips. Halesworth in Bloom has certainly gone to town and keeps a pretty colourful flag flying along the Throughfare all year round. Up above the card shop, time-honoured furls of foliage and terracotta roses decorate the façade of a long-forgotten bank.

Timeless floral tributes

Halesworth has its own mini-arboretum, part of the memorial garden by St Mary’s, first established in 1903 on the site where Crescent House was destroyed by fire. Stop a while by the war memorial, where the inside of the shelters are painted bright with poppies or take a look at the borders to discover more Hooker finds like the blue bamboo, Magnolia grandiflora or perhaps the more home-grown David Austin roses named after Joseph’s great granddaughter, Josephine.

The Hooker memorial tablet inside St Mary’s is carved with art deco flowers, although both father and son are buried in the churchyard at Kew. But nothing beats Halesworth’s lasting tribute, by painting the town forever beautiful with shrubs and flowers.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EADT Suffolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EADT Suffolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EADT Suffolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About


Matt Gaw reconnects with a project to restore one of the UK’s rarest habitats at Knettishall Heath | Photos: Paul Ham

Read more
Friday, December 7, 2018

A typical part of the Suffolk village scene is the village sign, standing tall in a prominent part of the area and succinctly giving you an insight into the area’s history. Here are 15 Suffolk town or village signs and what they mean

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for someone to enjoy a few days in Suffolk this festive period then look no further than these 6 gorgeous locations

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with loved ones and there’s no better place to do that than Suffolk, with its outstanding natural beauty, charming villages and festive foodie delights

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

From Waveney and the Suffolk coast to Dedham Vale, these 19 pictures are guaranteed to get you exploring the beautiful towns and countryside of Suffolk this winter

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Suffolk in winter time is a magical place to be. There are Christmas markets, chilly walks, and days by the blustery seaside to be had. These 17 nostalgic pictures will definitely bring out that unique festive feeling.

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Invitation to View tours reveal the surprising wartime roles of East Anglia’s historic town and country properties | Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Are you searching for places to go this winter? Suffolk has some truly magical places simply perfect for a day out with the family that are sure to get you feeling festive. Here are 9 locations you have to visit over the Christmas holiday

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

As the season of parties approaches, hotel and restaurateur Milsoms is itself celebrating a milestone for one of its popular venues | Words: Ross Bentley

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lindsay Want wanders the pilgrims’ paths and concrete runways around Horham, Denham and Redlingfield

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search