Mr Techno grew up in Suffolk, in a lovely rural area near the coast. It’s where we spent Christmas this year. His family are very close – he has an older sister and younger brother – and all try to see each other regularly. Sadly, Me Techno’s schedule means that we rarely have days off at the same time, which can make it difficult for us to get up to see them as often as we’d like. We are doing better than usual at the moment though: not only did we spend a good amount of time there over Christmas, we also managed to visit again last weekend.
The main purpose of our visit was so that Mr Techno could accompany his dad on the local shoot, which my father-in-law runs. Mr Techno was taught to shoot as a child, and now always tries to have one weekend a year where he can go out. They shoot pheasants and partridge, which are then turned into pies for us all to fill our freezers with. I know some people will have issues with the idea of killing for sport (I do not agree with fox hunting, for example), but in terms of ethically sourced meat, shooting game birds scores pretty highly in my book. You don’t get much higher animal welfare than a bird who has been raised completely free in the Suffolk countryside.
They headed off on Saturday morning, well wrapped up against the cold and with a huge hamper of lunch prepared by my mother-in-law. Meanwhile, we women (and Tom) were left to amuse ourselves.
One of the things I love about visiting my in-laws is that they understand the need for people to have their own space. Although they are all very close, there is no expectation that everyone must join in with every activity, and people are always welcome to go off and do their own thing. This makes family time much more manageable and enjoyable! So on Friday evening, my mother-in-law and I agreed that we would have a relaxed morning, doing our own thing, and then head to Snape Maltings for a walk and a look round the shops in the afternoon.
Having arrived relatively late the evening before, Tom and I had a bit of a lie-in, not getting up until 7.45. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, then got Tom togged up in his coats and wellies, and headed out into the garden. I was just planning a gentle explore of the lawn, maybe some swinging, but Tom had grander ideas and headed for the gate. So we went on a mini-walk down the farm track, across the road and down a footpath, accompanied some of the way by my mother-in-law and the dogs, who had caught up with us on their way to the village shop. Tom took a couple of tumbles and got a bit muddy, so we turned back to find him some lunch, whilst my mother-in-law continued on with her walk.
After lunch and Tom’s nap, we all piled into the car (dogs included) and drove to Snape Maltings, which is a collection of shops, galleries and a concert hall housed in buildings that were once used to malt barley for brewing.There is also access to a range of walks along the River Alde, which, because of it’s tidal nature, attracts lots of wildlife and birds. Raised walkways have been built around the estuary to allow people to walk without getting wet or stuck in the mud!
It began chucking it down with rain almost the moment we parked the car. Luckily we were all well prepared with hats and waterproofs, and snuggled Tom up in the buggy under the rain cover. The rain didn’t last long and eased off as we headed out along the river. The area has a stark kind of beauty at this time of year, with the bare trees making incredibly sculptural shapes against the flat land. I grew up in the Surrey Hills, and always feel the lack of slopes when I’m in Suffolk, but I can’t deny that it has its own attractions.
After a lovely, though slightly muddy, walk, we headed back to the Maltings for a quick look around the shops. By now the light was fading, so it was time to head back home and get Tom’s dinner. We arrived home at the same time as the men, who were both very pleased with their performance. A lovely looking pheasant pie is now sitting in our freezer.
We were heading home after lunch on Sunday, but still managed to get out in the morning for a wander around the farm grounds (the fields are let out to local farmers, but the family still own the old farm buildings, keep chickens and grow vegetables and fruit on the remaining land). Tom very much enjoyed having both his parents with him to explore, although he did need a helping hand on some of the more uneven bits of ground.
All in all, a lovely weekend with plenty of opportunties to explore the Suffolk countryside. Plus plenty of good food, family time and good wine (for the adults).