Beautiful, unspoilt and quintessentially English: Pin Mill is a gorgeous Suffolk landmark frozen in time. Nestled in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) this tiny hamlet on the banks of the river Orwell has remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years: a collection of cottages set against stunning shoreline and ancient forest all centred around the world famous 17th century Butt and Oyster pub. Enjoying the view and talking in the landscape with a walk through the fields and along the coast is one of the undisputed highlights of any trip to Pin Mill, but this special place has a whole lot more to offer than that…
We would recommend starting (or ending) a visit with a meal and swift pint at The Butt and Oyster. The pub keeps a superb selection of Adnams ales and has a really varied award-winning British menu. There are a lot of wonderful dishes on the specials board but it’s hard to go wrong with their locally caught and, frankly, absurdly large cod and chips… if you are feeling really brave then try their vegetarian friendly version where the fish is replaced by battered halloumi. The seating area outside is made for summer, with tables overlooking the splendid riverside view, but it can be extra special to take your pints over to the village green and sip the under the trees or whilst paddling in the ‘Grindle’ (that’s ‘stream’ to everyone else). The green often hosts local events so it is worth checking if anything is on before heading down; if favourites like the Pin Mill Barge Race are happening then this sleepy hamlet can get quite busy!
Nothing seems to inspire photographers like reed beds and sailing masts against that big Suffolk sky, so many make the pilgrimage to Pin Mill to get those special shots. Much of this talent is incubated by The Pin Mill Studio – just a few meters from the pub, the gallery hosts photography sessions and classes as well as displaying work by local artists. Several day classes include a meal at the Butt and Oyster so it really can be a brilliant way to enjoy the space and really fall in love with Pin Mill. If you fancy coffee and cake instead of beer and chips then the Sunshine Cafe is situated in the same building as the studios and the elevated outdoor seating gives a great view of the area.
The gorgeous walks really are the highlight of this beautiful place so bring your boots and get exploring. Walking maps are available from the pub but for a simple stroll turn left at the Butt and Oyster and keep walking until you reach the neighbouring village of Woolverstone. The route passes through forest, fields, styles and streams whilst following the gentle curb of the majestic the river Orwell.
If you are after something a little more ambitious then head down past the community of houseboats and follow the river towards Shotley. This village lies at the tip of the peninsular and is where the Orwell reaches the Sea, with Felixstowe to the left and Harwich to the right. Both can be reached via a 5 minute foot ferry; if you have time it is well worth the experience – we would recommend a trip over the water to The Alma pub in Harwich.
Pin Mill lies 30 minutes from from the award winning Woodfarm Barns. This gorgeous dog-friendly accommodation is made up of a collection of six cottages and an exquisitely maintained 500 year old farm house. If you fancy accommodation more befitting of Pin Mill’s riverside surroundings then we recommend ‘Onderneming’: a historic late 1800s sailing barge moored on the river Alde. Its location directly outside Snape Maltings is unparalleled and accommodation doesn’t come much more unique, proudly combing ‘luxury with an open, dog-friendly approach’. Alternatively the 18th century dutch sailing barge Twee Gebroeders is moored at the Tidemill on the river Deben. It sleeps up to 4 and flawlessly blends historic touches with 21st century comfort. Both are approximately 30 minutes from Pin Mill and offer a great base to explore the wider area.
[Image by Alex Healing on Flickr]
RSPB Minsmere is a fabulous popular destination for twitchers and non-twitchers alike
There’s tons to see (and hear) with stunning coastal scenes accompanied by rare birds breeding and calling in on their annual migrations. There are also otters to be seen in the reedbeds if you look carefully and a plethora of wild flowers and plants
It’s a great place all year round and the visitors centre is free, with helpful staff and volunteers. They also have a great little RSPB shop and café, serving teas and light meals using locally sourced ingredients. There’s also their Discovery Centre and Wild Zone for families, and they have guided walks throughout the year
One of England’s designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
We are lucky enough to have two AONB’s in Suffolk! See our other post here on the Dedham Vale AONB
Back to the coastal one! This stretches all the way from Lowestoft down to the River Sour, meeting up with the Dedham Vale, providing us with stunning heathland, reed beds, salt-marsh and mud-flats
It’s landscape also features the estuaries of five Suffolk rivers; four of which we named Barns after here at Woodfarm; Alde, Deben, Orwell and Stour, as well as the river Blyth
We are very fortunate to have not one but two of Englands 33 AONB’s right on our doorstep
The Dedham Vale and Stour Valley sits on the Suffolk/ Essex border. The gentle River Stour (so good we named a barn after it) and its hedged water meadows, copses and riverbank willows, form a landscape, widely thought to represent the best of the farmed English countryside
Lots of rambling meadows, rolling fields and abundant open marshland, many of which are recognised the world over as ‘Constable Country’ with nearby Flatford and Dedham, arguably being the jewel in the crown of this beautiful area
The designated area goes from Manningtree, through the aforementioned, to Bures
Mickfield Meadow is a stunning flower-rich hay meadow that has never been sprayed or fertilised. As a result it contains a host of wildflowers, many of which are now scarce in Suffolk. To maintain this rich flora, the meadow is managed by a summer hay cut and then grazing the late summer growth.
The unusual mix of plants growing here adds to its botanical interest. In parts of the meadow you can see goldilocks buttercup and the low growing wood anemone – both plants more usually associated with ancient woodlands. In the wetter parts look for marshland flowers like ragged-robin, meadowsweet and the beautiful snake’s head fritillary – one of only four sites in Suffolk where it can still be found
Dogs on leads welcome
An RSPB reserve on what is one of the few remnants of the ancient woodland that used to cover East Anglia
They manage it using traditional coppicing, which means that the wood has a wide variety of birds, plants and mammals
Head over early on a spring morning to hear the chorus of up to 20 species of bird, including the rich, musical song of the nightingale. Bring your wellies as the woods can be muddy
No dogs allowed, except registered assistance dogs
FREE entry but they rely on donations so do dig into your pockets
My favourite river in Suffolk
The Stour stretches all the way from Sudbury, out through the meandering Suffolk countryside of Bures, Wormingford, Nayland, Stratford St Mary, Dedham and then to Mistley and Manningtree where it heads out to the sea. Admittedly it’s now ventured across the border into Essex but it’s still beautiful. The river path is full of stunning landscapes and the river itself makes for some wonderful boating. This stretch is my favourite kayak route
Possibly the most breathtaking part of the journey and closest to Woodfarm is the bit between Dedham and Flatford, with beautiful scenery and old houses, culminating in the National Trust site at Flatford
From its source river, the Gipping, Orwell heads out to the sea on the Suffolk coast
We have named all the barns in the meadow after local Suffolk rivers; Alde, Deben, Gipping, Orwell and Stour. The River Gipping is the source river for the River Orwell (the barn next door!), and also hooks up with the river Stour
Charles Dickens wrote about the Gipping and Orwell rivers and the latter is where the writer Eric Blair took his pen name ‘George Orwell’ from after his love of the river and the area
The River Gipping is the name given to the River Orwell above its tidal limit
The River Gipping flows through Stowmarket to Stoke Bridge in Ipswich via Needham Market, around 4 miles from Woodfarm
We have named all the barns in the meadow after local Suffolk rivers; Alde, Deben, Gipping, Orwell and Stour. The River Gipping is the source river for the River Orwell (the barn next door!), starting in nearby Mendlesham Green and was altered with the addition of 15 locks between Ipswich and Stowmarket. In recent years the navigation, as this section was known, has undergone restoration and offers a great walk known as ‘The Gipping Way’, which uses the towpath for most of its route
Charles Dickens wrote about the rivers Gipping and Orwell
The river Deben gives nearby Debenham its name, where it starts its journey through 25 miles of Suffolk to the sea near Woodbridge
Debenham is a quaint little village and a popular place to visit, as many of our guests do. And yes, it is where the department store gets its name as the founder lived here before setting off some 300 years ago to London to set up his high class haberdashery. He did quite well!
We have named all the barns in the meadow after local Suffolk rivers; Alde, Deben, Gipping, Orwell and Stour