Best spring days out on the Greater Anglia network
By Georgina Wilson-Powell
18 family days out for you to enjoy in East Anglia this spring
1. Embrace the blues
The Orwell Bluegrass Festival
(11–13 May) is one of the biggest of its kind in the UK, as American and European musicians descend on a quiet wooded corner of Nacton every year to jam. Set on the banks of the River Orwell, just outside Ipswich, it’s the ideal spot to camp out and spend a toe-tapping weekend listening to the bands, as well as joining in at open mic sessions. Everyone’s welcome at this happy hoedown.
Nearest station: Ipswich
2. The only way is Essex
Less high heels and more hiking boots, the Essex Way runs for 81 miles from Epping Forest to Harwich. Follow the path and discover ancient woodlands, spring flower meadows, leafy green lanes and hops in the hedgerows, a hangover from Roman hopfields. Dip in and out of the trail as you see fit (and the historic pubs along the way – many were once frequented by highwaymen, Dick Turpin being the most notorious).
Nearest station: Chingford for Epping Forest
3. Food for thought
Tuck into the best bites of Cambridge on a mouth-watering walking tour. From unearthing the city’s secret gourmet gems on the Hidden Cambridge Food Tour to the Gin O’Clock Gin Tour, there’s something to whet every appetite. We like the Lunch Tour, where a local foodie will take you around the must-visit spots to sample local produce (hello, fudge and Scotch eggs). A good appetite is a must.
Nearest station: Cambridge
4. To infinity and beyond
The Spring Star Party (12-19 April) on Kelling Heath might have been started by the Norwich Astronomical Society, but today it’s far more than staring into space. It’s become a bit of a shindig, with camping encouraged and food, bars and other stalls setting up shop to encourage people to discover the dark skies of north Norfolk.
Nearest station: Sheringham
5. Blast from the past
Get to know the original residents of Kentwell Hall, aka the Tudors, from 30 March to 2 April. More than a hundred period actors will be at this historic manor in Long Melford, celebrating Easter just as they would have done 500 years ago. See medieval bakers, crafters and musicians as they go about their day, plus there’s an egg hunt, Impossible Quiz and farm park for the kids.
Nearest station: Sudbury
6. Wild times
Unleash your inner woodland nymph at this year’s Wild Tree Fair on 25–27 May. The annual gathering – at a secret location near Norwich – takes in bushcraft, magic, music and dancing, and the whole event is powered by solar energy. You can dress up, glamp in woodland shelters and revel in a festival that’s more about fairies and fun than famous faces.
Nearest station: Norwich
7. Can you catch a murderer?
How better to discover Colchester’s historic secrets than on a Treasure Trail? This 2.5 mile self-guided Murder Mystery-themed loop takes in some of the Roman town’s prettiest parts, with clues found on monuments and ancient buildings (you can text for help if you get stuck). Perfect for an Easter holiday adventure…
Nearest station: Colchester
8. A forest feast
Mini Bear Grylls wannabes will love creating a woodland feast at the Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Spring Wild Chef event on 4 April. Aimed at 8 to 14-year-olds, the Trust will take the kids on a foraging walk through Bradfield Woods in Bradfield St George, before teaching them how to cook up what they find over an open fire.
Nearest station: Bury St Edmunds
9. Pretty as a picture
A weekend art course is the perfect excuse for a spring break. Located down a quiet rural lane in Harleston, surrounded by fields, meadows and ponds, artist Nicola Slattery has been running courses for over 25 years. Choose from Painting with Acrylics (28–29 April) or Art from Imagination (19–20 May); materials and equipment are provided – all you have to do is get creative...
Nearest station: Diss
10. Sun salutations
Did you know that Ness Point is the most easterly point of the UK? And the reward for heading out that far is you’ll be the first in the UK to welcome the sun in the morning. For the last few years, an Easter Sunday Sunrise Service has been held at the Point, with the Salvation Army Band providing rousing, brass-led tunes.
Nearest station: Lowestoft
11. Call of nature
With around 8,500 species in 1,800 acres, nature reserve Wicken Fen is the kind of place you want to keep to yourself. But we like to share. The National Trust operates a wild camping site here, with open fronted shelters, a fire pit and compost toilet. Bring sausages, marshmallows, an airbed... and you’re ready for a night round the fire. It’s ideal for a family trying out camping for the first time, but booking is essential.
Nearest station: Ely
12. Make a splash
The River Stour isn’t just a pretty face, it also offers up some of East Anglia’s finest wild swimming. As the weather gets a little warmer, grab a sensible cossie, pack your best Famous Five-style picnic and head for Manningtree. After a short walk from the station along ancient bridleways, you’ll find Dedham Mill where the river opens into a pond and there is a small gravelly beach. This is Constable territory and, on a sunny day, nothing beats it.
Nearest station: Manningtree
13. Mozart magic
Fancy a night of tra-la-la-ing? Stop by Snape Maltings on 12 and 13 April for an evening of Mozart, with the English Touring Opera’s energetic new production of the delightfully comic The Marriage of Figaro.
Nearest station: Saxmundham
14. Tickets please!
If you haven’t outgrown your Thomas the Tank Engine phase, the East Anglian Railway Museum offers railway driver experience days, where you can learn how to drive a full steam locomotive and work the signal box. Now, who wants to be the Fat Controller?
Nearest station: Chappel & Wakes Colne
15. Affairs of the art
May can only mean one thing, the Norfolk & Norwich Arts Festival
(11–27 May). The Adnams Spiegeltent is back again hosting internationally-acclaimed UK circus company the Barely Methodical Troupe and its world premiere Shift. Meanwhile, the Puppet Theatre has another first, with theatre company Improbable’s The Paper Man. Get involved with dance events, club nights and concerts from Ladysmith Black Mambazo and singer-songwriter Ben Folds.
Nearest station: Norwich
16. The bare necessities
Mowgli, Baloo, Bagheera and, of course, Shere Khan come to the Cambridge Arts Theatre this spring in an exciting new adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s family classic The Jungle Book (20–24 March). There’ll be catchy new songs, brilliant storytelling and plenty of fun surprises.
Nearest station: Cambridge
17. Country pursuits
Don your tweed and wellies
for the annual East Anglian Game & Country Fair at Euston Hall, near Thetford, on 28 and 29 April. Expect equine events, falconry, dog handling, country cookery and competitions including archery, plus kids’ activities, shopping and plenty of local food and drink. You can even camp at the historic estate and make a weekend of it.
Nearest station: Thetford
18. Birds of a feather
Ditch tweeting for twitching with a bird-watching cruise on an old-fashioned sailing boat between Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe (2 April). Whether you’re an avid bird watcher or new to the game, this is a fabulous half day out exploring the salt marshes and mudflats, spotting avocets, brent geese, oystercatchers and more, before tucking into a hearty lunch on board.
Nearest station: Alresford
Travel by train with Greater Anglia and enjoy 10 percent off single tickets for the Cambridge Food Tour Lunch; go to bit.ly/2BHOYKz for more information.
Book early for advanced fares from only £10 one-way. For more information and to book train tickets, visit greateranglia.co.uk