Nature & Wildlife Holidays
Historic towns and chocolate-box villages nestling amid fertile farmland and beneath big, starry skies remind you just how unspolit Suffolk is, while a wealth of wildlife reserves, ancient habitats and peaceful heathlands offer safe haven to all manner of animal, bird and insect life.
Immerse yourself in the natural beauty that abounds and you’ll get a real sense of being ‘at one’ with the landscape and all those it gives life to; look closely and you’ll be surprised by how much is going on – lots of it virtually on the doorstep of your self-catering cottage.
There’s never a dull moment when you’re in the countryside – you might spot a muntjac deer wandering along winding lanes, an owl searching for prey or a starling murmuration – the RSPB reserve at Minsmere is a great spot for watching the latter, along with an impressive variety of birds including avocets, bearded tits and bitterns. Head here between the end of September and mid-November and you’ll witness one of nature’s greatest spectacles: the red deer rut.
The Suffolk Wildlife Trust has a number of nature reserves across the county, all free to visit. Near to Woodbridge, Foxburrow Farm is filled in spring or early summer with birdsong, wildflowers and gambolling lambs, while skylarks nest in the meadows and spotted flycatchers and pied wagtails flit around the farm buildings. Just outside Stowmarket, Combs Wood is a small but botanically-rich reserve where carpets of spectacular spring flowers include early-purple orchid, ransom and ragged robin, along with rare oxlips, which are limited to sites in East Anglia. And at Lackford Lakes near Bury St Edmunds there’s a whole programme of events each year, along with a landscape rich in bird and insect life.
The Forestry Commission’s site at Thetford is the UK’s largest man-made lowland forest, with more than 18,000 hectares to explore and a rich variety of animal and plant life. Noted for its spring flowers and autumn fungi, the Lynford Arboretum here is the perfect place to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Closer to the coastal edge of the county, river trips are available from the picturesque village of Orford to the National Trust site at Orford Ness which is a protected area and home to a number of species including Chinese water deer and birds of prey including falcons and marsh harriers.
And further north, Coastal Voyager offers tranquil trips on the River Blyth where you’ll have an opportunity to enjoy – often at close quarters – the varied wildlife that enjoys the tranquility of the tidal waters and marshlands beyond Southwold Harbour’s famous Bailey Bridge. An area protected by Natural England, the river is home to many important birds and insects, while Blythburgh’s resident seals may be seen sunbathing on islands of mud.
If you’d like to get up close to animals a little less shy, then do make time to visit the Suffolk Punch Trust. The Suffolk Punch is the oldest English breed of working horse and at its Hollesley HQ the Trust is training a new generation of professionals to work with these iconic gentle giants. And, finally, you’ll find more animal fun just outside Ipswich, where Jimmy’s Farm offers encounters with reptiles, butterflies and meerkats as well as traditional farmyard favourites.