What is East Anglia? We can all agree it includes Norfolk and Suffolk but then we hit contention. Cambridgeshire (which now includes Huntingdonshire) ? Part of it certainly, Ely is an East Anglian city. I'm not sure about Huntingdon but we'll give it part of the area if nothing else. And then there is that place I live.
Essex? sigh. Essex is lumped in with the South East, that big cities influence pervades, but to lump Essex in with the South East is to make a mistake. Historically much of Essex is East Anglian. Some older members of my Mum's family definitely have a hint of an East Anglian style accent. I'd argue today that anything North of the A120 is East Anglia as I guess is the bit East of the A130. Walk around Thaxted and Saffron Walden churches and they would sit comfortably in Suffolk.
This bit of Essex is lovely, people flock to Finchingfield which is a pity because they park everywhere and spoil it. If you are in the area don't go at the weekend. Dedham faces out to Flatford Mill. Walk out to Bradwell chapel and the South East is miles away.
Cambridgeshire is flat, and if i'm honest a tadge dull and scruffy. Of course some of this gives it a bleak beauty but the lover of English Chocolate box should look away. I'll assume we've given it Cambridge, Cambridge is Oxford but not as nice. Oxford has held on to its architecture better. Oxford's college chapels for instance are much nicer and easier to get into than Cambridge. Of course Cambridge then leads you into King's College Chapel and smuggly says beat that. And you know what? you can't, the place is amazing a feast of fan vaulting and early 16th century glass. On top of this you have Ely Cathedral.
Suffolk. oh yes Suffolk, this is refined East Anglia. The coast is more isolated than its Northern neighbour. There is no coast road to drive along, you leave the A12 to visit Aldeburgh then you have to drive back to the A12 to reach Southwold.
The Suffolk coast is one I visited alot as a kid. Family holidays were to the Warners holiday camp at Corton near Lowestoft. I made the mistake some years ago of revisiting the village of Corton. I drove through it, time has not been kind. Southwold though is charming it still feels like a 1960's town.
Inland Suffolk is FULL of picture villages. Oh yes there's Lavenham and Long Melford but its full of pretty places. You drive along and just find them. Simon Knott of the excellent Suffolk churches (and a Norfolk one come to that) says it is less full of chocolate box village than you might think but there are still a lot of them.
At the South you have the River Stour and here we are in Constable country. Willie Lotts cottage and Flatford Mill and loads of church towers that Constable painted (although please remember that part of Constable country is in Essex).
But as I say Suffolk is genteel East Anglia, you notice this when you head North and enter Norfolk. On my church ticking journey Suffolk always seemed "prettier" this gets pointed out when in Norfolk you suddenly arrive at somewhere like Heydon when you scratch your head and wonder if you've driven 50 miles south!
You may have gathered if you read this blog alot that I like Norfolk. It is packed with churches, has some nice old houses and uhm it is noted for its Birdlife. The North is dominated by the might that isn't the A149 (I mean HOW is it an A road!!) it runs from Hunstanton to Cromer along the coast. Its a stretch of coast I love, Hunstanton, Holme, Thorhnam, tichwell, Brancaster, Brancaster Staithe on and on to Cromer.
From Cromer the A149 cuts away inland a bit and the villages here feel more remote and if I'm honest less attractive. But here we've reached the broads and THAT is well worth a visit. Horsey, Hickling, Barton Turf, Ranworth.
Norfolk doesn't have the picture villages of Suffolk but it has Burham Market (islington sur le mer), Holt and Alysham all in the best 50 small towns in the country according to the Daily Telegraph.
Oh its not all wonderful, Kings Lynn is a bit of a dump (two nice churches) but if you enjoy coastal walks or sailing a boat on rivers or if you love wildlife you want no excuse to visit it.