Twinkle, Twinkle, Suffolk Stars: Top 5 Things to do in the Dark
As the nights draw in it can be tempting to pull the curtains, pour the cocoa and hunker down during your Suffolk visit. Play scrabble! Watch those box sets! Eat, drink and snooze!
Certainly, Suffolk's quintessential cottages make for a relaxing retreat, away from the manic pace of modern life. But for those who want something more than a book or the gogglebox for evening entertainment, we at Suffolk Secrets have some other plans....
Whether you're deep in the countryside or having a winter retreat along the coast, Suffolk's low levels of light pollution and rural nature make it the perfect place for all sorts of after-dark adventures.
So spectacular are our night skies that they inspired one of the most well known nursery songs in the English language: 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'. Originally titled, 'The Star', the romanticist poet, Jane Taylor penned the words to what evolved into the song we know today whilst living with her family in Shilling Grange, Lavenham, a house which still stands today.
Not for us endless repeats on the telly. Pass the torch, wang on the wellies and embrace the night, we say! Here are our top 5 suggestions for making the most of our long, winter nights.
1) Look for UFO's
Rendlesham Forest is the site of one of the UK's most famous UFO sightings, when, at 3am on Boxing Day, 1980, US Airforce personnel stationed nearby reported lights descending into the forest. Thinking it was perhaps an aircraft gone down, they went to investigate but what they found beggars belief: a 'strange glowing object..metallic in appearance and triangular in shape..' which illuminated the entire forest with white light. The hovering object then flew off and disappeared but when they went to investigate at daylight, impressions were found in the earth. Further sightings of strange lights were seen later that night and again the following evening. Today, you can explore Rendlesham Forest’s 'UFO trail' by day, or if you're really brave, after dark!
2) Stargazing at Dunwich Heath
Stargazing is one of the National Trust's Top 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4 and there’s no better place to watch the night sky than at the National Trust nature reserve at Dunwich Heath. According to the Dark Sky Discovery website, Saxmundham, adjacent to the site, is the best place in the whole of Suffolk for stargazing whilst the heath itself offers visitors 'unrivalled views along Suffolk's Heritage coast', allowing for optimum star sightings. Whilst the site is closed after hours, you are welcome to star-watch from the car park or, if you prefer, head to the nearby beach and gaze until your neck aches!
3) Take a Ghost Walk
There's no doubt about it: Suffolk has more than its fair share of spooky stories and leg-wobbling legends. From the 'ghost bells' that can be heard off the coast of Dunwich to the enduring tale (tail?) of the Black Shuck "devil dog", or the ghost girl at Kentwell Hall, near Long Melford, there's plenty to set the spine tingling. Don't say you haven't been warned.
4) Go back in time at the Electric Picture Palace, Southwold
Visit Southwold's tiny cinema, the Electric Picture Palace and you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd just stepped back in time to the 1950's. A Wurlitzer organ, rising from the stage, plays during the intermission, there's a doorman, and adults can even have a sneaky sherry at the interval. All screenings end on a high with the National Anthem. Not technically an 'after dark' activity, but once the lights go down, you're guaranteed an experience not to be forgotten. Check the box office for screen times, the cinema is tiny so tickets sell out fast. Tours of the cinema are also available.
5) Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star
Visit Lavenham by day and you'll be enthralled by what's widely regarded as 'England's Best Preserved Medieval Village'. Wander through cobbled streets, visit the historic Guild Hall of Corpus Christi or maybe sample some delicious cuisine at one of the award-winning restaurants including The Swan and The Great House. Visit after dark and you'll see the same skies that inspired poet Jane Taylor to write what's become the best known nursery rhyme in the world: 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'.