My Suffolk - Mark millar
On May 20 thousands of people will come together for St Elizabeth Hospice’s ever popular Midnight Walk around the streets of Ipswich. We talk to Mark Millar, the Chief Executive of the hospice about his life in Suffolk
How did you come to live in Suffolk or were you born here?
I was born in North Lincolnshire, but my wife, Jane, is from Suffolk, though we met in Oxford. The arrival of twins 26 years ago (in addition to an elder daughter) and the job as Finance Director at Ipswich Hospital, came together so moving close to Jane’s extended family seemed a great idea.
What do you think makes the county so attractive?
The people. Suffolk people are just so generous. As a charity, we rely on donations so we can continue to help support local people and their families. We need to raise a lot of money. Almost £10millon a year and every year I’m astounded that the public opens their purses to support us. It’s not just money either. It always amazes me how much time people are willing to give up and volunteer at the hospice, in our shops and at our events. They also do some crazy things to help raise money for us. Suffolk people really are the best. It is also just the Suffolk way of life. It really is a great place to bring up children. It is welcoming and feels very safe, has such a variety of landscapes and activities and of course the wonderful coastline is just a blessed bonus. I often ask friends who visit not to enthuse too much about Suffolk for fear that everyone will want to come and that would just spoil it. We are really lucky to live here.
Have you got any favourite restaurants?
We tend to move around quite a lot, and prefer the informal style. Currently Millsoms at Kesgrave Hall, Fludyers Arms in Felixstowe and The White Lion in Aldburgh are popular with us.
Where’s the best place to go for a pint?
Being a resident of Woodbridge, we are pretty spoilt for choice. The Cherry Tree takes some beating, but basically anywhere that keeps a good Adnams and Aspalls will do for me. When our children come home they always comment that you cannot beat an Aspalls in Suffolk.
Are you a supporter of the arts? If so where do you like to go?
Does watching ITFC count as the arts? Seriously, we enjoy supporting the Wolsey and make the occasional visit to Snape Maltings.
Is there somewhere you like to escape to for ‘thinking’ time?
Apart from the garden, either the Riverside Walk in Woodbridge or the walks around Snape.
Do you have any hobbies? Do you walk, run or cycle?
I play golf badly and support ITFC. That is enough suffering for anyone! No running or cycling. My golf is a good walk and voyage of exploration. Otherwise the walks I mentioned and the Prom at Felixstowe.
What do you think are the highlights of the Suffolk coast?
I am tempted to say all of it, from the sandy beaches of Lowestoft southwards. I think it is the variety that gives it the edge and that most of it remains largely undeveloped and not commercialised. We particularly like the Aldeburgh/Thorpeness area where we spent many happy family days as the children were growing up. We have a beach hut at Old Felixstowe which is a great place to see the boats and the kitesurfing!
Where would you take people on a tour of Suffolk?
Actually, we did this last year. I am on the Council of ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and we hosted colleagues from South Africa, Jamaica and Romania for few days. I have to say that we concentrated on the Heritage Coast. Fish and chips on the seawall at Aldeburgh was a must, supplemented by tea and cakes on the pier at Southwold. Our group was fascinated by the story of Thorpeness and surprised to find such a high quality concert venue at Snape Maltings. In addition though, they loved the history of Lavenham and the splendour of Bury St Edmunds Cathedral. Of course we also explained to them the working of the Woodbridge Tide Mill visited the excellent visitor centre at Sutton Hoo and the castles at Orford and Framlingham.
If you had one picture or view that illustrates Suffolk where would it be?
Given where I live, it is probably no surprise to say the River Deben at Woodbridge, whether that be of the Tide Mill or across the river to Sutton Hoo.
Apart from the coast what are Suffolk’s highlights?
All the places I have already mentioned, but the highlights are really the people, the countryside as it changes through the seasons and the more gentle pace of life.