My Suffolk - Melanie Chew
Melanie Chew is Director of Fundraising & Retail at EACH (East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices). We talk to her about what she loves about the county
Did you grow up in Suffolk?
No, I moved to Suffolk with my husband Robin about 12 years ago. It all stemmed from just one weekend trip to Southwold – we loved it so much that we couldn’t help but keep coming back. We’d drive up the A12 and I could feel my spirits lifting up all the way. So we ended up renting an estate cottage on the Henham Park Estate at Blythburgh, owned by the Aussie Earl. Living there was a really special time for us, and turned me into a proper country girl – seeing the white deer that roam through the woods every time we went out for a walk was a really magical sight.
Do you enjoy walking?
These days we have two children – Teddy, 9, and Hattie, 7, so our country walks have taken on a rather different flavour. A great local walk for me and the children is around Thornham Walks, near Eye. There’s lots to keep little ones interested – a bird hide, a pet cemetery, a folly, a walled garden and a café too!
What makes the county special?
For me it’s the sense of history that is almost everywhere you turn in Suffolk – and it is child-friendly history too. We’ve taken our two out to so many interesting sites – Kentwell Hall, the Abbey Gardens in Bury, Sutton Hoo, Landguard Fort, Leiston Abbey, Christchurch Mansion – I could go on and on!
Where do you like to eat out?
Oh definitely the Fox & Goose at Fressingfield for a treat, but you can’t beat the fish and chips from the Harbour Inn at Southwold after a bracing walk!
Adnam’s, Aspall or Greene King?
A glass of Aspall’s blush pink cider goes down a treat on a sunny Sunday afternoon!
Where do you like to shop?
I’m a big fan of charity shops – I love having a rummage and finding a bargain! My charity EACH already has 15 shops and we are about to open two new ones in Framlingham and Sudbury. Another great shopping opportunity is the vintage market in Woodbridge – they hold them about once every three months. It’s perfect for picking up quirky pieces for home and seeing stuff that I remember from my childhood. There are several good vintage emporiums around Suffolk – including Snape and Thorpeness too.
Have you got any hobbies?
Well my job keeps me super busy, but when I have time I do enjoy getting my sewing machine out and making clothes, mostly for my daughter. I inherited my love of sewing from my Mum, and I am just beginning to teach it to my daughter now.
Do you support the arts?
Dance is my thing and I am thrilled that we have Dance East here in the county. But these days most of my social outings tend to be related to my job. So I go to local concerts and art exhibitions in aid of EACH, as well as some more unusual events like our Colour Dash in July – where runners will get splattered with powder paint in rainbow hues. But there are more serene events too, such as a forthcoming gala dinner at King’s College Cambridge in September where we are hoping to host the dinner in the chapel – it’s something that hasn’t been done before!
What makes the people of Suffolk special?
For me it’s the sense of community: through my work I have managed to meet a lot of people all across Suffolk and initially I was taken aback by the kindness of people wanting to help and to get involved. I saw this especially during the time that I was leading the Treehouse Appeal to build a new children’s hospice in Ipswich – we saw a terrific outpouring of warmth and generosity that was quite overwhelming at times – and it has made me feel really at home here.
Where would you take newcomers on a tour of the county?
We often take friends to do the coastal walk around Covehithe – the church there has to be pretty unique, and the walk takes in some of the nature reserve and the wildness of the coast – then onto Walberswick for lunch and a spot of crabbing. If we were trying to cram everything into just one day, I’d then take them over to Framlingham Castle for some early history – and the views from the top of the castle walls are stunning and onto Lavenham or Clare for a potter about, before dinner in one of our fabulous eateries and then maybe a nightcap in the underground cellar bar of the Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds.
Is there one picture that perfectly illustrates the county?
I love all of Alfred Munnings’ paintings of Suffolk, they are terribly evocative. One of them reminds me of drifting about on the boating lake at Thorpeness - but please don’t ask me to narrow it down to just one!