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 The Lavenham Guildhall, above, and right, Ickworth House at Horringer Images National Trust and Mark Staples
This village, close to Newmarket, pre- dates the 1086 Domesday Book and is known for its Grade II listed 15th century packhorse bridge spanning the River Kennett.
The Packhorse Inn, overlooking the green and a stone’s throw from the bridge, is a stylish place to eat and relax. There might be a Newmarket racing owner or trainer at a nearby table.
Perhaps more of a hamlet than a village, and a little isolated, Cavenham sits among rolling countryside and heathland and has a certain off-the- beaten track charm. How many people live here? In the 1870s it had a population of 229 - maybe now it is around a hundred.
A pretty village just outside Bury St Edmunds on the A143 to Haverhill best known for Ickworth House, formerly the seat of the Earls and Marquesses of Bristol. The house with its classical Rotunda, East and West Wings forms the centrepiece of the estate reflecting the wealth and panache of its one-time owners, the Herveys. To say this family had some characters is an understatement.
Explore the house (even if you can’t now access the latest art exhibition there) walk in the grounds, visit the gift shop and enjoy lunch or afternoon tea in the West Wing’s cafe/restaurant.
The village cricket team play in Ickworth park, sometimes watched over by sheep in neighbouring fields.
You might like a stroll in the village too. Pubs - The Six Bells (smart, bright interiors) and Beehive (cosy and rustic) - are on the main road.
Of course we have to mention this medieval beauty - it’s one of the most photographed villages in England and it looked at it’s summer best when archaeologist Ben Robinson visited it for his recent Pubs, Ponds and Power television series. There are treats galore here; from pampering at Weavers’ House Spa, several lovely tea rooms, ice creams at the Parlour, art at the Lion Gallery and Lavenham Contemporary (see also pages 32 & 33) plus highly individual jewellery at Jonathan Lambert and fashions at Elizabeth Gash.
Though by-passed by the A143, Ixworth still has a certain daytime bustle about it, with the main activities being found in its high street. Several businesses can be found here as well as the Pykerrel Inn, The Greyhound pub, a few small shops (ICE, women’s fashion shop, is worth a visit) and Theobald’s restaurant. Timber-framed houses line the historical
centre, but St. Mary’s Church is tucked away to the south. Even more secluded, along Commister Lane are the grounds of the former priory and abbey. Ixworth is also at the southerly tip of the ancient Peddars Way, a long-distance route extending to the Norfolk Coast.
In medieval times, drovers, some from as far north as Scotland, would bring their cattle and poultry in their thousands to the more luscious grasslands by the river Blackbourne, en- route to Smithfield market. The nearby Mickle Mere, managed by Suffolk wildlife trust, gives evidence to the regular overflowing of the river here. IS
There are two routes to take if you are travelling from Sudbury to Colchester - a winding, slightly hilly journey via Bures or a more direct route on the A134 that takes motorists through Newton. The latter is dominated by its green and golf course - once nine holes but now 18. Very occasionally a badly sliced tee shot can find the road.
Its pub The Saracen’s Head is worth a visit for its reasonably priced food.
We have nipped over the border into Essex for this one but our excuse is it boasts a rather beautiful, tree-lined cricket ground and, sadly, few small villages have them. You can find it a few miles out of Sudbury on the road to Halstead though who knows if there will be games this summer?
contributors Robin Thompson, Kim Smith and Ian Shilling

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