Here’s a short story. An actor is looking for somewhere to live. A musician friend suggests Suffolk. Actor moves to Suffolk. Actor is now “in love” with Suffolk.
The actor in question is the Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, the musician is Ed Sheeran and Suffolk is, well… Suffolk.
The 32-year-old star, who plays Jon Snow in the HBO fantasy drama, says he and his wife and co-star Rosie Leslie have yet to venture far from their new home.
What delights await him across the county?
‘A great pace of life’
The particulars of Suffolk are thus.
It is a charming county, neither bijou nor compact, boasting 1,467 sq mile (3,801 sq km) of space which is home to some 750,000 tenants.
The county town of Ipswich, with its regenerated waterfront and pretty parks, is generously apportioned over 15 sq mile (39 sq km) of land. It is joined by other generously sized towns, namely Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft, Newmarket and Felixstowe.
Framlingham, meanwhile, is the place where Sheeran grew up and boasts the 12th Century Framlingham Castle. That was the inspiration for Sheeran’s Castle On The Hill hit, something he described as a “love song to Suffolk”.
If you want a slower pace of life, or to breathe in the country or coastal air, there are extensive farming areas throughout the county and an extensive coastline to the east. Plus there’s extensive on-shore parking at Felixstowe, one of the largest container ports in Europe.
“What most people love about Suffolk is the pace of life. Rush hour here tends to be when you get stuck behind a tractor,” says Paul Gray, managing director at Flick and Son estate agents.
Among the county’s other draws, Mr Gray says, are the fact you “still get an awful lot for your money” and “you’re never more than a quick car journey away from the hustle and bustle”.
He also pointed to the “plentiful” local amenities, including the world-famous fish and chips of Aldeburgh.
“Go down to a fish and chip shop in Aldeburgh at midday and there will be queues, sometimes 100 people long.
“Yet despite the queues, they are still only open from noon until 14:00. Why? Why aren’t they open from 12:00 to 17:00? I find that amazing.”
That’s Suffolk for you.
Plaudits for its fish and chips aside, which other county in England can boast its own horse, colour and, erm, sausage?
The chestnut-coloured Suffolk punch was bred as a draught horse whose existence dates back to at least the 16th Century. Apparently the male line of the breed can be traced back to a single stallion.
At least a century before that, some of the county’s early innovators fancied themselves artists and added substances like berries and blood to limewashes, giving birth to the shade known as Suffolk pink.
These days you will find any number of cottages, houses and hotels in the county daubed in its trademark pastel hue.
Look to the west of the county and you’ll come across Newmarket. Yes, the tourist brochures will declare the town the home of British horse-racing but it has another ace up its sleeve: the Newmarket sausage.
There are three varieties of this meaty treat, all made to traditional town recipes. Fiercely independent, the town’s butchers refused to merge their recipes into one definitive ‘Newmarket sausage’ when urged to do so in 2005 by both the European Union and the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The sausages won the day, and now hold Protected Geographical Status.
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Blue sky thinking
Sheeran and Harington aren’t the only actors and musicians that have seen Suffolk’s appeal and called it home.
The county is also home to the likes of Bill Treacher, who played Arthur Fowler in EastEnders, Bill Nighy and Griff Rhys Jones.
Is it perhaps the great swathes of greenery and open blue skies that reeled them in?
“What I love is the sheer diversity here,” says professional photographer Phil Morley, who runs landscape workshops around the county.
“Of course Suffolk – and East Anglia as a whole – is famous for its huge sweeping skies, but there’s so much more than that and it all changes throughout the year.”
“You’ve got the heathland in places like Dunwich Heath, the stunning autumnal colours of the forests in places like Elveden and Brandon,” says Mr Morley.
“There’s the vibrant yellows of the oilseed rape fields in late spring, then the pinky-purples of the potato fields and the golds of the wheat fields.
“And you’ve got hidden gems such as Knettishall Heath, the desolate trees on the beach in places like Covehithe and the shingle beach at the old military testing facility at Orfordness.
“You never tire of it.”
But ask Mr Morley whether Suffolk is his favourite part of the world and he hesitates.
“I do prefer Scotland, but that’s because I love mountains,” he says thoughtfully.
“Now if you added mountains to Suffolk, then it really would have it all.”
Read more: www.bbc.co.uk