Welcome to our Winter Guide for things to do in our region during the colder months of 2023. You'll find tips for the best walking routes along the Suffolk coast, our favourite Cambridgeshire spots to see snowdrops, our recommendations for getting up close to the seasons wildlife in Norfolk and family fun to be had in Essex - all within easy reach of one of our pubs.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
New year, new gym membership? Enjoy a healthier lifestyle by exploring our region on foot, or by bicycle. Exercise, fresh air and vitamin D are all waiting for you, without the monthly subscription.
We are spoilt for choice when it comes to places to explore in the East - the big skies and vast landscapes of north Norfolk are a great place to start. One of our favourite routes is the Blakeney to Stiffkey Coastal Walk, which takes in the salt marshes and Stiffkey Freshes and is a great spot to see seabirds like Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher or Dunlin.
If you want to avoid the cold coastal winds and prefer a more relaxed walk with less challenging terrain, consider the Blickling Estate Lake Walk. There are plenty of spots to stop and take in the breathtaking views over the lake, fields and woodland - the Jacobean House remains in view throughout the walk!
Head further along the coast and into Suffolk where the popular seaside town of Southwold attracts visitors all year round. We think the winter months are a great time to explore the town, walk along the pier and take in the iconic lighthouse. There are number of great walking routes in this neck of the woods that take you through Southwold, Blythburgh, Walberswick and Westlton. To take a look, click here.
Chestnut Winter Walking Maps
Each of our pubs have their own maps that you can download as a PDF from our websites or pick up a printed copy from the team. Along the routes you will find our favourite spots, points of interest, and a little local history... and to top it off, they all can end with a winter warmer by the fire. So, if you want an adventure that starts and ends at the front door of one of our pubs this winter, take a look here or visit your favourite pub's website and click on the explore tab.
Get In The Saddle
Exploring the Suffolk coast in the saddle means you can cover more ground, visit more places and take in more of the area's special sights and sounds from Minsmere, to Dunwich heath, to Orford and Snape Maltings. Take a look at some handy explorer guides by clicking here.
Fancy going off road, heading deep into the forest and tackling a more challenging terrain? Then Thetford Forest is a great choice - there are routes for seasoned mountain bikers and routes perfect for beginners through beautiful winding wilderness. High Lodge is also a great choice for a family adventure, from walking trails to adventure playgrounds.
The benefits of trying something new have been well documented over the years and now, more than ever, it seems we seek new experiences and dare to try something different. We've found a few things happening in our region that might scratch that itch!
Wild Swimming is another experience that has soared in popularity in recent years and we are lucky enough to have many beautiful spots to brave the chill and reap those much talked about health benefits in our region. Some top spots for a dip include Dunwich beach, the River Cam between Byron's Pool and King's Mill Weir, and River Stour at Dedham and Flatford. For more information about wild swimming and doing it safely click here.
WILDLIFE + NATURE
Not all wildlife hibernates or heads south for the winter, namely the Grey Seal colony at Blakeney and the wildlife that inhabits RSPB Minsmere.
Boat trips out to Blakeney Point continue throughout the winter months, although there are less trips due to tide times and weather conditions when compared to the summer. Winter is the time where you may be lucky enough to see grey seal pups with them being born throughout December and January. Seals are not the only wildlife you'll see when out on winter boat trips. Ducks and geese arrive at Blakeney Point from October and you'll likely see Mallard, Widgeon, Teal, Pintail and Pinkfooted Geese. To read more about the boat trips and timetables, click here.
Guided Walks & Rambles
In January, February and March the volunteers at RSPB Minsmere run guided 'Heath Walks'. These walks are free and give you exclusive access to the reserve exploring coastal heathland, woodland and reedbeds. You'll need a sturdy pair of walking boots, some warm outdoor clothing and you are welcome to bring along your camera and pair of binoculars - or hire binoculars from their shop.
The Winter River and Reedbed Ramble at Snape Maltings is another opportunity to get close to nature this winter with scheduled rambles in January, February and March. Along the River Alde you'll spot wading birds, ducks, geese and swans while the reedbeds and woodland are home to Raptors and other resident small species. This is a guided ramble and you'll need sturdy and waterproof walking boots, and don't forget your binoculars.
After the twinkling Christmas lights come down and the festivities come to an end for another year, winter can sometimes lose its magic... but then comes the first signs of spring, with woodlands and gardens becoming carpets of snowdrops. A couple of our favourite spots for snowdrops are Chippenham Park Gardens, Anglesey Abbey and Walsingham Abbey.
Independent Shops & Markets
If you're a budding blogger or holidaying near Stiffkey in north Norfolk, their lifestyle store, coffee shop and 'everything in between' is the ultimate stop-over to find inspiration and take a break along the picturesque coastal route between Wells-next-the-Sea and Blakeney. Be sure to share a snap on Instagram at this Norfolk hot-spot!
Another popular lifestyle brand that has opened next to The Feathers in Holt is Birdie Fortescue. Specialising in antique furniture and contemporary décor, Birdie's soft furnishings and vases make for wonderful gifts, or the ultimate take-home from your travels. And, similarly, in Suffolk is the renowned Wyken Vineyards. Pop by their country store to find textiles, books, children's gifting and homeware or pick up some local produce at their Saturday morning market.
Gin Experiences & Fireside Lunches
Overlooking Aldeburgh's shingle beach, Fishers Gin Distillery is a must-visit shop and attraction when staying on the Suffolk coast. Tours are held all year round and include the story of the distillery and, of course, tasting of their delicious gins which we also stock in some of our pubs. They also offer a range of other tours including Sundown Supper and Fireside Lunch if you're after something a little more special.
Pantomime season continues into January - oh no it doesn't! Oh yes it does... Plus, the National Trust's 50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4 !
The award winning Dick Whittington and his Cat at the Cambridge Arts Theatre has an amazing cast from Dame Matt Crosby and BBC One's Our Girl star Rolan Bell, returning after his 'Best Villain' win at The Pantomime Awards 2022. This show runs until the 8th of January.
The Mercury Theatre in Colchester is home to Beauty and the Beast until the 15th of January - this experience welcomes birthday shout outs and booster seats for the little ones.
Jack and the Beanstalk starring Rufus Hound is showing at the Norwich Theatre Royal runs until the 7th of January.
We are fans of the National Trust's '50 things to do before you are 11 3/4'! Things on the list for winter fun include getting to know a tree and becoming a tree detective and welly wandering for rainy days! National Trust properties can be found within easy reach of all of our pubs from Anglesey Abbey, to Sutton Hoo, to Blickling Estate.
If you want to make one of our Chestnut pubs a base for your winter adventures we have two Winter Offers available throughout January, February and March 2023. Three nights for the price of two at our coastal pubs and a 20% discount on stays at our country pubs when booked at least 5 days in advance. If you are stopping by for a bite to eat take a look at out January Sale by clicking here.
Images courtesy of Wkyken Vinyards and Colchester's Mercury Theatre.