Orford, Suffolk- developing enterprise in the rural idyll?

Orford is a small village nestled on flatlands in the armpit of Orford Ness, a spit of land build up by the deposits of the eroding Norfolk and North Suffolk coast. Orford Ness is now a National Trust managed nature reserve famous for its bird life and infamous for the wartime role as an MOD testing site.  Daniel Defoe, in his Tour Through the Eastern Counties of 1724 describe the place as “Orford was once a good town, but is decayed, and as it stands more on the land side of the river, the sea daily throws up more land to it and falls of itself from it, as if resolved to disown the place and that it should be a sea port no longer.”

I am please to report that in  2011 Orford is actually a hive of local enterprise, there are a growing number of new or re-animated  local businesses and of course, the more established businesses are mostly still in the village and appear to be thriving.

The village is only a few streets with the more modern building on the road in from  Woodbridge and Snape and the older properties around the market square and along the roads to the harbour.  The community is a mixture of locals (many generations ); retirees, more recent residents and . What is remarkable about the village is the level of local enterprise. The local estate agent is a good example, run from the antique shop by the locals themselves see  for more info. The Orford area has a history of escapees from city life who set up local businesses.In the 1940’s  Richard Pinney moved from London to a cottage in nearly Butley and developed local oyster beds, a smokery and in the 1960’s the Butley Oysterage  Restaurant .

A wonderful fish restaurant and shop in market hill . The shop has now relocated to the harbour but a rival smokery,  Richardson’s Smoke House is located right behind the restaurant building and sells fish, meat and cheese all smoked in a couple of outbuildings next to the shop.

Twenty years ago Steve Richardson reopened his grandfathers smoke house and has expanded slowly over the years. He has recently be joined by his son.  I can recommend the smoked Stilton and Cheddar as well as the eels.  Just down the road towards the Castle )

there is Ruth Watson’s some what intimidating Crown and Castle Hotel .

The notices are somewhat off putting but the food is great.

More enterprise is to be seen on the other side of the Market Hill where there is a new bakery. Pump Street Bakery has recently opened. This is a proper bakery with delicious hand-made bread and pastries  and worth a visit on its own. The bakery has a small cafe and serves excellent coffee to go with the wonderful products. The shop is a little bit hidden in this pink building.

Further up Pump Street is  a great village shop Orford Supply Stores which next to and runs a newly refurbished cafe and restaurant. At the rear of the restaurant is the Orford Butchers Shop- what could be an easier way to get local meat? Opposite the butchers is Orford Crafts – a place I have to drag my wife past as she loves the baskets they sell.  The Kings Head is next door to the craft shop, is had been redone recently and had an art exhibition when we were there before Easter 2011. I have not eaten there for some years and did not have time on this visit.

We stayed at the other pub in the village The Jolly Sailor . This used to be very unfriendly but is now under new management and is a delight. The rooms are very clean and the one we were in was large enough to put a single z-bed in for our son. The layout worked well even though it took a bit of getting used to the workings of the heating and plumbing.  I would recommend the evening meals and breakfast was menu free- you just choose ‘Full English or Local Kippers’ or could have cereal, toast, coffee etc. Everyone was very helpful and friendly, they welcome dogs and children and you can camp in the orchard.

The harbour is very busy with small craft from the local sailing club to some more examples of local enterprise. On dry land there is Pinneys shop  selling smoked fish and shellfish from their Butley smoke house.  Brinkley’s Shed  is right on the beach where the local sailing club keep their boats and is a good place to buy freshly caught fish.  Nearly next door is Riverside Tearoom where a good lunch and some great cakes can be eaten while watching the boats.

The Riverside Tearoom is linked to one of the two boats running trips on the river, the Regardless, a 25ft wooden clinker open launch boat of the traditional local style ( in the middle of the picture below). As we were visiting slightly out of season we had the boat to ourselves and they arrange a special trip for us which was really great and a highpoint for my 10 year old son.  The other somewhat bigger boat is the Lady Florence on which you can have a tour and lunch. Something we will do on another visit.

This village is well worth a visit and from an outsiders point of view is a great example of ruralism in action.

Well known faces who live in the village (at weekends and holidays) include Nick Robinson (BBC Political Editor) who has been interviewed about his love for Orford see the EADT .

I was invited to look at the spectacular allotments that are being lovingly tended in Orford, the biggest site is at the foot of the Castle. I will write about these on my blog ruralidyller.com

For a summary of some of the businesses mentioned http://www.orford.org.uk/orford-shopping.asp

About Rural idyller

As well as being a father, husband, publisher and food fanatic I also love East Anglia and the countryside. After five years with a large allotment in Hertfordshire I am now lucky enough to have 4 acres of very rural Suffolk countryside. I will blog on how I get this all under control and the produce as it develops. For more on the rural idyll go to www.ruralidyll.co.uk and my other blog which focuses on rural life of the past present and future www.ruralism.co.uk . Updates will take a bit of time- too much gardening to do!
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2 Responses to Orford, Suffolk- developing enterprise in the rural idyll?

  1. So pleased you had such a pleasant visit to Orford! We’re very lucky to be part of a healthy rural community that is built on appreciation and support for local endeavours and that welcomes visitors with open arms. I’m also very glad you liked the bread, pastries and the coffee – it’s something we take a lot of care to get right! Would be nice to meet you next time you’re in the village – do come in and say hello.

  2. Orford also hosts an annual music event which has a sort of jazz theme. We raise funds for local good causes and detail of last year’s event can be found here http://tinyurl.com/6efxvqu we will announce this year’s stellar line up here http://tinyurl.com/3mnzveb as soon as we have finalised the agreement with the performers
    We are planning to present five first class internationally known artists performing as a quintet.

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