Off the beaten track -
Letheringham’s historic water mill site on the Deben near Wickham Market is Suffolk’s multi-award-winning place to relax and recharge for people and their pooches. Words: Lindsay Want
Soaking up the Suffolk sunshine in the deliciously relaxing company of unrushed coffee and croissants, Mike and Cynthia simply couldn’t feel more comfortable down at the mill by the lazy loops of the Deben. “Our home in Chelmsford is just an hour’s drive,” starts Cynthia. “But it seems like a million miles away,” nishes Mike. Letheringham Mill may have only been opening its gates to self-catering guests for a couple of years, but this lost-in-time, lost-in-the-countryside site has already somehow acquired itself quite a following. This delighted couple are enjoying their ninth stay.
There’s a pause – and paws in fact, as rambling resident Labradoodle, amber, puts her nose above the table parapet to see if there’s a green light to gather any crumbs. She’s disappointed, but this week’s lady of the house clearly is not. “It’s so beautiful here, in all the seasons,” she enthuses.
But as pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming as all this may feel, Letheringham Mill couldn’t be more real in many ways. What is truly from the land of make-believe, is how a forgotten almost feudal backwater of fast-deteriorating, yet precious Suffolk history could be transformed within a matter of months into one of england’s of cially most welcoming and quite outstanding places to stay. Recently presented with the Visitengland ROSe (Recognition Of Service excellence), you’d expect such an award to be a sign of true love and its labours.
“Richard wanted to do a project when he retired,” explains Jacqui Gooding. With Devon and Cornwall deemed too wet, and Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset dismissed as too far from the all-important London theatre- x, attention turned to Suffolk, familiar territory, as it happened for Richard, a Saxmundham lad made more than good, who found himself heading up London Luton and London City airports in advance of his retirement. “Suffolk is very special,” he shares thoughtfully. ”That moment on the a12 when you cross the Stour, it’s like going through a shutter. The whole pace of life changes.“
With mention of a mill on the site in the Domesday Book, the bones of poor murdered 17th century miller John Bullard remembered on a plaque planted in the beautiful formal borders, with weird-looking, medicinal toothwort still feeding off the cricket bat willows down in the misty grove, and a massive moated farmstead and medieval barns bordering as backdrop, there’s every evidence that these are ancient lands reaching out with a real sense of belonging. But when Jacqui and Richard took up the time-honoured gauntlet in 2013, the mill’s collection of buildings were more than just dog-eared. Converting, designing and furnishing each property individually to demanding standards and always with a keen and clever eye for detail, it wasn’t just her human guests that Jacqui wanted welcome with real home comforts. “Most places which label themselves
Letheringham Mill offers high quality, truly dog-friendly accommodation in a beautiful setting