'It was just nice to be out of pyjamas' – the long-awaited return of the microadventure

Simon Parker
·4-min read
simon parker in suffolk - Simon Parker
simon parker in suffolk - Simon Parker

Rule 1.A of The Travel Writer’s Handbook: never start a story from your own front door.

But I’m afraid I had little option.

Under matte blue skies, flecked with the black squiggles of distant seagulls, my girlfriend, Alana, and I, hid the key under the plant pot and jumped on our bikes for the first time this spring. In trainers, shorts, Gore-Tex and gloves, it was just nice to be out of pyjamas.

dunwich beach - Getty
dunwich beach - Getty

From Leiston we headed north, under the tall beech trees at Minsmere Nature Reserve, then out to the pebbled beach at Dunwich. An icy breeze gusted in from the North Sea, yet a bobble-hatted family flinched their way through ice creams. “This is lovely,” I heard the teeth-chattering father say to his near-hypothermic offspring. “Where would you rather be?”

Heading north, we passed gaggles of grey-haired Nordic walkers and pelotons of Lycra-hugging MAMILs. Zooming along on feather-light bikes, their dozen knees nodded up and down, like the pistons of a steam engine. I, meanwhile, squirmed from the perineum up. “These new padded shorts are nowhere near padded enough,” I grumbled. “And I’m pretty sure my saddle has got harder.”

We were thankful to reach The Swan at Southwold. If only to give my backside a rest and for Alana to have a brief respite from my moaning. Out of the wind, the pub garden basked in warm sunshine. Ice cubes clinked in glasses of rose. The scent of freshly baked sourdough wafted across a lush emerald lawn.

simon parker
simon parker

In order to comply with the Government’s guidelines, The Swan has decided to use its 12 Garden Rooms as individual dining pods, rather than renting them out to overnight guests. Each one can sit up to six people and has access to its own toilet.

“We are fully-booked, every day for the next five weeks,” said The Swan’s General Manager, Liliane Aubourg, as we tucked into a lunch of battered monkfish and chips. “Our industry has taken a beating this past year, but we are back, stronger than ever.”

This dogged enthusiasm was shared by Head Chef, Rory Whelan, who darted from one hot plate to the next. “It’s fantastic to be back cooking again. It’s great to hear a buzz of excitement and cheer in the outdoor areas. Roll on May 17 when we can also bring it indoors.”

rory whelan - Sarah Groves
rory whelan - Sarah Groves

With blood rushing from our legs to our stomachs, it was hard to drag ourselves up and away. Nevertheless, we spent the rest of the afternoon cycling into a fierce headwind, all the way to the Swattesfield Campsite in the small village of Thornham Magna.

As a golden sunset washed across the site’s seven acres, we threw logs into a firepit and made light work of a bottle of red wine. A hamper of crumpets, cheeses and vegetables had been delivered by the local deli, Roscoe’s, and with ribeye steaks sizzling over hot coals, the memories of our dark lockdown winter fizzled away into the bright starry night.

“We’ve already got bookings for the next three years,” said the campsite’s owner, Jess Eves, as she prepared to welcome more guests this weekend. “Last year we didn’t know what was happening but this year we’ve upgraded lots of our facilities and can’t wait to start welcoming guests.”

yurt at campsite - Simon Parker
yurt at campsite - Simon Parker

For the next five weeks, Jess said she will only be able rent out two huts, due to the Government’s guidelines on shared toilets. But after that, she’s expecting a bumper season, in which she can – hopefully – make up for a rotten 2020.

It felt surreal to be out of the house for the first time in months. But even weirder to be bedding down in a “Pixie Hut” I had to stoop to enter. With its double bed and a log burner, we fell asleep feeling like hobbits on holiday.

The next morning, we set off for home, well-rested but buzzed by the 80 miles we’d spent in the saddle. Even on a micro scale, travel is good for the soul. In a day and a half, we laughed more than we had done in weeks, and exchanged smiles with people who were just as glad to be out as we were.

We rolled back into Leiston feeling optimistic for the summer ahead of us, leaving me with just enough time to break Rule 1.B of The Travel Writer’s Handbook: never end a story from your own front door. But I’m afraid I had little option.