If you’re after something more than the gogglebox for evening entertainment this winter you have options you might not have even thought about.
Whether you’re deep in the countryside or having a winter retreat along the coast, Suffolk’s low levels of light pollution and rural nature make it a great place to get up to all sorts of adventurous things after dark.
Apparently, so spectacular are Suffolk’s night skies that they inspired what’s become one of the most widely-known nursery songs in the English language, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
Why not pass the torch, put on your wellies and embrace the night. So here’s some top suggestions for making the most of our long, winter nights.
Look for UFOs
Rendlesham Forest is the site of one of the UK’s most famous UFO sightings, when, at 3am on Boxing Day, 1980, US Airforce personnel stationed nearby reported lights descending into the forest. Thinking it was perhaps an aircraft gone down, they went to investigate but what they found beggars belief: a ‘strange glowing object.. metallic in appearance and triangular in shape..’ which illuminated the entire forest with white light.
The hovering object then flew off and disappeared but when they went to investigate at daylight, impressions were found in the earth. Later that night and again the following evening were further sightings of strange lights. Today, you can take the ‘UFO trail’ in the forest and explore, in the daytime or, if you’re brave, after dark.
Take a ghost walk
There’s no doubt about it: Suffolk has more than its fair share of spooky stories. From the ‘ghost bells’ that can be heard off the coast of Dunwich, the enduring tale (tail?) of the Black Shuck dog or the ghost girl at Kentwell Hall, near Long Melford, there’s plenty to set the spine tingling.
Go stargazing at Dunwich Heath
Stargazing is one of the National Trust’s Top 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 and where better than the National Trust nature reserve at Dunwich Heath? According to the Dark Sky Discovery website, Saxmundham, adjacent to the site, is the best place in the whole of Suffolk for stargazing whilst the heath itself offers visitors top views along Suffolk’s Heritage coast, allowing for optimum star sightings.
Whilst the site is closed after hours, you are welcome to star-gaze from the car park or, if you prefer, head to the nearby beaches and watch until your neck aches.
Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star
Visit Lavenham by day and see why it’s regarded as one of England’s best preserved Medieval villages. It’s lovely just to wander through the cobbled streets, visiting the historic Guild Hall, and maybe taking in some of the award-winning restaurants like the Swan and The Great House.
Visit after dark and you’ll see the same skies that inspired poet Jane Taylor to write what’s become the best known nursery rhyme in the world, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
Go back in time at the Electric Picture Palace, Southwold
Visit Southwold’s tiny cinema, the Electric Picture Palace and you’d be forgiven in thinking you’d gone back to the 1950s. A wurlitzer organ, rising from the stage, plays during the intermission, there’s a doorman and the adults can even have a sneaky sherry at half time.
All screenings end on a high with the National Anthem. Not technically an ‘after dark’ activity, but once the lights go down, you’re said to be guaranteed an experience not to be forgotten. Check the box office for screen times, the cinema is tiny so tickets sell out fast. Tours of the cinema are also available.
Thanks to Suffolk Secrets for these ideas. You can browse its properties and new 2015 brochure at http://brochures.originalcottages.co.uk/SS/brochure/flash.html. Alternatively, you can contact Suffolk Secrets on 01502 722717 or visit http://www.suffolk-secrets.co.uk.