Five years ago, David Woodbine and Bruce Badrock decided to relocate from their home in Peckham, venturing out of London to start something entirely new. A weekend spent in Lavenham with a rainy day on Aldeburgh's quintessential pebbled beach opened their eyes to the beauty of the Suffolk Coast, with its retained sense of identity and unspoiled landscapes.
They began a lengthy search for the perfect plot on which to build a rural, yet contemporary guest house, that would reflect their shared love of modern design and informal hosting. Eventually they came across a 19th century barn just outside of Aldeburgh. Overlooking unspoiled woodland - albeit partly obscured by towering conifers planted by previous owners in the '70s - they immediately recognised the potential of the sheltered, tranquil spot.
David and Bruce selected their architect, Greg Blee of Blee Halligan, over a pint whilst still in Peckham. They asked him to help bring the barn into the present day and create a guest wing that was simple yet exciting, and could be delivered in sustainable and lo-fi materials sourced as locally as possible.
With its zig-zagging cedar shingle roof and skylights opening up onto a backdrop of oak, ash and poplar trees, Five Acre Barn has five understated and simply furnished guest rooms in a simple palette of whites, birch ply and concrete. A gallery with the same soaring, geometric roof connects the rooms to the restored barn. Both the rooms and the barn are furnished with David and Bruce's eclectic collection of accumulated objects, with one-off artisanal pieces from local makers and the odd charity shop find.
David tends to the ever-growing garden that wraps around the barn - a patchwork style of wild prairie, meditative Japanese-inspired and conventional cottage planting. Bruce, meanwhile, is head chef, offering a long list of tasty choices for breakfast, keeping the mood light, relaxed and always sociable. Throughout the day guests can indulge in some wildlife spotting from their room decks or find themselves lured into the barn, with the promise of tea and cake. As the evenings roll in the sound of tawny and barn owls leave you in no doubt that you are deep in the countryside.
David and Bruce share with us some of their favourite walking routes to explore through the nearby landscape.
The small village of Orford is just 20-minutes away from Five Acre Barn, and it has it all. We love taking our dogs Ruby and Lola on a short circuit from the pretty village centre, past the imposing 12th Century castle keep, out through the open fields to the River Ore. This is only a short, muddy stretch from the mysterious Orford Ness, with all of its war time secrets, walking up past rose-covered cottages, the partially ruined St Bartholomew's Parish Church and back around to the square. Reward yourself with a luscious chocolate bar or Eccles cake from the Suffolk institution that is the Pump Street Bakery. Want a Sunday paper, just take one and leave your money in an honesty box.
Step out of the garden, cross the River Hundred and you are instantly in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Head past Aldringham Church, set apart from the village since the days of the plague and out through fields full of grazing Red Poll cattle. You can track round a reed-filled fen that in springtime echoes with the booming of Bitterns. Eventually you will catch sight of the House in the Clouds peeking above the treeline, heralding the eccentric 1920's resort of Thorpeness. Have a pint at The Dolphin and admire the mock Tudor whimsy that surrounds you. If you still want to wander you can head south along the shingle beach, past Maggie Hambling's beautiful Scallop sculpture, towards Aldeburgh in the distance.
Just past Aldeburgh's golf course is the Sailor's Path a gentle six-mile leg stretcher to Snape. According to legend, the boats of the sailors got stuck in the Snape mud at low tide, using this route to head back to their Aldeburgh homes. The path passes through reed beds and birch woods, tracks the edge of a grand estate and Snape Common, and eventually onto the muddy, meandering River Alde. These days the sailors have left Snape Maltings and have been replaced by classical music enthusiasts, being the home of the Aldeburgh Festival, which celebrates the work of Benjamin Britten. Try and take a peek into the concert hall with its glorious wooden roof, and then settle down at the bar with a G&T, and take in the glorious reed beds below you.
Images courtesy of David Woodbine and Bruce Badrock.
For Week 5 of our Beneath the Tree competition, you can win a curated Christmas Parcel including a stay for two nights at Five Acre Barn, set back from the Suffolk Coast. Each parcel has been inspired by the rituals of Christmas - from twilight evenings and moments of sharing, to slow Christmas mornings and walks in nature.
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