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24 September 2014

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Rachel's Weekend Visits

You are in: Suffolk > BBC Radio Suffolk > Rachel's Weekend Visits > Newbourne

Newbourne village sign



Newbourne has an intriguing history that is hinted at by the view as you take a drive through the village.

There are unusually large gardens with the small bungalows that line the road, the high number of roadside stalls of garden produce and the rows of greenhouses, many now derelict.

Stained glass at St. Mary's Church, Newbourne

Although the church of St Mary’s dates back to the 14th century, the village, that lies in the triangle of Ipswich, Woodbridge and Felixstowe, was expanded by newcomers arriving via the Land Settlement Association.

A website charting the history of the Trades Union Congress (TUC),, offers this description of the Land Settlement Association:

'The Land Settlement Association was formed in 1934 to provide employment on the land for unemployed industrial workers from depressed areas. Posters and pamphlets were distributed through employment exchanges inviting men to apply. they were vetted for suitability to the rural life and given a medical examination. The men received agricultural training and each family was given 5 acres to cultivate plus livestock to rear. The small holdings were run as a co-operative, but many communities failed when men complained of the long hours, low pay and isolation of rural life. Recruitment to the scheme ceased at the outbreak of World World War II. The settlements were dissolved and privatised in 1983'.

Some of today’s residents were those who came to Newbourne to follow their dream of a rural lifestyle, selling their produce to the village co-operative. In the 1970’s (the era of The Good Life programme on television), they must have had high hopes for the future. However, time and again on my visit I was told of the problems that arose from the growth of powerful supermarket chains and their demands on growers.

Today, as well as those roadside stalls, there is a new farm shop in Newbourne. It was opened this summer by Penny Green who, in her early twenties, decided to realise a long held dream to sell her parents produce, and other Suffolk food, directly to the public.

Penny Green

Penny Green outside the farm shop

"I've been living in Newbourne all my life and have been helping mum and dad with their market gardening business, growing tomatoes and lettuces," Penny said. "We all enjoy the growing and we thought  we could do a family thing together.

"I was growing bits when I was at school, coming home and cutting my lettuces and tomatoes to top up the stall. So this is something I have wanted to do for the last ten or fifteen years.”

One of the very few growers from the days of the Land Settlement Association who is still producing food on a large commercial scale is Jen and Larry Risdale, who sell the salads grown in their two nurseries to supermarket chains via a co-operative in Ardleigh, another ex- LSA estate.

Jen and Larry Risdale

Jen and Larry Risdale

"We were city kids who lived in Bristol and we desperately wanted to be country kids," said Jen. My husband worked in tree surgery and so that qualified him to rent one of the nurseries here that belonged to the Land Settlement Association. It didn’t turn out quite like we thought because we imagined ducks, geese and goats and growing cabbages and things."

As well as being a Suffolk foster mother, Jen also set up a charity that runs a hospice in Tamilnadu in India. She was inspired to do something after doing voluntary work in Bagladesh and India with the charity, Families For Children.

"During my time there I realised that it was the old people who were so desperately needy once they weren’t able to work anymore. If they didn’t have family who could or would look after them, they were literally on the streets," said Jen.

A couple of years ago she decided the time was right to set up a fundraising project and eighteen months ago the first Jacobs Hospice Homes opened. 

Michael Frost is a third generation Newbourne farmer and has lived in the village all his life. He is a descendant of the "Newbourne Giant", a seven foot ancestor buried in St Mary’s churchyard.

Michael’s wife, Pat, is secretary of the Village Hall and told me about events at the village hall, the new village sign and of the enormous bonfire that will be lit at the annual fireworks party in November.

The spiritual side of life in Newbourne is well catered for too. There is a thriving Baptist church, and the parish church of St Mary’s is supported by worshippers and non-worshippers alike. The church is small  but much loved and well cared for.

The church warden, Judy Riggs, showed me the wall hanging on loan from the village sewing club and the stained glass window with it’s depiction of the swirling winds of the 1987 storms that caused so much damage when the east wall, with it’s ancient glass, was destroyed.

The Fox Inn at Newbourne

The Fox Inn at Newbourne

Judy told me more about how the village rallied around and about the other fundraising that was needed to keep the church going.

"We have an awful lot of what John (John Waller, the Rector) calls The Buttresses.  They support the church from the outside and they are brilliant.”

For those wanting a philosophical way to de-stress, express their feelings and find inner peace, Shamanka Angel-Heart Moore, has returned to her home village of Newbourne, from Australia, to run courses in meditation.

For a drink or a meal head for The Fox, the local inn, but if you feel the need to communicate with nature, or want to stroll by a clear stream beneath shady oaks, where better than to join the birdwatchers, walkers and naturalists visiting the 40 acre  Newbourne Springs Reserve. The reserve is designated a  wildlife SSSI because of the sheer variety of habitats and associated wildlife.

I told Mick Wright, Site Manager for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, that some of the locals, remembering playing in the woods when children, felt it was rather "over-managed" nowadays.

"I know exactly where they are coming from. We like to see the place "untidy." If you look to your left we have cut and raked, but if we cut and left we wouldn’t get that richness coming up".

What drew my attention to Newbourne originally was the sheer number of roadside stalls. Many of the glass houses may be empty and the small holdings used as gardens or paddocks for pet ponies, but Newbourne has a fascinating history. It seems to me, the spirit of community lives on, even if the dream of living a version of a television programme is no more.

last updated: 11/06/2008 at 12:08
created: 26/10/2007

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