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Suffolk strongwoman Andrea Thompson to take on world record

Andrea Thompson is training for a world record log lift Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Andrea Thompson is training for a world record log lift Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Andrea Thompson has held for title of Britain’s Strongest Woman four times and battled to win the world title in 2018 – now during lockdown she’s going to attempt to break a world record.

Andrea Thompson is training for a world record log lift Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNAndrea Thompson is training for a world record log lift Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The mother-of-two lives in Melton and was named as Suffolk Sports Personality of the year in November in recognition of her incredible achievements in a sport she only started five years ago.

With all sporting events for the summer cancelled, World’s Ultimate Strongman are hosting a series of record breaking attempts on their Feats of Strength series, streamed live online, and Andrea is taking on the formidable log lift next weekend.

She’s juggling home schooling her daughters, aged eight and 11, with working from home as a lecturer for Suffolk New College and training for the event.

“Because of the way the world happened, all of our competitions were cancelled and the organisers wanted to keep the sport alive,” the 37-year-old explained. “They wanted to keep it exciting.”

Andrea Thompson is training for a world record log lift Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNAndrea Thompson is training for a world record log lift Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

In recent training she has hit an astonishing 125kg log lift and the current world record is only 4k heavier, meaning there should be plenty in the tank to snag it on the big day.

Though gyms across the country have shut down, Andrea has been lucky to be able to train at her friend’s garage gym which has all the right equipment, because HIIT sessions in the garden don’t quite cut it in strongwoman.

“It will all depend on how I feel but I am confident I can break the record on the day,” she reassured. “There are a lot of factors to consider like my sleep the night before, what if I get road rage on the way to the venue? Physically the strength is there though.”

The national champion will be travelling down to Surrey for the event on Saturday July 4 which will consist of a small team of women – she likes to have an all female team wherever she competes – a livestream camera and the judges.

Andrea Thompson is training for a world record log lift Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNAndrea Thompson is training for a world record log lift Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The lift involves picking up an iron log from the floor, flipping it up to the shoulders and then pressing it overhead until the elbows are locked.

Andrea admits the prospect of lifting a world record without the atmosphere of a large sporting event will be difficult and said: “It is hard because normally when we attempt these big lifts there is a crowd, lights and music and you feed off that hype and energy.

“It will be hard to do alone in a room with just a few people but I know everyone will be watching online.”

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Being a large woman with hard earned muscle, the mum has faced prejudice over the years and says it has been frustrating having both men and women make ignorant comments.

She said: “When I put on weight for a competition I do get comments and it is always older people, especially older men.

“They say ‘oh your arms look really big’ or they like to criticise my husband which really annoys me – they say ‘oh I bet you can’t bench press me’ or ‘I bet your husband isn’t as strong as you’.

“It is just an inferiority complex and I try not to take it personally. Some guys just don’t understand strong women.”

Though strongwoman is growing as a sport, there are still common misunderstandings about the supposed limits of female strength or the idea that women shouldn’t be seen as muscular.

Andrea said she still sees women who are intimidated to pick up a dumbbell or barbell at the gym.

“They think that they will look like the Michelin man if they do,” she laughed. “We push ourselves and our bodies more and more.

“I deadlifted 282kg for a new world record recently which is just unheard of.

“Women are coming out of the stereotype and embracing their strength. Who doesn’t want to pull a truck?”

Strongman involves numerous different exercises, including pulling trucks and planes, lifting enormously heavy atlas stones, squatting and deadlifting weights and even tossing iron kegs over a bar 14ft high.

To be competitive in the sport, bodyweight is necessary to keep up with the staggeringly heavy events and punishing training schedule – but times have changed and Andrea added: “I’ve always been a big girl but my shape has changed doing strongwoman.

“It used to be if you competed as a heavyweight athlete you needed to just be fat, but now I have hired a nutritionist to work with.

“I have been there with all body shapes, so I would never body shame anyone.”

The world record log lift attempt will be streamed live on the CoreSports website.


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Transam Trucking left in limbo over live music shutdown

Transam Trucking has been left in limbo due to the coronavirus live music shutdown. Company director Natasha Highcroft (inset). Picture: Rachel Edge

Transam Trucking has been left in limbo due to the coronavirus live music shutdown. Company director Natasha Highcroft (inset). Picture: Rachel Edge

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A company whose trucks have been synonymous with live music for over 40 years is facing more months of uncertainty after seeing cancellation of its entire summer workload and no sign of the return of mass events.

Transam Trucking had been due to transport tours by Westlife, Paul McCartney, Iron Maiden and JLS. Pictures: Live Nation/Rhodes Media/DownloadTransam Trucking had been due to transport tours by Westlife, Paul McCartney, Iron Maiden and JLS. Pictures: Live Nation/Rhodes Media/Download

Transam Trucking should have been transporting the live shows of everyone from Westlife to Guns ‘N’ Roses, Paul McCartney to Iron Maiden to gigs and festivals across Europe.

Instead its fleet of iconic black and gold trucks are parked up at its base on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, and the company has had to furlough more than 60 staff.

Directors Martin Palmer, Natasha Highcroft, and co-founders Sandie Flatt and Dave Flatt of Transam Trucking. Picture: Rachel EdgeDirectors Martin Palmer, Natasha Highcroft, and co-founders Sandie Flatt and Dave Flatt of Transam Trucking. Picture: Rachel Edge

MORE: Bob Marley to AC/DC to Taylor Swift – Transam Trucking marks 40 years on the road

Company director Natasha Highcroft said: “Almost overnight all our work went away. The summer is usually our busiest time of the year. We would have all of our trucks out, plus subcontractors, so for the summer to go is a massive loss to our entire year.

“We have had to take almost all our trucks off the road and untax them. We have also had to furlough 18 office staff and 51 of our drivers.”

Transam Trucking has a fleet of 150 trucks based at a state-of-the-art facility near Eye. Picture: Rachel EdgeTransam Trucking has a fleet of 150 trucks based at a state-of-the-art facility near Eye. Picture: Rachel Edge

The company, which formed in 1978 with one truck to transport Bob Marley for a live show in Ibiza, is based near Eye, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, where it has a state-of-the-art workshop for its fleet of 150 trucks and 160 trailers.

Over the years it has transported tours for a who’s who of music stars, everyone from the Rolling Stones to AC/DC, U2 to Taylor Swift.

Transam Trucking has transported tours for everyone from AC/DC to the Rolling Stones since forming in 1978. Picture: Rachel EdgeTransam Trucking has transported tours for everyone from AC/DC to the Rolling Stones since forming in 1978. Picture: Rachel Edge

With summer and autumn tours by artists ranging from JLS to Judas Priest, 21 Pilots and Westlife shows that included a date at Carrow Road in Norwich all cancelled or postponed, the company is left in limbo until live music can restart.

Ms Highcroft said: “We are looking towards 2021, that is all we can do. No-one knows when it might return to normal. It all depends on social distancing guidelines.

“There is no date to work towards for live music to reopen. We are seeing some sectors returning on July 4, but there is no date for when mass gatherings can take place.

“It is all very well saying you could do a show socially distanced with 500 people in a 2,000 capacity venue, but how does that make it financially viable?”

MORE: Latitude boss reveals plan for pubs and music venues to reopen at full capacity

The company has managed to switch to some alternative haulage work but its specialist trucks mean this cannot make up for an otherwise empty order book.

It fears the end of the government furlough scheme may come before the live music sector returns.

“All the help that came through the furlough scheme could be taken away but we are still not going to have any work by the looks of things,” added Ms Highcroft.


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Goldstar Transport: 12 job losses and strike action threatened

Goldstar Transport bosses deny they are closing a depot in Woolpit. Picture: PHIL JONES

Goldstar Transport bosses deny they are closing a depot in Woolpit. Picture: PHIL JONES

©Phil Jones

Union members are deciding whether to hold strike action at a major Suffolk haulage firm, as 12 jobs go due to restructuring.

Unite has accused Goldstar Transport of using coronavirus as “a smokescreen” to shut down its Woolpit depot, near Bury St Edmunds, after workers there applied for trade union recognition.

The union says that workers were told via email that the haulage operations from the Elmswell Road depot would be stopping.

However, Goldstar Transport has denied that the depot is being closed down, and said that the way the site is used in future will change.

MORE: Almost 100 jobs lost or at risk as cosmetics firm collapses

Matthew Ashworth, managing director at Goldstar Transport, said: “Due to the nature of business these days, with more work coming in big lumps, there’s a much greater requirement for container storage and lifting.

“So we’re looking to expand that area of the business at Woolpit and relocate the majority of the transport operation back to Felixstowe.”

Mark Jaina, Unite regional officer, said: “Unfortunately Goldstar Transport appears to be using Covid-19 as a smokescreen to halt operations from the Woolpit depot, and impose detrimental terms and conditions on our members.

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“The company’s offer that the majority of the drivers transfer to Felixstowe, a round trip of nearly 70 miles, on a less favourable contract is neither fair nor realistic.”

Mr Ashworth confirmed that 12 redundancies would have to be made among 107 staff currently working at the site, as the business seeks more flexibility from its driving force.

The rest of the staff will be transferred to different positions within the business. He said that he sympathises with those staff whose jobs will move from Woolpit to Felixstowe.

Mr Ashworth did confirm Unite’s allegation that there had been serious health and safety breaches at the site, including an incident where a load was suspended above a vehicle while the driver was still in the cab.

He said: “There is no doubt there is a photograph of that happening on one occasion. It is totally against our procedures, totally against the way we operate. The chap who was in the fork truck has been disciplined.

“It’s certainly not the norm and we’ve had a number of health and safety executives come and see us and they’ve had no issues with our procedures at all.”

Mr Jaina said: “We believe that the company can well afford to keep the Woolpit operation in place, as according to its own website, it says that: ‘In 2020, we have an annual turnover in excess of £110million.’

“We urge the company to rescind its plan to close down operations at Woolpit and sit down with Unite to negotiate in a constructive manner the other outstanding issues that are adversely affecting our members – otherwise, the management could be facing strike action later this summer and right up until Christmas.”

A ballot of the nearly 60 Unite members at the Woolpit depot will now be held between June 30 and July 14 to decide whether strike action should go ahead.


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Garden centre The Potting Shed opens at Jimmy's Farm

Keith Bodsworth, whose business The Potting Shed has gone from strength to strength after starting up during lockdown back in April Picture: The Potting Shed

Keith Bodsworth, whose business The Potting Shed has gone from strength to strength after starting up during lockdown back in April Picture: The Potting Shed

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After facing some Covid-19 setbacks, Keith Bodsworth has finally been able to open The Potting Shed to the public.

The entrance to The Potting Shed, ready to welcome and help customers rewild their garden Picture: The Potting ShedThe entrance to The Potting Shed, ready to welcome and help customers rewild their garden Picture: The Potting Shed

With long, sunny days gracing Suffolk over the past couple of months, many people have taken to tending to their gardens while in lockdown.

Back in April, Keith Bodsworth decided to get green, and opened The Potting Shed – a garden centre based at Jimmy’s Farm.

To start with, The Potting Shed operated on a delivery and collection-only basis, supplying the people of Suffolk with everything they need to get their gardens in tip-top shape for summer.

However, with lockdown restrictions slowly easing, Keith has finally been able to see his hard work come to fruition by opening his doors to the public – and business has been blooming.

Some of the shrubs on sale at The Potting Shed Picture: The Potting ShedSome of the shrubs on sale at The Potting Shed Picture: The Potting Shed

“What can I say? The response from social media and the newspaper was just unimaginable,” Keith told the East Anglian Daily Times.

“Following the publication of the last article, people’s response to our predicament has been amazing. After the first day, we received an email a minute from six in the morning until ten at night, with requests for plant lists as well as offers of encouragement and support.”

With an unprecedented response, Keith took to his computer in order to accommodate the sudden influx of orders.

“At first, this caused some sleepless nights – I’m not great at technology, and we were not set up for this level of response.”

A selection of potted topiary Picture: The Potting ShedA selection of potted topiary Picture: The Potting Shed

But Keith and his partner Gemma managed to get themselves organised, and eventually responded to every enquiry that flooded in. “By pulling a few all-nighters, and with my amazing other half helping me at every hurdle, tapping away at emails, we managed to send lists to everyone. Soon, orders began to come in, and it became apparent that we might just be saved,” he said.

With his first set of orders in and ready to go, Keith was fortunately able to source some plant trollies from a supplier who had to furlough his staff, so he could transport stock around safely.

“We emptied my transit van of all the tools and went off to deliver. However, we soon realised that the plant racks would not fit in the van.

“The first delivery was a bit of a disaster – it involved a lot of back and forth, some wrong turns and a poor route.”

Hanging baskets for sale near the till Picture: The Potting ShedHanging baskets for sale near the till Picture: The Potting Shed

The Potting Shed’s first endeavour consisted of 20 deliveries, spanning from 8am to 10pm.

“We were exhausted, disappointed and tired. It was another sleepless night with worry,” Keith said.

Stepping up to the plate once again however was his partner Gemma, who came to the rescue and lent The Potting Shed her car and horse trailer. “It was tall enough to hold the plant racks and had a big boot to house the compost and bird table orders.

“We went again the next week, and every day we tended to the garden centre in the early hours, and delivered stock all day. We found a route planning app on our phones, and we slowly but surely became more efficient in fulfilling people’s orders.”

Gorgeous flowers in bloom, ready to be taken to their new homes Picture: The Potting ShedGorgeous flowers in bloom, ready to be taken to their new homes Picture: The Potting Shed

With Keith’s system now down to a fine art, there was still the occasional bump in the road that comes with the territory of making deliveries.

“There were moments of frustration and chaos along the way, as well as some real highs and amazing people,” Keith said. “With a truck and trailer, we are quite long, and offering delivery across the whole of Essex and Suffolk, we have been to some beautiful places that I never knew existed.

“On one journey, the SatNav took us to a beautiful cottage in the middle of an old town, with tight turns and not a lot of parking. Abandoning the car, we quickly dropped our stock off, thanked our client and followed the SatNav down the most twisted of roads, weaving inbetween parked cars and obstacles. We moved slowly – only to be met by newly-installed bollards blocking the road.

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“With no way to turn around or unhitch, we began to reverse back up the road. With lots of ‘be careful’, and a near-divorce row later, we reached the top, and were met with a sea of applause from onlookers in lockdown who had their day brightened with our predicament,” Keith said.

Seizing an opportunity for potential new customers, Keith and Gemma exited their vehicle, took a bow, and a posted everyone along that road a leaflet for The Potting Shed. “We have been back down that road on multiple occasions since, and will not be making the same manoeuvre mistake again!”

Business aside, Keith has found that The Potting Shed is a great way to put a smile on people’s faces during lockdown – and has loved meeting every customer on his delivery routes.

“We’ve had it all,” he said. “From people’s support, kind words and messages about how the plants had raised their spirits, to a thank you for cheering up their elderly relatives they couldn’t see.

An assortment of vibrant green herbs Picture: The Potting ShedAn assortment of vibrant green herbs Picture: The Potting Shed

“A simple socially-distanced conversation to help someone’s sanity has truly made the experience somewhat magical.”

As the weeks went on, Keith and The Potting Shed were continually inundated with a steady stream of orders, thanks to the power of word of mouth.

“We were able to stay afloat, and were beginning to finally look forward again, invigorated by the hope that many of these people would come and see us when we were finally open,” Keith said.

As the Government announced that garden centres could open to the public as Wednesday 13 May, Keith and the team were taken by surprise. “We were caught out,” he said. “While trying to be a delivery boy, plant tender, grower and gardener on the side, Boris threw that curve ball.”

Inside The Potting Shed, showcasing an array of upcycled furniture, plants, flowers and garden decorations Picture: The Potting ShedInside The Potting Shed, showcasing an array of upcycled furniture, plants, flowers and garden decorations Picture: The Potting Shed

Rushing to get The Potting Shed ready for its grand public opening, Keith was astounded by his friends and family who came running to help.

“We had dismantled our displays to sell stock, and to be perfectly honest, were in a bit of a mess focusing on earning some money and staying afloat rather than the visual appearance of the centre,” he said.

“But again, this is where people have truly been amazing. Suppliers, stockists, family and colleagues all came to our aid in any way that they could – from many in lockdown helping with PR and ordering signs, to others who were writing labels for plants, and suppliers helping with stock.”

With everything ready and raring to go, The Potting Shed was finally able to open its doors on Saturday 23 May – and Keith couldn’t have been happier with the turn out.

“Lots of people we had visited during the weeks before had turned up – it was like a greeting of friends, and I am truly touched,” Keith said.

“My favourite customer quote has been ‘Harrods plants at Lidl prices’ – I love it. We are here, and we offer great plants at honest prices.”

The Potting Shed has free parking and is open every day from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

“We are observing all governmental guidelines, and have lots of open spaces for people to enjoy. With retail outlets now open as of Monday 15 June, Jimmy and his team are opening the outside takeaway restaurant and bar to help support the site in a safe way.”

With a real emphasis on shopping local and supporting Suffolk businesses, everything The Potting Shed sells is sourced from within 30 minutes of Keith’s front door.

“All of the furniture and bird houses are handmade by local craftsman.

“We have been surprised that the most popular selling items have been our hanging baskets and planters which have made up by the team – including Pimm’s buckets which have mint, strawberry and cucumber plants in them.”

Expressing his gratitude to everyone who’s been in touch and purchased from The Potting Shed over the past few months, Keith added: “I cannot thank the paper, the people, the plants, and my family enough.”

To find out more about The Potting Shed, visit www.thepottingshedjimmys.wordpress.com


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Which Suffolk campsites are reopening 2020?

Gypsy's Rest glamping caravans at Secret Meadows Picture: Secret Meadows

Gypsy’s Rest glamping caravans at Secret Meadows Picture: Secret Meadows

© chris rawlings 2014

With lockdown restrictions lifting just in time for summer, campsites across East Anglia are now reopening – with updated social distancing and hygiene measures in place.

Enjoy what the Suffolk countryside has to offer this summer with Secret Meadows Glamping in Hakeston, near Woodbridge Picture: Roz GordonEnjoy what the Suffolk countryside has to offer this summer with Secret Meadows Glamping in Hakeston, near Woodbridge Picture: Roz Gordon

With the overall pleasant weather that we’ve been experiencing so far this summer, it comes as no surprise that the sale of tents, barbecues, caravans and camping equipment has been on the rise across Suffolk recently.

People throughout the county have taken to their gardens to recreate their own staycations, soaking up the sun over the two glorious bank holidays and additional sunny weekends we’ve had during lockdown.

With Coronavirus restrictions slowly lifting over the coming weeks, campsites across Suffolk are looking to reopen, adjusting their practices accordingly, which will allow them to run safely in line with social distancing and hygiene measures.

From tent pitches that ensure you’re at one with nature, to glamping options with all the mod-cons, there’s an abundance of camping options to suit all families, needs and budgets.

Come stay in Pod Hollow for an experience like no other Picture: Phil Morley / West Stow PodsCome stay in Pod Hollow for an experience like no other Picture: Phil Morley / West Stow Pods

West Stow Pods, Bury St Edmunds

Located on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds is West Stow Pods, a family-run glamping site in the heart of Suffolk’s scenic countryside, offering fabulous nature trails, walks and cycle paths.

Providing a range of accommodation, owner Jan Lengyel said: “We are very much gearing up to re-opening on the weekend of 4 July, barring any announcements to the contrary from the Government. All of our accommodation is separate, so is ideal for social distancing and each has its own en-suite facilities, and is totally self-contained.”

Accommodation on offer includes four cosy MegaPods, two woodland lodges and the site’s star attraction, Pod Hollow, its very own Hobbit House which itself is completely separate from the rest of the site and enjoys its own private parking and access.

West Stow Pods' cosy and self-contained MegaPods Picture: Phil Morley / West Stow PodsWest Stow Pods’ cosy and self-contained MegaPods Picture: Phil Morley / West Stow Pods

Each unit at West Stow Pods is at least 80 feet away from each other, offering both privacy and the necessary social distancing measures.

Sleeping up to four people, the MegaPods are equipped with their own showering and toilet facilities – ideal for families or couples who wish to get away from it all. Additionally, they provide a private kitchenette with sink, fridge, microwave, toaster and kettle.

The campsite’s Woodland Lodges and Pod Hollow also feature private bathroom and kitchenette facilities, meaning those from different households have no need to come into close contact.

“Come and stay with us for a unique and tranquil glamping experience in one of Suffolk’s picturesque locations, which benefits from total self-isolation from your fellow glampers. We really do tick all the boxes during these unprecedented times,” Jan added. For further information, please visit www.weststowpods.co.uk

One of the Luxury Lodge Tents at Secret Meadows, Hakeston Picture: Craig GirlingOne of the Luxury Lodge Tents at Secret Meadows, Hakeston Picture: Craig Girling

Secret Meadows, Hakeston

Situated just outside of Woodbridge is Secret Meadows, a range of glamping accommodation that is based at White House Farm Nature Reserve. Camping options on offer include six luxury lodge tents, a two-storey luxury safari tent, a gypsy caravan, a shepherd’s hut and a converted horsebox truck.

“We will be re-opening on Saturday 4 July, based on the current Government advice. We’re introducing quite a few changes for this season to allow for the social distancing and cleaning requirements,” said director and manager Charlotte Daniel.

Some of the changes include an updated check-in policy, so guests can self-check-in, and the removal of ‘high-touch’ items such as information packs which will now be emailed to guests instead. “We’ll be available for guests to contact via telephone at any time during their stay, and we’ll maintain social distancing if we need to visit the guest’s accommodation for assistance,” Charlotte added.

Inside one of the Luxury Lodge Tents Picture: Craig GirlingInside one of the Luxury Lodge Tents Picture: Craig Girling

Hand sanitiser and disinfectant will be available for guests to use during their stay, and there will be a ‘one household at a time’ policy for guests who wish to access the onsite shop.

“We have signed up to the Clean and Safe Charter, which has been introduced by the top holiday agent for glamping sites, and we’re following all the government recommendations for cleaning. All of our accommodation units have private facilities including private loos and showers, and private kitchens, so guests don’t need to share any facilities with other groups,” said Charlotte.

With White House Farm Nature Reserve spanning 115 acres of meadows and woodlands, a trip to Secret Meadows allows you to enjoy both the sights and sounds of rural Suffolk. Guests are welcome to explore the nature trails, all while maintaining social distancing measures.

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Pictured here is one of the luxury lodge tents, which sleep up to six people. Each tent is nestled in its own wooded area, and comes fully-equipped with a private kitchen that features a wood-burning stove, private toilet and shower, and four-poster bed. To see Secret Meadows’ full range of accommodation options and to find out more, visit www.secretmeadows.co.uk/glamping

Birds & Bees, Rendham

Birds & Bees, near Saxmundham, is a campsite providing spacious, eco-friendly camping in the heart of Suffolk’s Alde Valley.

The family-friendly campsite, which features 15 tent pitches, is scattered across three rolling meadows, where guests will have a half an acre pitch.

Sunset over at Birds & Bees in Rendham Picture: Colin Thornton / Birds & BeesSunset over at Birds & Bees in Rendham Picture: Colin Thornton / Birds & Bees

With a tentative reopening date of Thursday 9 July, Birds & Bees has listed a number of measures on its website, in order to ensure that visitors comply with its social distancing and hygiene rules.

Its website states that social distancing must be observed between households with 2 metres at all times, and children are always to be accompanied by an adult when away from their designated pitch. For guests who wish to camp with friends or family from another household, Birds & Bees asks that separate pitches are booked.

Additionally, it is recommended that guests try to use the facilities as a group from each pitch in order to ease the flow of the facilities. This includes the kitchen, outside fridges and recycle point. Hand sanitiser dispensers will be conveniently located across the site, and communal touch points will be disinfected throughout the day – such as door handles, taps, toilets, showers, bins, power points and firewood buckets.

James and Emma Strachan of Birds & Bees said: “We’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of enquiries to stay with us this summer, and we remain optimistic that we’ll be able to welcome our camping lovelies from Thursday 9 July. Our aim is to accommodate the new normal while keeping it stress-free at Birds & Bees. Everyone has been very accepting and seem grateful for the efforts we’ve made so far. We really believe everyone will work together to help bring some welcome respite, and enjoy our little slice of Suffolk paradise.”

Inside one of the glamping tents at Lantern & Larks' Sweffling Hall campsite Picture: Lantern & LarksInside one of the glamping tents at Lantern & Larks’ Sweffling Hall campsite Picture: Lantern & Larks

Birds & Bees will also have no more than an 80% occupancy on site at one time. To see the campsite’s full Coronavirus provisions guide, and to find out more, visit www.birdsandbeescampsite.co.uk

Lantern & Larks, Sweffling Hall

Within easy reach of beauty spots such as Framlingham, Southwold and Aldeburgh is Sweffling Hall, a Lantern & Larks glamping campsite consisting of six tents.

The site’s tents can accommodate up to six guests in them – with three bedrooms sleeping two people each. They also include a large open-plan kitchen, dining room and lounge.

Waldegraves, located on Mersea Island, looks to reopen this July Picture: WaldegravesWaldegraves, located on Mersea Island, looks to reopen this July Picture: Waldegraves

With the campsite planning to reopen and welcome guests as of Friday 10 July, Emma Clark of Lantern & Larks said: “All of our tents have their own private showers and toilets, as well as their own kitchen – so no communal areas, and plenty of space to social distance from other guests. We are also following an enhanced cleaning policy which includes housekeepers wearing all the appropriate PPE, as well as disinfecting all surfaces.” For further information, visit www.lanternandlarks.co.uk

Waldegraves Holiday Park, Mersea

Located on Mersea Island is Waldegraves Holiday Park, an independent family holiday park owned by David Lord. The resort celebrated its 70th anniversary back in 2018, and like all other businesses up and down the country, was rocked by the enforced closure due to Coronavirus.

Park manager Krystal Crawford said: “David has never experienced anything like this. While it’s lovely to see our park blossoming along with all the wildlife, we miss seeing all our holiday homeowners and holiday makers. Our restaurant, bar and clubhouse with live entertainment are usually busy this time of year, and our outdoor swimming pool is a popular choice – especially when we have this lovely weather. We hold numerous charity events throughout the year, which have unfortunately been cancelled due to the current pandemic we all face.”

Enjoy a fun-filled family break at Waldegraves Holiday Park Picture: WaldegravesEnjoy a fun-filled family break at Waldegraves Holiday Park Picture: Waldegraves

Hoping to reopen at the beginning of July, the park is currently working on a range of measures to implement in order to make sure Waldegraves is as safe as possible for both customers and staff.

“Our trade association, British Holiday & Home Parks Association, is drawing up some detailed guidance for measures which parks should put in place – we’ll be paying close attention to these, ensuring everything is in place prior to opening our holiday park,” added Krystal. “We want to protect both visitors and our own staff from any risks.”

With pitches generously spaced out across the Waldegraves site, visitors can socially distance with ease. “Caravan holiday homes, both privately owned and rented, are entirely self-contained with their own bathrooms and kitchens,” said Krystal.

In order to ease the flow of visitors, the park is considering a staggered return, with those camping in caravans given priority over tent campers. “It’s likely that there will be a phased return to parks, so it might be that those guests requiring use of communal areas, like showers and laundries, might not be in the first phase. We feel holiday homeowners should be priority along with our static holiday home lets and our seasonal tourers, but we do hope to be welcoming touring caravans, motorhomes and tents before the end of summer.”

To stay up to date with Waldegraves Holiday Park, and for further information, please visit www.waldegraves.co.uk or ring 01206 382898.


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What Suffolk Show stewards will miss the most

The Stewards gather the judging boxes together for day one of the Suffolk Show 2011.; Mike Harris speeds off with the boxes.

The Stewards gather the judging boxes together for day one of the Suffolk Show 2011.; Mike Harris speeds off with the boxes.

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Suffolk Show’s bowler-hatted stewards won’t get to greet the event’s 80,000 to 90,000 visitors this year. So what will they miss most – and what will they be doing instead?

Steward Fenella Blyth with 2017 show director Bee Kemball. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSteward Fenella Blyth with 2017 show director Bee Kemball. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

At 5am on Suffolk Show days, Mike Harris, senior steward for the light horses section, would probably be out patrolling Trinity Park’s immaculate showground near Ipswich.

This year, he’ll probably lie in until 6.30am before exercising his horses with wife, Claire, who’s also a light horse steward.

On what would have been the eve of the show on Tuesday, May 26, he’s arranged a Zoom meet-up with his stewarding team. Normally, they’d be enjoying a formal pre-show dinner, but this year they’ll be toasting themselves via the internet for winning the Best Agricultural Show 2019 at the Showing Council Awards earlier this year.

“I’m asking them to wear the hat they’d have worn at the show – that’s a posh hat for the ladies and a bowler hat for the gents. It will be great to at least see them all and look forward to seeing them next year, in person,” he says.

Steward Mike Harris gathering the judging boxes together for day ond of the Suffolk Show 2011 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSteward Mike Harris gathering the judging boxes together for day ond of the Suffolk Show 2011 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Most of the stewards involved in the show say it’s the camaraderie, team spirit and the buzz of the show they’ll miss the most – as well as the spectacle.

Nick Watts, senior rings steward, will be busy on the farm this year, but, like Mike, will miss his show friends.

He’ll also miss everything from the “hilarious” pig racing in the countryside ring to the quietly serious sheep judging in the presidents ring, the drama and tension of the show jumping final jump-off, and the “generally chaotic” show finale that is the inter-hunt relay in the grand ring.

Meanwhile, on what have been this year’s show days, honorary medical officer Dr Richard West will be at the sharp end of the health crisis, as he starts to plan how to deal with the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

James Strachan at the Suffolk Show 2019 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJames Strachan at the Suffolk Show 2019 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The show’s senior vet Jake Waddilove will be carrying on with his day job too – helping to maintain animal food production.

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Also returning to his day job will be Duncan Haydon, senior catering and hospitality steward, who says he’ll miss “not wearing my bowler hat when making sense of any situation” – and a well-earned drink with friends at the end of an eventful day.

His deputy, Bella Jolly, will spend the days with her children, but will miss their delighted faces watching the grand parade. Senior sponsors steward Fenella Blyth will also be looking for ways to entertain her children without the show.

Senior cattle steward James Strachan will be taking care of the family farm’s numerous diversifications including its Birds and Bees campsite at Rendham, which he is hoping to open on July 9.

Senior heavy horses steward Mark Donsworth will be working at his Framlingham-based retail business, as will media and PR steward Eric Morton, who will spend the two days at Morvend, his vending machine farm diversification.

Showground maintenance steward John Taylor says he’s likely to be otherwise occupies over the two days watering show director Bruce Kerr’s potatoes, which are growing on his farm – as well as spending some quality time with his family.

Senior health and safety steward Nick Brown reckons he will probably be sitting in his office, wishing he was at the show, while showground maintenance steward Andrew Fairs will be busy working at his specialist seeds farm business, Fairking, Like showjumping senior steward Simon Stearn and senior sheep steward Tim Pratt, they will miss their show friends.

Commentary team member Oliver Holloway will revert to his day job too at Framlingham estate agents Clarke & Simpson, missing out on his 20th year as a steward. The coronavirus crisis has put into perspective the things we miss and enjoy, he says.

“For me, the Suffolk Show is certainly one of things,” he says.

“I will of course, miss the livestock, the incredible number of trade-stands, the fantastic displays, the general razzmatazz, but most of all, I will miss the great number of friends and clients that I would ordinarily see and spend time with and the great sense of comradeship that the show would ordinarily generate.”

Senior traffic steward Tom Barker will be downsizing to pedal tractors this year, marshalling children Isabella, four, and Henry, two, in the garden, while senior Farm Discovery Zone steward James Blyth hopes to be playing golf. Up near Halesworth, senior tradestands steward Sam Fairs says he’ll be praying for rain for his crops over the next week.

But Farming Live senior steward Brian Barker may have trouble breaking with his 15-year routine. “I will be getting up at the crack of dawn, get my best suit on, walk down stairs, get in my truck, get out my truck, by then a full fry up will be waiting for me (magically), leave my bowler hat on the breakfast table, head off to my first job of the day doing my daily checks to make sure all is set, realise my bowler hat is still on the breakfast table, so go back and retrieve that, meet a friend on the road so stop to chat, then check my watch, realise I’m meant to be somewhere else so head off and forget bowler hat again, come back for a buffet lunch, do my rounds, rescue a lost general public member from an area they shouldn’t be, mid-afternoon complain how hot it is in a three piece suit, walk into the workshop and kick a tractor tyre while holding a glass of cheap fizz, meet wife for some shopping (online), complain she has spent too much and that my feet hurt and so crack into the gin and tonics! Wake up on sofa and repeat for Thursday!”


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Soldier Harry Cole's letter returned to Suffolk family

Harry Cole in his uniform Picture: Andrew Young

Harry Cole in his uniform Picture: Andrew Young

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The family of a British soldier who was killed during the retreat to Dunkirk have finally received a letter he wrote just before his death nearly 80 years ago.

Clemmie Cole has been reunited with his brother's last letter Picture: Andrew YoungClemmie Cole has been reunited with his brother’s last letter Picture: Andrew Young

Private Harry Cole, 30, penned the letter to his mother Rosa on May 26, 1940, predicting with hopeless optimism that German troops would soon be “on the run” and “back in Germany in double quick time”.

He also reported the death of a friend and added poignantly: “Well mother, please don’t worry about me, I shall get through it OK.”

But he was shot dead by a sniper just three days later in Belgium while serving with the British Expeditionary Force in the 1st Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment.

His letter was lost as British troops were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk in the face of the lightning Blitzkrieg advance by German forces early in World War Two.

Harry Cole's mother Rosa sobbed as she received a telegram informign her he had been killed on the front line Picture: Andrew YoungHarry Cole’s mother Rosa sobbed as she received a telegram informign her he had been killed on the front line Picture: Andrew Young

It has now finally been delivered to his old family home in Hasketon, near Woodbridge, Suffolk, after being kept in an attic by a German Army officer and stored in a council archive for eight decades.

Private Cole’s younger brothers Clemmie, 87, who still lives in the family’s old council house in the village and Derek, 89, who lives nearby were shocked to finally read his last written words.

The letter was among 50 written on the front line by soldiers from the 1st Battalion, which were sent to a local headquarters for checking by censors to ensure they contained no military secrets.

They were found in an abandoned truck by a German Army officer who kept them in his attic until 1968 when he was having a clear out.

A war memorial honouring Harry Cole Picture: Andrew YoungA war memorial honouring Harry Cole Picture: Andrew Young

He took them to the British embassy in Bonn and they were forwarded to the Suffolk Regiment Association in Bury St Edmunds, where staff set about trying to trace the recipients in 1969.

Nine were successfully forwarded to the families who were supposed to receive them, but the other 41 remained languishing in archives which were taken over by Suffolk County Council.

The surviving letters including the one written in pencil by Pte Cole were uncovered again this year by council researchers planning to exhibit them as part of a local history project.

Incredibly the council’s assistant archivist Heidi Hughes, who lives in Hasketon, saw that Pte Cole’s letter was addressed to a house in her home village.

Harry Cole's letter home from the warzone Picture: Andrew YoungHarry Cole’s letter home from the warzone Picture: Andrew Young

She realised that she knew fellow villager Clemmie Cole and made inquiries to find out if he was related to Harry. He confirmed that the soldier was his older brother who had been killed in the war.

Retired prison service carpenter Clemmie, who lives with his wife Joy, recalled how he came home from the village school as a boy in 1940 to find his mother weeping over a telegram, confirming that his big brother was missing in action.

He said: “It was such a shock to receive Harry’s letter after so long. I was quite moved to read his words, knowing that he was killed just a couple of days after he wrote them.

“My mother had seven sons and no girls. Harry was the oldest and he was her favourite. She thought the world of him and she always looked forward to his letters.

Harry Cole in his uniform Picture: Andrew YoungHarry Cole in his uniform Picture: Andrew Young

“He had gone into service in a big house after he left school, but ended up joining the Army. He was posted to India before the war and was in uniform for seven years.

“I can remember him coming back on leave and bringing his rifle with him. I picked it up when he put it on his bed and thought how heavy it was.

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“My mother used to say that he hated the Army. He was apparently a very quiet chap and it was not the life for him, but he was unable to leave.

Clemmie Cole has been handed a letter written by his brother Harry before he was killed in action in the Second World War Picture: Andrew YoungClemmie Cole has been handed a letter written by his brother Harry before he was killed in action in the Second World War Picture: Andrew Young

“When he was away fighting, my mother said she suddenly saw his face appear at her bedroom window one night. She told my father to look, but it had gone.

“She always thought that it was his spirit visiting the house on the day he was killed.

“Another soldier who was with Harry when he was shot, later told my parents what had happened to him.”

Mr Cole said he had another brother Wilfred who served in the Suffolk Regiment and spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore.

A third brother Alfred served in the Royal Navy on Russian convoys before being posted to Australia in 1945 where he deserted and gave himself a new identity only writing to his family a decade later to say that he was alive and married with two sons.

A fourth brother Stan also served in the Royal Navy and went to live in London after the war, but never contacted his family again.

Rosa Cole died aged 69 in 1958 while her husband Harry, a former railway signalman who fought in World War One, died in 1989 aged 98.

Extracts from Pte Cole’s letter and six others sent by troops and lost at the same time are in an online exhibition, called With Love From Dunkirk, put on by Suffolk Archives and Suffolk Artlink in a project funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Hannah Salisbury, a community and learning officer for Suffolk Archives, said: “When we looked at these 41 letters, we thought we might be able to find some great nieces or nephews of the soldiers who wrote them. It was incredible to find a brother.”

Councillor Paul West, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for heritage, said: “This is an astonishing story and really demonstrates the importance and personal nature of our archives.

“These letters are so very poignant; one can only imagine the hardship and anguish these soldiers and their families must have endured. It is heart-warming to think that we may now be able to help some of their families to fill in the gaps and see letters that up to now they didn’t know existed.”

The online exhibition can be found here.

Private Cole’s letter reads:

“My Dear Mother, At last I can manage to write you a few lines after all the hustle and bustle of this life. I was very pleased to get your letter and to hear you are all OK, got it yesterday, and you sent it on the 12 so you can tell it has taken some time to get here, the reason is we are not in one place long at a time, I have just received papers which I was glad to get as we don’t get much news nowadays, funny isn’t it being at war and don’t know what’s happening.

“Well mother, please don’t worry about me, I shall get through it OK

“So Stan thinks of joining up does he, I shouldn’t trouble if were him, I should wait until I got called up, anyway tell him it’s join anything but the infantry.

“What did you think of the Jerries getting through to France (?) I have an idea that they will soon be on the run and when that happens, nothing will stop them getting back to Germany in double quick time. Hitler’s number is booked alright, and the day they catch him they ought to roast him alive.

“I am sorry to say that Bob Bishop has been killed.

“Well mother, dad and boys, I guess I must close once again, hoping you all keep well, roll on when this do is over so we can get back to rest, peace and quietness once again.

“Don’t worry if you have to wait a long while for a letter or card sometimes mother, as we can’t always write for days at a time, also there is delay getting it away, so until next time, Cheerio, Love to all, Harry xxxxxx.”


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