The Wool Towns Association supports the Stour Valley Project.

The Dedham Vale Area was granted status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1970.

The AONB identified, maintains and promotes the Stour Valley Path, that runs upriver all the way to Newmarket, snaking lazily through the Wool Towns area. The AONB is now promoting The Stour Valley Project which is driving river restoration and seeks to develop partnerships across the region to help meet project objectives.

One of the benefits of this project activity will be further identification of the many visitor benefits on offer across the wider AONB area. Wool Towns straddle the River Stour Path and both the River, and its local communities are a major attraction to Tourists.

As the AONB seeks funding to invest further in this lovely area, the Wool Towns Association is pleased to partner with the AONB team and offer support in their work with funding bodies.

The perfect place to get out and about this spring

The days are getting longer, spring flowers are bobbing in the breeze and you’re wearing one less scarf when you go out.

Spring is well and truly here and our Wool Towns offer the perfect place to get out and about, explore, enjoy local food and drink, learn about the past and do a spot of shopping.

With all of them surrounded by beautiful Suffolk countryside you don’t have to step too far from the main streets of Sudbury, Hadleigh, Clare, Lavenham and Long Melford to enjoy country walks.

In Long Melford, the beautiful Melford Hall, which is under the care of the National Trust, is opening from its winter slumber from March 21 and here you can discover the naval history of the resident Hyde Parker Family.

Beatrix Potter, a cousin of the family, visited Melford Hall often and if you visit today you can see the original Jemima Puddleduck as well as find out more about her connections with the building.

For full opening time details go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/melford-hall

Just up the road is another mellow red brick mansion, Kentwell Hall, which has been recreating life from the Tudor era for many years.

Visit now to see spring bulbs coming through and newborn lambs taking their first steps.

For opening times and details visit www.kentwell.co.uk

Sudbury bustles, especially twice a week with the market which has been in town for centuries.

Yet just a short walk from the town centre are the famous water meadows loved by painters, walkers and photographers.

Lavenham is a joy at any time of year and those looking for something to do should head to the historic Guildhall which is now open for the season and dominates the village Market Place.

Both Hadleigh and Clare sit on the banks of their respective rivers, the Brett and the Stour and offer visitors the perfect blend of shops, restaurants, pubs and a slower pace of life.

Hadleigh’s High Street is crammed with listed buildings and interesting shops and the spired St Mary’s Church and Deanery Tower can be found just behind it.

In Clare you can enjoy the springtime beauty of the country park and the remains of Clare Castle.

And after all the exploring rest assured you will be made welcome in any of the cafes, pubs and restaurants which serve excellent local produce and which add to the special appeal of our Wool Towns.

The Wool Towns is delighted to be supporting this year’s Christmas Jumper Day.

The national event is raising money for Save the Children and has seen the Wool Towns undertake a subtle facelift, as you can see from the logo above.

Our temporary new name – the Wooly Jumper Towns – is in support of Save the Children’s crucial work and we certainly endorse their slogan: ‘Make the world better with a sweater’.

We look forward to seeing all sights – and some sounds – from festive jumpers across the Wool Town areas.

We are delighted with the support we have received since launching the Wool Towns and we would like to thank everyone who has shown an interest in our plans to promote the communities of Clare, Hadleigh, Lavenham, Long Melford, Sudbury and surrounding areas.

We are looking forward to sharing these plans with you in early 2018. But in the meantime, may we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

You can find out more about Save the Children’s crucial work by visiting www.savethechildren.org.uk

Wool Towns initiative aims to rival the Cotswolds

A tourism partnership that captures the unique history of five towns and villages in West Suffolk has been launched.

The Wool Towns Association aims to showcase the combined attractions of Clare, Hadleigh, Lavenham, Long Melford and Sudbury – and neighbouring areas – with ambitious plans to publicise an alternative to destinations like the Cotswolds.

Endorsed by business and community leaders in each of the areas, project chiefs hope that a united front will add to the overall tourism package and boost visitor numbers across the Wool Towns.

David Martin, Treasurer of the Wool Towns and chairman of the Long Melford Business Association, explained:

While all five towns and villages have their own unique characteristics, the Wool Towns unites these areas with both a proud sense of heritage and dynamic forward-thinking approach. Our overall aim is to create an area and brand as well known as the Cotswolds and we feel that we are collectively stronger in terms of attracting more tourists and visitors.

The initiative was today launched at Kentwell Hall, Long Melford, which saw a special gathering of key partners, dignitaries and interested parties from each of the five communities.

A business plan outlining the plan for the Wool Towns and a Community Interest Company have both been established along with a steering committee comprising one member of both the local council and business community from each area.

The initiative was today launched at Kentwell Hall, Long Melford, which saw a special gathering of key partners, dignitaries and interested parties from each of the five communities.

Mr Martin added:

Due to their proximity and collective charm, you could easily spend days exploring all the different areas. It provides a perfect platform to pool together a rich history and heritage with fabulous food offerings to suit all tastes, local attractions for all the family and some of the most wonderful places to stay in the whole of Suffolk.

For more information on the Wool Towns Association, visit www.wooltowns.co.uk or follow @wooltowns on Twitter.

Views from each community

Phil Grice – Clare

We are five wool towns that still have medieval hearts to them. We all share that common central history where we expanded in the Medieval period. We believe the Wool Towns localities is an area for people to enjoy a short stay and enjoy all that each town has to offer.
There are a variety of things to do in Clare, Hadleigh, Lavenham, Long Melford and Sudbury. From Clare’s point of view, we feel that by joining together, it will improve the tourism offer to our town. We are already putting together a number of plans to attract more tourists to the town and the Wool Towns venture is a great example of this.

Jane Snowdon – Hadleigh 

The Wool Towns gives us an opportunity to collaborate on joint initiatives and create a branding that will promote us all. We feel there is an attractive offer for people to explore all the Wool Towns. Each is different, whilst having the common heritage of prospering because of the cloth trade. This gives us an opportunity to work together, plan ahead and co-operate on ideas going forward. It’s a great chance to really put Hadleigh in the spotlight and show people what interesting things they can discover about the town.

Philip Gibson – Lavenham

Lavenham is considered to be an almost unspoilt example of a medieval town which in the 15th Century was one of the richest in England. Both the parish council and the business forum support the aims of the Wool Towns initiative which will be of great benefit to this distinctive area of Suffolk. It will provide visitors with the opportunity of enjoying both the history and the amenities of these five unique towns and villages for short or longer stays.

David Martin – Long Melford

The picture in Long Melford is very similar to that of Lavenham. We are an attractive location in the heart of rural Suffolk where the visiting economy is very important. But visitor numbers are skewed towards the summer months while we are looking to attract people all year round. Statistics show that we have more day visitors than overnight stays, but we have a lot to offer throughout the year. There is a tremendous synergy between the five communities. In Long Melford, we feel we have enough to keep people visiting and then staying, especially when you combine the attraction of all the Wool Towns.

Ami Birrell – Sudbury

Increasing footfall into the town is fundamental to helping the businesses, organisations and charities succeed and thrive. And although businesses may individually promote themselves and their activities well, it's immensely important to bring everything together and showcase the full package the town has to offer. However, we understand that it shouldn't stop there. As working with neighbouring villages and towns further strengthens the fantastic offering we have in the area. So, when I heard of the Wool Towns association and their plans, it seemed like a great opportunity for Sudbury to support and build relationships with neighbouring towns and villages, to share resources and strengths and to reach the same goal of promoting the Wool Towns.

What makes the Wool Towns special?

First and foremost, the towns and villages within the Wool Towns region share a common heritage. Wool was by far the most important influence on European trade in the late 12th century until the early 15th century and during this period, an industrial revolution took place which saw the manufacture and export of woven cloth from the Wool Towns replace the export of raw wool. The development of this trade generated huge wealth for those involved. This manifests itself today in the legacy of fine buildings, both ecclesiastical and vernacular, which abound within the region.

The inherent attractiveness of the villages and towns has encouraged the establishment of a wide range of excellent food and hospitality businesses. Within the Wool Towns region, there are:

  • 12 historic or cultural attractions open to the public
  • 34 restaurants and pubs with a TripAdvisor rating of 4* or above
  • 13 hotels with a TripAdvisor rating of 4* or above
  • 30 inns or B&B’s with a TripAdvisor rating of 4* or above
  • A wide range of galleries and art studios open to the public
  • A great range of food, lifestyle and farm shops

WTA Committee in support of Bury St Edmunds and Beyond

This month (September), four members of the Wool Towns Association Committee supported the launch of Bury St Edmunds and Beyond.  A formally constituted Destination Management Organisation, this venture is a successor to the long established Visit Bury St Edmunds Group.  The aims of our two organisations are similar.  Both promote this part of East Anglia to visitors from  around the UK, and farther afield, seeking to attract more people, and have them stay here longer, see and do more.

Whether visitors wish to stay in Town, or in the Country, The Wool Towns add real value to the beyond offer from Bury St Edmunds.

Where are the Wool Towns?

The Wool Towns region sits between the historic market towns of Bury St Edmunds and Colchester, and on the East/West axis, between Haverhill and Ipswich. The Suffolk Heritage coast is within an hour and a half’s drive.

The antique map extract shown here includes most of Suffolk. The Wool Towns region includes a dozen or more communities at the heart of the region, that share a common heritage and owe much to the strength of the weaving industry here some 600 years ago.

the wool town map

The five communities (Clare, Hadleigh, Lavenham, Long Melford and Sudbury) leading this service to Wool Towns visitors are located to the south of the area.

While there are towns and villages with a historic connection to the woollen cloth industry all around the UK, nowhere is there a better concentration of thriving attractive towns and villages with this common heritage than here.

The Wool Towns are situated less than two hours away from London and are easily accessible by road, or by rail, via Sudbury’s charming train station.

Putting the Wool Towns on the map

We formed the Wool Towns association to establish an overall brand comprising Clare, Hadleigh, Lavenham, Long Melford and Sudbury – and the surrounding area.

A total of 10 members, one from each town or parish council and one from each business association, have joined the committee.

From the country houses of Long Melford to the historic traditions of Lavenham, each area has its own proud characteristics and identity.

Each community has something different to offer while sharing a common identity – the Wool Towns heritage.

We invite people to extend their time in our corner of Suffolk, from day trips to short breaks and from short breaks to holidays.

At every opportunity, we are co-promoting and encouraging people to travel between each of the towns and villages to uncover all the charms of the Wool Towns.

And we won’t confine ourselves to just promoting the fantastic characteristics of each of the five areas.

We will use the Wool Towns to promote tourism across the whole region including Bury St Edmunds, the heritage coast and Constable Country, all in easy reach for a day out.

Why we signed up to the Wool Towns

Community leaders from across the Wool Towns reveal why they were so keen to get involved….

Clare by Phil Grice

“We are five wool towns that still have medieval hearts to them. We all share that common central history where we expanded in the Medieval period. We believe the Wool Towns localities is an area for people to enjoy a short stay and enjoy all that each town has to offer.

 

There are a variety of things to do in Clare, Hadleigh, Lavenham, Long Melford and Sudbury. From Clare’s point of view, we feel that by joining together, it will improve the tourism offer to our town.

 

We are already putting together a number of plans to attract more tourists to the town and the Wool Towns venture is a great example of this.”

Hadleigh by Jane Snowden

“The Wool Towns gives us an opportunity to collaborate on joint initiatives and create a branding that will promote us all.

 

We feel there is an attractive offer for people to explore all the Wool Towns. Each is different, whilst having the common heritage of prospering because of the cloth trade.

 

This gives us an opportunity to work together, plan ahead and co-operate on ideas going forward.

 

It’s a great chance to really put Hadleigh in the spotlight and show people what interesting things they can discover about the town.”

Lavenham by Roy Whitworth

“The Wool Towns have all got a particular cachet to them that has been underexploited until now. The area is full of nice B&Bs, pubs and restaurants surrounded by some wonderful countryside full of walks and footpaths and of course wonderful old buildings. We would suggest the Wool Towns are more than just a collection of individual villages. Together, they make the ideal destination for a short break or holiday.

 

Each of the five towns and villages have their own characteristics, whether it is the country homes of Long Melford or the historic traditions of Lavenham. They all have something different to offer while sharing a common heritage – the Wool Towns.”

David Martin – Long Melford

“The picture in Long Melford is very similar to that of Lavenham. We are an attractive location in the heart of rural Suffolk where the visiting economy is very important.

 

But visitor numbers are skewed towards the summer months while we are looking to attract people all year round. 

 

Statistics show that we have more day visitors than overnight stays, but we have a lot to offer throughout the year.

 

There is a tremendous synergy between the five communities. In Long Melford, we feel we have enough to keep people visiting and then staying, especially when you combine the attraction of all the Wool Towns.”