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