My Suffolk - John Gummer, Baron Deben
John Gummer, Baron Deben served for more than 30 years as MP for the Suﬀolk Coastal constituency and during that time was Minister for Agriculture and Secretary of State for the Environment. He is now a member of the House of Lords and is also the UK’s Chairman on Climate Change. Anne Gould asked him about his Suﬀolk
How long have you actually lived in Suﬀolk?
Nearly 40 years. We were at Fressingﬁeld to start with but have been here (near Debenham) for more than 25 years. However, my family originally comes from high Suﬀolk, centuries ago and we have come home, almost to the same place.
What do you like about the county?
It’s wonderfully diﬀerent from the town and because I have to spend to so much of my time in town I want to spend weekends and free time in real countryside, particularly as I am very interested in agriculture and agricultural issues. All my four children are absolutely committed to Suﬀolk. Ben (MP for Ipswich) lives in the county but my other three are regular visitors. It’s very rare for at least one or two of them not to be visiting and we’ve always tried to have a house where they could bring friends along too. We are here as long as we can be at the weekends and in the holidays. It was sometimes more diﬃcult when I was a minister, but we managed it.
Are there any places that are particularly special?
Well we have all the joy of the coast and there’s High Suﬀolk too. The secret of Suﬀolk is to stay away from the sea in the summer because of the crowds but visit instead in the winter when it’s absolutely wonderful especially Aldeburgh, Southwold and Thorpeness. But we have got to know much of the rest of the county really well too. When I was an MP they kept changing the constituency boundaries so I know a lot of the county.
Where do you like to eat?
Well my wife is a good cook and I like eating at home. We have such excellent local produce and food available. I have just taken our Chinese house guests to the local Co-op to see the range of Suﬀolk food, hams and sausages that are available across the county. It’s really surprising that even in a national chain we have local food. Orford has wonderful ﬁsh at Pinney’s and we also have wonderful local butchers too. I grow vegetables, particularly salad. It’s something I enjoy very much. I have two plots but both have to be protected from rabbits and deer too. I also grow soft fruits and have apples and cherries. I would not pretend to be a great ﬂower gardener but I am preparing to create a Medieval garden with all sorts of herbs.
Do you have any other hobbies?
Well we all play tennis and we saved up for a long time and had a court built in the garden last year. It’s very good exercise.
Can you recommend any local pubs?
The pub in Earl Soham, my village local – The Angel in Debenham and the Dolphin in Thorpeness has high standards too. We like pubs with good food produced from local ingredients.
Have you got a favourite local beer?
I’m a non-beer drinker because I once had hepatitis and just can’t drink it. My family makes up for it though – Adnams is apparently a favourite.
Do you enjoy walking?
The route I like best is from Snape Maltings to Iken Church. The view from Snape looking over the reeds is one of the best in the world. I also like to walk from Uﬀord Church, which is one of the most beautiful churches in Suﬀolk.
Where do you take visitors who are unfamiliar with the county?
Well tonight we are taking our guests to a concert at Snape which is lovely and then to the Regatta at Aldeburgh, which has really good seasonal food. We also like the Lighthouse. Aldeburgh is a great place to visit because it has some wonderful local shops and it’s nice for people to see the Suﬀolk seaside. I love the Maltings and we go there really quite a lot – we are so lucky to have world class music right next to us. There is so much to listen to and not just in the Festival or Prom seasons. It would be nice to include some churches, part of Suﬀolk’s wonderful heritage from a time when the county was rich. We will also go to Framlingham tomorrow – the view from the college towards the castle is incredible. Then we will go to the church and look at the memorials to the Norfolk family. It’s a lovely town and I have always wanted to get a statue of Queen Mary 1st, who was declared Queen of England at Framlingham Castle put up in the centre. Then we will probably take them to Orford and the Butley/Orford Oysterage and then on to Havergate Island.