Open Gardens

Pink house with black wooden slats on front, church sticking up in background, loverly lawn infront with parts of garden; plants, trees and a hedge

The Beeches



Cistus ‘Grayswood Pink’

For the last 38 years, on the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday of August 2019 the Suffolk village of Walsham le Willows opens its garden gates to the public as part of the quintessential English summer event, an Open Gardens Weekend.

The weekend is not just about the 30 or so gardens but also live music, art exhibitions, a farmers market, craft stalls and plant stalls and of course, delicious refreshments in two venues, the Memorial Hall and the Priory Room where wonderful light snacks, lunches, teas and cakes, including the famous meringues, are provided by people from the village. Visitors come not only for the gardens but also the appreciation of the calm and serenity that is created by the event over the two days.
Walsham-le-Willows open-gardens. Visitors enjoying one of the gardens.

‘…we go to a lot of open gardens events and this is the best…’

black and white line drawing of outline of a film camera - large Ian Toulson, friend of the Walsham Open Gardens Committee has created a virtual tour from 2016, with musical accompaniment which gives a good feel for the event, and is published on You Tube.

‘…we had heard about Walsham but never been.  We will be back next year…’

Another video which gives a flavour of the 2018 event

2018 EVENT INFORMATION – will up updated for 2019 as the event is finalised

Garden Descriptions 2018

This is position so far. The gardens for 2018, and numbers, will be finalised very soon with two new gardens this year.
NumberGarden & DescriptionDisabled Access
New for this year a very well kept cottage garden with a distinct Japanese theme created by its owners over the past seven years. The small front garden is a mixture of flower beds and Cotswold stone. You enter the rear garden by the side of the house onto a good sized covered patio area which then leads to the lawn either side of which are flower beds, planted tubs, hanging baskets as well as water features and a selection of Japanese figures, ornaments, Tori gates. And a covered quiet area with gaily coloured lanterns. A Japanese style gateway then leads through to another well laid out area with paths, minimalist planted beds and the focal point of the garden a Japanese teahouse.
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A colourful well maintained cottage garden. From the front gate a gravel path bordered on both sides by a large selection of perennials leads to the side of the house, where there is a lawned area, small fishpond with solar powered fountain, seating areas and a variety of planting including climbing roses, fuchsias, clematis and geraniums. This then leads into the back garden laid mainly to lawn surrounded by flower beds, plum and apple trees, and a pear tree that has partly reverted to a quince. There is also a patio area and a separate outdoor dining area. Finally beyond that is a Chicken run and a vegetable plot.
When Priors Close was purchased in October 2006 the house and garden were in great need of restoration. This has progressed well over the years and the predominantly walled garden now has mixed beds of shrubs and herbaceous perennials, together with fruit and ornamental trees. The main aim of the changes was to open out the garden and provide continuous interest through the year, whilst indulging the placement of Paul and Sue’s favourite species.
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A very interesting garden, planted mainly with shrubs, conifers, heathers and mature trees. Small grass pathways lead like a maze between irregular-shaped beds onto wooden bridges and walkways over two ponds full of aquatic plants and fish. In the centre of this is a lawned area with seating. N.B. Some of the bridges and walkways are uneven: please be careful.
A large well maintained two acre garden and meadow-land. A large lawn area is surrounded by some impressive mature trees including a Cedar of Lebanon. There will a barbecue cooking locally sourced produce and wood fired pizzeria operating on both days as well as refreshments and a fully licensed bar plus light entertainment throughout the day. Tours around the village in a 1930’s Rolls Royce start and end here. Plus there will be displays of vintage and classic cars in the rear paddock. This year the local Ferrari Owners Club will be bringing this prestigious marque to the Walsham Open Gardens event.
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A beautiful, very well maintained cottage garden, totally renovated by its garden designer owner. Undulating lawns, pergolas, topiary and pond give plenty of interest. The garden is full of colour and has been planted and prepared especially for the Gardens Weekend. It has been featured in ‘The English Garden’ ‘The Kitchen Garden’ and ‘25 Beautiful Gardens’ magazines and has featured before on television.
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A large open garden. At the front are a number of mature trees, a small orchard, a shrubbery and a good sized vegetable plot all surrounding a large lawn. Whilst at the rear, three patios overlook a large lawn surrounded by flowerbeds, a small kitchen garden, greenhouse and a new fruit cage. There is a novel water feature (the novelty being that it has no water).
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A three-acre garden, which has evolved over the past 60 years under the stewardship of the late Alec and Hilary Russell (the founder of the Gardens Weekend). There are a number of lawns at various levels, herbaceous borders, shrubberies, potager, summerhouse, wild garden by the village stream, shady grotto, water feature and many mature trees. Thanks to the generosity of Dr Russell, the garden hosts many other village events including the Church Fete, Village Picnics and outside theatre. It is well worth a visit.
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A very well maintained long narrow garden split into four distinct areas. Immediately behind the house is a gravelled seating area dotted with various herbs. Two small steps lead onto a lawn surrounded by flower borders mainly planted with herbaceous perennials, ornamental trees, shrubs and roses. A pathway leads through a gate into a shaded area/woodland walk with a shallow pond, shade loving plants and raised beds planted with vegetables and soft fruit. Beyond this area there are various outbuildings. Mary is an associate member of the Society of British Sculptors and some of her work will be displayed in the garden during the weekend. In addition she also runs woodcarving courses, if you are interested please feel free to speak to her. Some of her students will be exhibiting their work in the garden room at the back of her house please feel free to enter and view these.
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New for this year a deceptively large garden of approximately 1/3 acre which is a project to redevelop that started about two years ago. You enter through the side gate onto a long narrow paved area/stable yard with seating. Shallow steps then lead down to the main garden which opens up to treble its initial width. There is a large lawn area with a variety of newly planted fruit trees to your left as well as an archway with steps leading down to a sunken garden with a rectangular fishpond and further seating, all of which is enclosed by a developing yew hedge. Steps then lead up to a pathway which winds around a well designed newly planted area with rockery, water feature and various pieces of old farming equipment. At the end of this path there is an area currently being developed for vegetables and soft fruit, you then turn back towards the house past a greenhouse, kennel and various island beds.
Officially opened in June 2012 this beautiful and tranquil extension to the village Memorial Hall was designed, created and given to the village by Ray Freeborn. Entrance to this small garden is through the village hall. There is a patio area and lawn with seating surrounded by colourful flowerbeds and ornamental trees. Please be careful going in and out of this garden as the refreshment ladies will be working either side of the entrance doorway.
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A gravel driveway leading to a long garden, with steps and uneven paths, which follows the winding course of the deep and largely unfenced village stream. There are borders of roses, lavenders, fuchsias and perennials. Topiary, decorative ironwork and chimney pots are a developing interest. The former vegetable garden is reverting nicely to a primrose meadow with mown paths under the dappled shade of trees. There is a Black Hamsburg grape in the Conservatory.
An early Medieval messuage of approximately one acre, originally the site of the village blacksmith. The garden has been divided into manageable areas by the use of hedges, pathways and mature trees including mulberry and different mowing lengths. There are herbaceous borders, vegetable garden, orchard and natural pond. The Walsham History Group will be displaying Information and Publications for sale in this garden.
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The newly created front garden, which can be seen from the pavement, consists of raised beds planted with herbs and flowers. The rear garden, reached by the drive at the side of the house, is very small and quirky. A raised lawn with a small eye shaped pond is retained by walls decorated in Gaudiesque style with colourful mosaics and render, steps by the side of this lead down to a gravelled patio area with planted pots. Rob is a well known local potter and has a studio at the back of the garden. This will be open all weekend and he will be giving demonstrations of throwing and depending on the weather, firing. In addition he will be displaying some of his work for sale.
The play park was designed with the input of 16 local children whose ideas helped create a natural and exciting play space that encourages challenging play. Partly funded by the Open Gardens Weekend, it is a must visit for those of you with restless children. Walsham Play Council & Friends of Walsham Play Park are delighted to join in with Gardens Weekend this year! There will be a fun activity in which local children have been invited to 'Rock the Park', painting small rocks and pebbles and hiding them all over the park. At Gardens Weekend visitors and children can then have fun finding the hidden rocks - they can then take a photo to post on the Play Park Facebook page and then hide the rock again for someone else to find. Find further details on the Facebook page.
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A courtyard style garden crammed full of flowers, vegetables, pots, baskets and interest. Hidden in the corner of a small cul de sac you enter the front garden and are immediately surrounded by a number of raised beds at different heights packed with a wide variety of annual and herbaceous flowers. In the middle of the paved area is a large acer tree under which is a small pond, seating area and more beds. A gate leads to the side of the house with a number of sheds and pots planted with tomatoes and beans. At the rear of the house is a decking area with seating overlooking a small pond with water feature stocked with koi carp and goldfish, all surrounded by pots filled with flowers vegetables and ornamental trees. There is also small vegetable garden, trellis covered by clematis and honeysuckle, a banana plant and another small covered seating area. We defy you to find a piece of bare earth anywhere in this garden. NB All the pathways in this gardens are at various levels with low steps leading up and down, please be careful.
A really colourful and interesting garden full of surprises. The front garden is mainly laid to gravel and used for car parking however around the boundaries are small raised beds, pots and planters. Along the side of the house there is a huge array of pots and planters arranged at different heights all crammed full with a variety of colourful plants including begonias, fuchsias, lillies, hostas and many more. The back patio area is again partly covered with a further array of pots, from here a narrow garden path leads you up the garden between three greenhouses, the huge one on your right full of tomatoes, potatoes and an unusual shaped pumpkin. After that you walk under a rose arch onto a grass area with fruit trees, on your right is an aviary which houses up to 70 lovebirds. The path continues up the garden passing a further three greenhouses containing chrysanthemums, cucumbers and more tomatoes. Finally at the end of the garden is a small bathing pool and a chicken run. The planting in the garden is varied and very colourful with annuals, perennials, shrubs and roses. During the weekend John will be selling a variety of plants and vegetables.
Warning: As mentioned there is a small raised bathing pool in the garden, please keep a watchful eye on any children under your supervision. Under no circumstances should visitors to the garden use the pool.
A large cottage garden of approximately 1 acre surrounding a beautiful 16th century thatched cottage. It is a garden in the making, the new owners having embarked on a long term project of renovation and development. To the front of the house is a large lawn surrounded by hedges. There are a variety of fruit trees, brightly planted pots and herbaceous borders in front of the cottage. In the middle of the lawn is a stunning lavender river which runs the length of the garden. Immediately behind the cottage is a very large pond surrounded by new and colourful flowerbeds. The pond is well stocked with fish and has a variety of water lilies and irises. Beyond the pond is a large lawn area with apple trees shed and greenhouse. NB The pond is not fenced and the only barrier between it and you are the flower borders. Please do not venture too close and keep children under strict supervision.
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The Allotment Association is a group of villagers from all walks of life with a common goal, namely home-grown produce. Formed in 2005 and funded by a village charity it is now 90% self supporting with sale of produce and grants awarded by the open gardens committee added in. Everything from spuds to gherkins are cultivated on the site, with many plot holders also enjoying fresh eggs from their chickens. Encouraging families and children, smaller plots are available and sit alongside the full plots – all against the back drop of the brightly painted sheds. They are a thriving community so why not visit them at their Pimms and Produce tent?
A community woodland, which has been partly funded by the Open Gardens Weekend, situated behind the allotments The Walsham Wild Wood aims to improve further our village environment through the restoration of woodland. Started in 2012 the wood has been planted with over 1500 saplings, whips and plugs. Our local children are part of the Wild Wood project through their Forest School programme. The gateway at the entrance of the wood, the inspiration of which has been taken from the Victorian gateway to the village cemetery. The structure is made of oak and incorporates carved inscriptions. Please come up for a walk around or just sit on the Queen’s bench and enjoy the view to the church. We now have a board at our entrance for you to write up your sightings and we will leave any current information there too.
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A very well maintained garden, at the front is a small lawned area surrounded by a mixed bed of shrubs and perennials and a Mediterranean style bed of Phormium and grasses. The rear garden is mainly lawn surrounded by mixed borders of shrubs, fuchsias, roses and herbaceous perennial as well as colourful dahlias and pelargonium. Directly behind the house is a small patio with ornamental pond, rockery and colourful tubs.
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Helen Dougall’s studio is open to show her landscape paintings and batik wall hangings. She will be demonstrating batik, the technique used by children of Walsham school to produce a large Wallhanging commemorating the end of WW1. This work is hung in the Memorial Village Hall.
A large, established garden, split into four distinct areas. At the front behind high hedges are a lawned area, beds of shrubs and a conservatory. To the side is a small rose garden. Directly behind the house is a paved area with roses, dahlias, fuchsias and greenhouse and behind this again there is a walled garden, containing lawn mixed flower borders full of dahlias, fuchsias, buddleias and roses. Mature trees, a vegetable plot and soft fruit cages complete this garden.
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A small enclosed courtyard style garden, with raised beds planted with a variety of colourful herbaceous perennials and all backed by many different climbers. Another feature in the garden is a large working water pump incorporated in the raised bed.
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A long garden running behind the houses in The Street, which is full of surprises and interest. A narrow grassed and paved path leads down the garden off which are a number of small garden ‘rooms’ each planted in a very different manner. The path then opens out into an orchard area with various seating areas. The whole garden is dotted with quirky statues, sculptures and pots and is well worth a visit. At the end of the garden on the left hand side wrought iron gates lead into Garden No. 26
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A very large garden of about 3 acres part of which is used as agricultural land. You enter the garden through gates from Garden No. 25 into what’s left of an old orchard which still boasts 28 varieties of apple, plum, greengages and quince. This leads onto a large grassed area with a hedged experimental garden where Ella plants many sorts of wild flower seed. The garden is undergoing a long term landscaping project, evidence of which can be seen by the tree and hedge planting. There are many sculptures and statues to give the garden added interest. If you follow the garden around you can exit past the house back onto the road.
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New for this year, this garden is another example of what can be achieved in a small area in a short space of time. Whilst a commercial area serving customers the garden has been layed out on different levels with seating areas, intelligently placed trellis screening, planters, hanging baskets and raised beds all planted with a large selection of herbaceous and annual flowers, climbers and shrubs. Entrance to the garden is via a narrow pathway to the left of the cafe. N.B. As previously mentioned this is a commercial area which will be open during the weekend. Staff will be working there serving food and clearing tables, so please be careful and keep children under strict control.
A small cottage garden, approximately 11 x 12 meters, once shaded and dominated by a large willow tree which was removed early in 2010. By the middle of 2011 the garden had been designed and hard landscaped to include a series of four meter tall oak pillars to break up the expanse of the wall of the neighboring house on one side of the garden and as a backdrop to the central seating area, a very small wildlife pond and a small chamomile ‘lawn’. The outbuildings were restored and are now used as a potting shed, wood store and under cover seating area. The garden planting very mixed and includes approximately 240 distinct plant species or varieties, many to attract bees and butterflies the numbers of which are at their height in June and July.
A very small walled garden with various climbers, lawn, raised flowerbed and tubs. Gill is a spinner, and natural dyer, using material from her garden and local hedgerows. She will be giving demonstrations of spinning during the weekend and will have items for sale and order.
A cemetery is not normally associated with an open gardens event but we’ve included it in our programme as evidence of where funds raised by our annual event are distributed. Originally consecrated in the late 19th century the cemetery and, more importantly, its impressive lych gates were positioned when the heaviest traffic on the road was a horse and wagon. However, 21st century traffic levels meant that the positioning of the lych gate proved unsuitable for use. Therefore nine years ago the gate was repositioned in a delicate operation using a crane and a layby was created to facilitate modern needs. A major part of this operation was funded by the Open Gardens Weekend. Another addition 3 years ago was a garden of remembrance again partly funded by the Open Gardens Weekend.You are more than welcome to visit it if you have time.
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The 2018 Entrance charge for the weekend was £7* per person (one day pass) or £10* per person (two day pass).  Children under 16 free of charge. gift aid it logo*To enable us to claim GIFT AID the charge includes a voluntary contribution of 10%. Please make sure you sign a GIFT AID form on arrival. Visitors can elect to pay the standard entrance fee £6.40 (one day pass) or £9.10 (two day pass) without the donation. The entrance fee buys you the following: • A copy of our detailed programme of events during the two days • Entrance to all gardens • Entrance to all other events • Free parking and free travel on the village bus.


Opening Times – 11:00 – 18.00 both days
walsham-le-willows open gardens flower festival display 3
Flower display in St.Mary’s Church
Permanent Exhibits
  • Floral Displays on the theme of’Celebration of Colour’
  • Bell Ringing Demonstrations
  • Art Exhibition and Sale
Music in the Church
  • Sunday 26th – Various Guest Organists – 12.30pm – 4.30pm
  • Sunday 26th – Songs of Praise – 6.30pm – 7.30pm
  • Monday 27th – Various Guest Organists – 11.30am – 4.30pm
Music in the Village – Memorial Hall Car Park 
  • Sunday 26th – The Breckland Brass Band – 2.00pm – 4.00pm
  • Monday 27th – The Gislingham Silver Band – 2.00pm – 4.00pm
plate of dood from walsham open gardens weekend
Memorial Hall Lunch
Other Attractions
  • Lunches, Teas and Refreshments in the Memorial Hall and Priory Room
  • Village Market (opposite the Church and at the Memorial Hall) 11.00 – 18.00 both days
  • Barbecue and Pizzas in Garden No. 5
  • Walsham History Group Information & Publications Garden No. 13
  • On Monday evening from 17:00 there will be a cake and produce sale of any thing that is left.
  • Morahill Nursery – herbaceous plants (located at the Memorial Village Hall)

‘…the best meringues in Suffolk…’

BBQ at Collen Baker’s garden (Garden No.5) BBQ Walsham-le-Willows Open Gardens

‘much credit must go to your entertaining staff. I haven’t enjoyed my lunch so much in years ! It’s lovely to see traditional values with a real ambience of a traditional summer fare!’

Available on both days along with homemade Fresh Pizza from a wood fired clay Pizza Oven. We’ll be cooking traditional meats from our very own village butcher, Rolfe’s of Walsham. Come and enjoy the banter of our chefs and bar stewards.
A line of wooden sheds painted yellow, orange, not painted so natural wood colour, sky blue etc. – an agricultural version of Southwold’s beach huts. Many various plants and vegetables growing in front of all the sheds.
Walsham Allotments & Leisure Garden Association
The Allotment Association – Pimms and Produce  tent in Garden 19 is open both days between 12:00 and 16:00. Why not visit them, freshly grown produce will be for sale whilst supplies last.

‘…we had a lovely lunch in the village hall and it’s such good value…’


Church Barn Forecourt
    • Helens Herbaceous – herbaceous plants
    • Bill and Ben Nursery – stone ornaments for the garden
    • Stowmarket Beekeepers Association – honey, beeswax furniture polish and hand creams. There will also be a fully contained live demonstration hive to view and beekeeping equipment for visitors to handle
    • Gardeners Delight – second hand gardening tools
    • Riverside Bulbs  (MONDAY ONLY) – wide variety garden bulbs
Church Barn Indoor Market
    • Walsham Open Gardens Weekend, Church Barn Indoor Market StallHand painted furniture and giftware by Vin
    • Mary’s Little Gems – unique handmade jewellery using natural stones, crystals, shells and glass from around the world
    • Flamingo Paperie – exclusive range of unique, top quality greetings cards and gift wrap
    • Lily Craft – hand decorated cotton bags, bunting and gifts
    • The Tea Lady – homemade jams, preserves and chutneys
    • Maddog Cottage – handmade jewellery using silver, gemstones and pearls
    • Second Chance – hand decorated, decoupage garden pots and vases
    • The Crochet Club – crochet and knitted goods
    • Chrissy Silver (MONDAY ONLY) – porcelain lamps


Vintage 1933 Rolls Royce 2017 brought the opportunity to tour the village in style.  Over the weekend we will be offering trips around the village in a vintage 1933 Rolls Royce 20/25 with Park Ward coachwork. Tours will start and finish in Collen Baker’s garden No. 3 and the charge will be £5 per tour for a maximum of four people. All the proceeds will go to the Gardens Weekend.


Image of blue cornflowes in white vase on table loooking through open gate in red brick wall out to The Street beyond
Winning Photograph 2015
Photographs in jpg format of activities during Gardens Weekend can be sent  to Mike Unitt.  A hard copy can be put in the Observer box at Rolfes of Walsham. Prizes are £40, £20 and £10 for first, second and third places, respectively. Please be aware that the Gardens Weekend committee reserve the right to use any photographs submitted for promotional purposes.


blue event car parking signCar parking for the event is well signed and is immediately opposite the church.  The main car park often fills up in which case you will be directed to a neighbouring field. Both car parks are well signed and attended.
 There is also ample parking for coaches on hard standing, although if you are planning a coach party we would welcome call in advance so that we can make suitable arrangements.  There is no separate charge for car parking, the only charge being the entry ticket.
Parking for disabled people is available and clearly marked in the car park of the Village Memorial Hall. Refreshments and toilets are available on arrival at the Priory Room, opposite the Main Car park and the Village Memorial Hall, next to the Bowling Green and in garden 5.  There is also a separate toilet outside the Primary School. The Gardens MiniBus Service travels around the village on both days.  The service will run from 10:45 until 18:00 for those who would like a Block graphic of a minibus with passengersbit of help getting around all the gardens.   The bus makes regular circuits of the village. It’s free and available to anyone – just wave it down and get on and then be dropped off at the next garden.

Open Gardens Sponsors

The Open Gardens Weekend event has many sponsors without which it would not be so successful...
Bedfords Estate AgentsClarkes of Walsham CoolTech
Equus Environmental Equus Environmental Greenview Environmental
Microcide Ltd Miles Drainage Myatt Country Fresh Ices
My FlatpackPollard and Co. Premier Printers Ltd
R & D Construction Robins Row Rolfes of Walsham
The Blue Boar The Six Bells Walsham Community Council
Wyken Vineyards


Monarda didyma ‘Beauty of Cobham’

The Walsham-le-Willows Open Gardens Weekend can certainly claim to be one of the best, longest running and most successful Open Gardens events in East Anglia and probably the country.

    The idea for the Open Gardens in
aquilegia sp
Aquilegia ‘Norah Barlow’
Walsham was first suggested by the then vicar of St Mary’s Church, the Rev. John Rutherford but credit for the ongoing developments of the Open Gardens event must be given to the late Hilary Russell, a plantswoman whose extraordinary energy and leadership is looked upon as being the reason why so many visitors now come to Walsham-le-Willows on the Sunday and Monday of the August Bank Holiday.
close up photograph of viola flower
Viola sp.
Chairman Robin Newell deserves a special mention for his untiring efforts and organisational ability, as does the late Dr Alec Russell who gave so much help to his wife and who was the original Chairman of the organising committee.  The weekend relies on the hard work of lots of people and every year there are over 200 local people involved in one way or another. Funds raised at the Open Gardens are for village causes and most importantly the maintenance of the fabric of St. Mary’s Church, a magnificent example of a typical 15th Century East Anglian Church and worth a visit in its own right.  So far over £120,000 has been raised by Open Gardens for the church. Visit some other open gardens events, find more at


John Stebbing (Secretary) 2 Vine Cottages The Street Walsham le Willows Suffolk  IP31 3AZ 01359 259 061 / 07831 325 610 Email: John Stebbing