At the weekend  I was invited to look round and enjoy the hospitality at Blackthorpe Barn as a Suffolk Blogger, as part of our regular meet up session. As a local it wasn’t the first time I’d visited, but I hadn’t been for a few years, so it was good to see the new developments. I wasn’t disappointed as there are plenty of new features together with the old favourites. If you want to get into the festive spirit, this is definitely the place to go. For me the five best things to do there, if you want a good day out, would be….

1. Buy a Tree or a Wreath

The main reason people flock to Blackthorpe Barn at Christmas is to buy a tree or a wreath. The trees are grown in a plantation near the barn so freshness is guaranteed. They have won awards in the past as ‘British Tree Grower of the Year’ and supplied 10 Downing Street with a tree on several occasions which again confirm their quality. When we visited on the 1st of December only Nordman Firs were on sale,  as these last a long time without shedding needles. I was surprised to see how popular buying a tree this early was – the Car Park was the fullest I have ever seen it, and it was raining too. But you could see by looking how fresh these trees are and from past experience I can confirm that they last well without dropping needles. What can be more fun than propping up your tree to find the perfect shape and size as part of Christmas celebrations?

2. Buy Decorations from the Country Christmas Shop

Well possibly better, no as good as I think, would be to go to the Christmas Country Shop to buy decorations for the Tree and your house. It is like entering a Winter Wonderland with every possible type and style of decoration you can imagine ranging from Scandinavian Rustic in red and white, to Traditional Vintage Style decorations in reds, greens and metallics. In fact you can choose from a wide range of colour palettes, with each room feeling like you’re stepping into a magical Aladdin’s Cave. It’s an experience in itself worth savouring, the only problem is choosing the decoration for you. So take inspiration from the choice and have a new theme for the year or do as I do – buy one new decoration for the tree each time. So is this the best thing to do at Blackthorpe Barn at Christmas?

3. Buy Presents at the Craft Fair

What could be better than buying a gift which is handmade by a British craft maker? Another big attraction at Blackthorpe Barn at Christmas is the beautiful barn which is filled with crafts of all types made by only British Craftsmen. When I visited I saw artwork, pottery, textiles, jewellery and food for sale from a wide range of craftsmen. As a beauty and style blogger I particularly liked the soaps and other beauty products all made from natural ingredients, together with the beautifully hand-made leather bags by Alchemy Leatherworks. But the individual crafts change regularly, so you can make more than one visit and see new produce. The crafts are only on at weekends from 10th November to Sunday 16th December 2018 and there is a small entry fee for this part of the Christmas event.  Again well worth a visit.

4. Enjoy  Refreshments in the Cafe.

After choosing your tree, the decorations to go on it and bought gifts from the Craft Market you will be needing some refreshments and a sit down. The Pop Up Cafe has many homemade cakes, scones and pastries if afternoon tea is your thing. If not, lunches are also available with warming soups, Welsh Rarebit, savoury pies and quiches. A full range of drinks are available, including (who can resist at Christmas time) a glass of mulled wine? All this is served in a tastefully decorated part of the barn, which has been extended since my last visit. It is open all week during the Christmas period, so just drop in for a treat midweek when it will be less busy.

5. Visit Forage- a Cookery School and Fine Dining Experience

If snacks from the Cafe are not for you, why not try a ‘Tastes of Forage’ Lunch in Forage. With seating in a beautiful room for up to 20 people, all eating at the same time, a six course menu is on offer over the Christmas period at Blackthorpe Barn. This costs £30 a head and includes dishes sourced from mainly local (where this is the best on offer) and is prepared by talented chefs right in front of you. When we visited, the chefs were preparing for lunch that day and it is a new addition to Blackthorpe’s portfolio. I would certainly be tempted to give it a try as it smelt amazing. Throughout the year there are courses on offer including bread-making, a Foraging Course, Macaron and Petit Four making, Sushi and Asian Cuisine and The Chef’s Menu- a set menu of 8-10 experimental dishes. But do book ahead by checking their website at http://www.foragekitchen.co.uk.  I will definitely be returning with a group of friends to eat there or to try out one of their courses.

So I would thoroughly recommend a trip to Blackthorpe Barn over the Christmas period to take part in one or all of these things. But it doesn’t stop there – if you have children there is a Santa’s Grotto, workshops for adults and children including wreath making, bauble making and much more. I also believe there are talks and walks around Rougham Hall some weekends. For all of these activities please visit their website http://www.blackthorpebarn.com/christmas for more details and to book for some of these events. If you don’t live nearby, maybe make a weekend of it and enjoy staying in a local Hotel – for example Ravenwood Hall Hotel http://www.ravenwoodhall.co.uk  is literally next door and is also wonderfully festive at this time of year. I hope you have found this useful and Happy Christmas to you all.

Jill Gregory – My Timeless Style

I would love it if you could add any comments below and even better still, follow me so you don’t miss any future posts.