Town mouse visits Suffolk

Ribbons streamed from the willow wands, bent into arches. Washed down, the lambing barns displayed pictures, pots and bootjacks, made locally. We strode on towards the 100m (328ft) picnic table, that, hewn from oaks that once grew on this very spot, believes itself to be the longest in the world. Sharpened hazel stems served as giant skewers for the Alde Valley lamb, which was being roasted over an open fire. Then, the opera started. Singers stood on a log in the middle of the field, or processed around the famous table, treating us to excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, a comic piece based around a May feast.

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Oh glorious! This was the Alde Valley Spring Festival at White House Farm, in Suffolk. People talk about the genius of the place-the genius of this place is Jason Gathorne-Hardy, whose power to charm summoned Ceres, St Cecilia and sundry local deities to an authentically bucolic celebration of the ancient, informed by an artist’s sensibility. This has, perhaps, always been magic soil. Art seems to come up with the bluebells: earlier Gathorne-Hardy children inspired Britten’s opera The Little Sweep. We flew a kite at Orford Castle and returned to London. Did we drive? In that state of enchantment, we might well have flown.

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