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13 FREE things to do in Suffolk & Cambs

On a budget? A bit of Insider knowledge is all you need to access some free, fun stuff this Spring - exhibitions, trails, sports, music and more!

One of the best things about being Suffolk & Cambs editor is finding new stuff to do in the area, however when it came to researching this feature I actually rediscovered some old favourites!

It’s easy to forget we have some of the best stretches of sand in the country on our doorstep, or that there’s a hill to walk up in the middle of Cambridge or that museums I haven’t visited since the kids were small are actually free. So, while I’m trying new things – I’ve already booked a drumming lesson! – I’ve also enjoyed revisiting some old haunts. I hope you find the ideas useful and let me know if you have any tips on free things to do in the area in the comments below.

SUFFOLK

1 Learn to drum

If you’ve always wanted to play percussion now’s your chance at the rather brilliant Wooden Roots studio in Rendlesham. One-hour intro classes don’t cost a penny and the next one takes place on Saturday 5 March (11am-12pm) where you’ll learn about West African drumming and get down with a djembe. Over 16s only. 

2 Support local artists

Artists including Maggi Hambling – she created the famous scallop sculpture on Aldeburgh beach, that’s free to go and see too! – are currently on show in The Emerging Line of Beauty exhibition at The Concert Hall Gallery, Snape Maltings. Open daily from 10am. 

3 Immerse yourself in Egypt

Ok you’re actually swapping Egypt for Ipswich, but bear with me because the town’s museum (in a lovely Victorian building) actually has some great collections, including a fascinating Egyptology section housing the gold death mask of Titos Flavious Demetrios (Roman dude who died in Egypt). What’s more, there’s a Victorian natural history gallery, which is like a global zoo of static (stuffed!) animals, including lion, gorilla and giraffe. Trust me, kids love this stuff. Entry price? Free! 

4 Trail a UFO

Quick recap for those who don’t know about this spot: about 40 years ago, US servicemen reported seeing a UFO in Rendlesham Forest, just outside their army base. Now you can follow in their footsteps by walking the Forestry England’s UFO trail and discovering more about what the men saw that night along the way *Cue Close Encounters of the Third Kind music*. There are also kid’s play areas, cycle trails, picnic benches and sculptures.

5 Check out Constable country

This highbrow hike follows in the footsteps of landscape artist John Constable, who put Dedham Vale and the Stour Valley on the map by capturing them in some of the world’s most famous paintings, such as The Hay Wain. There’s a circular walk from Manningtree Station which takes in the River Stour, Flatford Mill, Willy Lott’s House, the site of The Hay Wain, Bridge Cottage and a kissing gate which marks the spot of Constable’s The Leaping Horse.  

6 Have a beach day 

We’re lucky enough to have some of the best beaches and seaside towns in the country on our doorstep, so make the most of it and pack a picnic, windbreak (!), bucket and spade and hit the coast. Muddy loves Aldeburgh, Thorpeness and Southwold (the pier’s fab) but the lesser-known beaches like Walberswick (take crabbing lines for crabbing in the village harbour) and wild Dunwich, also make a glorious day out for nowt. 

CAMBRIDGESHIRE

1 Go wild in a museum

Whether you’re five or 50 you’ll enjoy spending time at the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge, it’s that good. Among the many, many interesting artefacts are the enormous Fin whale (it would have weighed as much as eight double decker buses, ooo), a beetle box collected by Charles Darwin, an Asian elephant, Komodo dragon and a Goblin shark. Oh and there’s an Ichthyosaur that’s a casual 150 million years old. 

2 Hang out with a Hockney

That’s Hockney as in David, one of the greatest artists of our time, whose work is being shown at a new exhibition at Cambridge’s Fitz Museum and The Heong Gallery, which you can see for free! Hockney’s Eye, The Art and Technology of Depiction runs from 15 March to 29 August, and includes drawings, paintings and also more modern works including his digital experiments on iPad and film.

3 Walk up castle mound

There might not be a castle at the top of Cambridge’s Castle Hill, but it’s still worth the effort to reach the top of this ancient Iron Age fort which was also once the site of the Roman town of Duroliponte, history fans. Definitely a place to blow away the winter cobwebs, plus it gives good view and it’s free – what more could you want? Reach it via Castle Street.

4. Share a poem

If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a poet (or fancied a poet!) hot foot it to Open mic poetry in Huntingdon, where you can either share a poem you’ve written or one composed by someone else (as well-known as you like), or simply sit and listen to the verse of others. Takes place at The Arts Cafe at The Commemoration Hall on the High Street – next session is 24 Feb (2-4pm). 

5 Browse some art

Ely’s Babylon Gallery in a former brewery warehouse is a great space showing work by local and regional artists for nada (we also rate the gift shop, but that’s not free!). Coming up is The Joy of Play exhibition by Cambridge-based artist Kester Matine with colourful prints, animations and sculpture. Open Tues-Sat (12-4pm). 

6 Get active at Nene Park

We can’t believe Nene Park, near Peterborough, isn’t permanently swamped with visitors because there’s SO much to do there for free: cycle paths, lakes walks, even swimming. Open water swimming sessions at Gunwade Lake on a Thursday caught my eye (5.30-7pm) – the first session is free (after that it’s £6.50). 

7 Play tennis 

Parktennis Social’s a free weekly tennis event at Jesus Green and Comberton Sports & Arts Centre in Cambridge (10-11am). Run by volunteers for all ages and abilities – there’s even a family court for parents to play with their kids using softer balls. 

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