Faced with the chance of a last minute break we just couldn’t bring ourselves to blow a couple of grand chasing the sun, knowing full well that we would regret it within 24 hours of landing to the “boom boom boom” of a steady nightclub beat. So it was that we kicked foreign travel into touch and decided that we would treat ourselves to a “posh” home from home and take our cycles around the country lanes of Suffolk – a part of England, small island that we are, that neither of us knew very well. We would keep the weight off, hopefully, and do some exploring at the same time. We just had to keep our fingers crossed that there would be a respite in the rain.
We found a great base in a luxury lodge in the grounds of Stoke by Nayland Country Club. Excellent quality lodging with the use of the club spa facilities to ease any aching limbs in the jaccuzi and sauna.
I’m new to throwing bikes onto the back of cars so it took several practices to get this process down to less than 20 minutes. Having already ruined 3 t-shirts by covering them in chain oil I entertained the neighbours by stripping to the waste to don a greasy apron for this ritual. The locals loved it. At least a half dozen old ladies sitting in the sun in Wickam Market did.
The leafy lanes of Suffolk are charming – quintessentially English.
Rolling fields, beamed houses, village greens and the reassuring smells of farmyard manure, horses, pigs and cash.
Our circular cycle rides – our Tour de Suffolk – went something like this.
Sat (after arrival and check in);
Stoke by Nayland (SBN) through Boxford / Groton to Monks Eleigh and back via Polstead.
Sun; SBN through Shelley, Wintermarsh Green etc,
Mon; The Miller’s Trail from Ixworth.
Tues; Rest day
Wed; Carlton Colville / Rushmere/ Henstead to Southwold and back via Wangford / Sotterley / Mutford to Carlton.
Thurs; Wickham Market to Framlingham and back
Fri; Lavenham / Great Waldingfield / Acton to Long Melford and back via Glemsford and Stanstead.
Total = 230km for the week.
The “B” roads are the main arterial routes for getting around in Suffolk and we found that, though generally well maintained, they are very busy. We kept our exposure to “B” roads as short as possible. The lanes are much quieter and safer and fortunately there are lots of them. Armed with the right OS map we could get lost happily and find our way home again.
Lavenham, a tourist haven, and consequently almost impossible to photograph without cars……………………………
The pier at Southwold has to be experienced. On a bright breezy day it was all cups of tea, plastic headscarves and mufflers as the trippers “pier-ed” into the sunshine. Oh England, my England.
Kersey is a beautiful village with a ford running through the main street. There you will find The Bell Inn, first mentioned in local records in the 13th Century, with it’s charming nooks and timbered crannies. The beer is good and the food too. We also bought some of the landlady’s homemade jam and chutney which we can also highly recommend.
Framlingham is lovely. Fi managed a Personal Best here for time spent in the smallest “stuff” shop ever.
Much of the outer walls of the 13th century Framlingham Castle are still standing for visitors to walk along as they listen to the audio tour and the story of the crowning of Queen Mary.
“The Swan” at Long Melford is highly recommended. A restaurant-style pub with excellent food served on wooden slabs or slates. That kind of thing – but the vinegar was still in a Sarson’s bottle – just to keep your feet on the ground. Greene King ales and Aspall’s Suffolk Cider. A superb lunch indeed after a 26 mile loop.
We also dined at “The Angel” in Stoke by Nayland. Again, excellent food on wooden slabs and worth a visit. We managed to choose an evening when the pub was suddenly deluged by about 20 label-clad young things “haw-hawing” into their lagers and vino which had the obvious effect of slowing down the service somewhat. Fair play to the Landlord though. When I went to settle my dues he apologised for the slower than normal service, explaining that they’d been “caught out” by the surge in trade. I appreciated that. In fact, everyone we met in Suffolk – total strangers all – was very friendly and helpful. It added to the week’s experience rather pleasantly.
Top quotes: Fi, at the start of the Tour of Britain Cycle Race as the riders cruised slowly by us – “They’ve got lovely legs.” (said with some disconcertingly serious tone)
And Fi again, as we drove through the lane to our lodge as rabbits gambled and scurried for cover – “There seem to be more rabbits every night.” (!)
We enjoyed our week of exercise, exploration and relaxation so much that we have promised ourselves to return sometime – and we don’t always say that. Suffolk was very pretty and friendly and there’s more to see. Now, where’s that embrocation.
(Where appropriate the pictures are accredited to other people to illustrate the area. It is difficult to ride a bike with a canon on the back !)