East Anglian Daily Times Suffolk Magazine, June Edition 2010
Ever pushed pedals along the crinkle-crankle wall at Easton? Shared the open road with a posse of partridges? Coasted along in Constable Country or found your own inspiration in the picturesque yet haunting stretches around PD James’ Dunwich?
Somehow when you come to things on a bike, it all feels that much more immediate, impressive, awe-inspiring.
It’s a tempting proposition – replacing life in the fast lane with free-wheeling in the country lanes for just a few days. Pop your phone in the pannier (you’ll be mobile enough without it anyway) and leave any thoughts of Blackberries to the birds in the colourful hedgerows.
Suffolk is out to spoil. Castles, Constable, coastline, Tudor treats and pink-washed villages, windmills and warrior kings: when it comes to cycling, Suffolk can be split into gentle adventure-sized chunks, where any so-called climbs are rewarded with wonderful views and wrap-around skies or maybe even an exhilarating whizz down to a Kersey-style water-splash.
Holiday company Cycle Breaks, based at Needham Market, grades its tours, but none in Suffolk make it beyond the ‘easy to moderate’ categories. Trusty aluminium steeds are on offer, smart hybrids ‘more rugged than a road bike, but lighter and faster than a mountain bike’ with specially selected tyres ‘to put up a more than decent fight with any native flint chips on the Sandlings paths of the heritage coast tours’. Arranging great places to stay and providing all the maps and notes to secure a successful and inspiring onward daily pedal are all part of the Cycle Breaks service too, as well as luggage transportation and that all important security blanket – emergency en-route assistance.
Once on your bike, you quickly learn that less is definitely more: the lower the gear, the more pedalling sure, but Cycle Breaks’ route notes set a comfortable pace, filling few miles with oodles of top tips for characterful resting places and things to see.
The circular Castles and Vineyards tour from the Cycle Breaks’ HQ at Alder Carr Farm silently clicks up around 60 miles on the trip computer, taking in historic Framlingham as its overnighting highlight.
Eleven gentle miles in, with only one real junction to speak of, the half-timbered leaning legacies of Debenham bow to greet you as you wing your way down the main street. Even when the morning has consisted of sneaking up on unsuspecting Suffolk wildlife or catching up (verbally rather than literally) with your travelling companion(s)as you pedal along, it’s unbelievable how, like some curious pheasant from the hedgerow, a thirst can appear out of nowhere. The satisfaction of past miles pedalled makes the throat feel as dry as a Suffolk rusk; fortunately a refreshing liquid lunch or cream tea and cuppa can butter you up for the next bit of the route.
Leaving fragile temptation behind, butterfly-strewn lanes lead onwards to reward with a sighting of a blue fantail, along with the white sails of the 18th century post mill which rests in the long grasses of Saxtead Green just outside historic Framlingham. To an untrained or overseas eye, the town’s red brick college has real Harry Potter appeal, whereas the 12th century curtain wall castle pulls out all the stops, rising like some mighty Wurlitzer above the waters of the birdlife-rich Mere. As East Anglian castles go, it’s perhaps not the most all singing and dancing, but the views are fab and it has centuries of experience in leaving a lasting impression. Tear yourself away from the charm of the Market Square or the lure of your luggage and a hot shower and there’s a final refreshing reward for a four mile foray at Shawsgate vineyard. Alternatively, why not head down to the renowned Station for a pint of Earl Soham ale and a few trains of thought perhaps about options for the morning?
From ‘Fram’, little lanes lean past thatched estate cottages and along the once longest ribbon wall in the world to picture-perfect Easton. A quick peer at the majestic Suffolk Punches across the fields at the Farm Park and a bravely-chosen route option leads past pink cottages and potential pub stops towards Woodbridge. Sutton Hoo speaks for itself, or as far as its mysterious dark ages history allows. There’s time to look down on the Deben, for tea and treasure, before whizzing down to Woodbridge for another Suffolk mill-and-market-square package. Conscious about getting back to Needham Market before that tempting farm shop shuts, the station’s Whistlestop Café seems like an appropriate refreshment opportunity and serves up some fine local produce.
Spend the remaining hours soaking up the Suffolk sunshine, clocking up more mighty flint churches, gliding through Grundisburgh’s green watersplashes and going back in time in the tiny corridor streets of upsy-downsy Coddenham.
The Suffolk terrain is ideal for would-be cyclists of all ages and abilities, making the tours into great activity getaways for couples, families, extended families or groups of friends.
As an ‘occasional’ cyclist, you can reckon on clocking up about 6-10 miles an hour at a gentle pace, allowing for stops along the way of course. Cycle Breaks are more than happy to advise and adapt routes to your personal party’s requirements. If Suffolk and the Heritage Coast are just that little bit too familiar, Cycle Breaks also offer gentle cycling adventures in Norfolk, along the Château-laden Loire in France (as well as the Dordogne and Provence), hugging the dreamy Danube in Austria and around Venice and Verona in Italy.
Walking breaks are also available in Suffolk and Norfolk.
To request a brochure, please call 01449 721555.