A wonderful one nighter – a Suffolk circular with windmills, crinkle-crankle and curtain walls; moats, meres, manor houses and more, all joined up by joyfully gentle cycling. Saddle up and head for historic Framlingham, home to Ed Sheeran’s ‘Castle on the Hill’, to rest up your trusty Cycle Breaks steed and enjoy an overnight at the heart of this fine market town. Sip on locally brewed ales, ciders or even wines from the nearby vineyard and dine on delicious produce that has come directly from plot to plate. En route you’ll discover great greens and smooth valley slopes, model farms, wool towns and villages once touched by busier times, but now quietly tucked away. Treat yourself to a get-away-from-it-all that’s a real-taste-of-Suffolk break... in a roundabout sort of way.
Let country lanes lead you through some of Suffolk’s most classic countryside, including the home of Ronald Blythe’s rural idyll, ‘Akenfield’. Pedal through wool towns and Victorian estate villages, past old priory sites and fine flint churches; up gentle hill and over wide village green. Highlights include Needham Market church; half-timbered Debenham, Saxtead Green’s iconic post mill, Helmingham Hall Gardens and Framlingham’s 12th century curtain-wall castle and mere.
Day One – Arrive, set off & start to discover
Take a quick peek at a real Suffolk wonder before you leave Needham Market - the amazing double hammerbeam roof in St John the Baptist church is like no medieval other and will set the bar for the other superb sights you’ll catch glimpse of en route as you push those pedals towards Framlingham.
Up River Gipping valley slopes and down towards the Deben, you’ll find a magical nature reserve meadow full of wildflowers and mighty oaks at Mickfield before you get to graze on the wool town delights of the tempting medieval market town of Debenham. Park up by the green, by the cottage front gardens and former market cross; take a stroll past the old toll house or venture into mighty St Mary Magdalene to experience the unique ‘Galilee’ porch and bell-tower.
The villages of Monk Soham and Earl Soham suggest the historic lie of the land, but at Saxtead all is green and pleasant by the white, iconic post mill. Climb up to the fantail, find the ice-cream van or pop in the pub if you will, but Framlingham is just a short spin away.
Visit the castle and view ‘Hogwarts’ across the mere from the curtain wall walk. Admire the tombs of the great and not always so good in St Michael’s church. Pedal along to Shawsgate Vineyard for a glass of something very local - or just sit on the Square with a coffee at the Dancing Goat like Ed used to, and watch the world go by. Overnight: Framlingham.
Mileage: Rec 22 Min 21 Max 38
Day Two – The rural retreat
Heading for home already? Don’t worry, there’s plenty to discover along the way. Weave round Easton’s crinkle-crankle redbrick wall which once encompassed a fine Queen Anne mansion. Bits of the hall were reputedly shipped to a ranch in the States, but much of the Victorian model estate village including the dairy - now Easton’s farm park – still exist today.
Just up the lane, Letheringham is in a different time-zone altogether, home to a watermill, moated hall and priory church which seems to cling to a distant past. Up next, the rise and fall of idyllic ‘Akenfield’ landscapes – a countryside which Ronald Blythe suggested might be happy with its lot.
At Helmingham though, fine diaper-patterned gatehouses point the way through the deer park to the height of aspiration - the exquisite gardens of the moated Elizabethan hall. Created by owner and award-winning garden guru, Xa Tollemache, the grounds include walled, knot and wildflower gardens with highly renowned herbaceous borders and delightful vistas. They’re a real summer treat, but this part of Suffolk is inviting at any time of the year.
Finally, the lanes lead back towards Needham Market, but at Coddenham, there’s one last chance to take stock of the passage of Suffolk time. Climb up to St Mary’s on the hill and look out across a landscape. This was once an important medieval manor and, earlier still, home to one of East Anglia’s most significant Roman settlements. Suffolk is full of surprises and reasons to return.
Mileage: Rec 22 Min 22 Max 32
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Cycling holidays in Suffolk offer so many experiences to enjoy!…More
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