2012 Tour – Suffolk

Day 1 – Bury St Edmunds to Edwardstone
Day 2 – Edwardstone to Kettleburgh/Brandeston
Day 3 – Brandeston to Bury St Edmunds
Photos and video

Day 1

Bikes on trains There were no real hassles getting to Bury St Edmunds, although the 9:45 train was surprisingly busy we managed to squeeze the bikes on board.

We gathered at Angel Hill in the historic centre of the town where all the talk was of the dreadful weather forecast for the weekend. It was cool and cloudy and most of us were already wearing rain jackets. Josie, on her first cycle tour, was blindly optimistic that it wouldn’t rain but was wearing her rain jacket, just in case.

 

Gathering at Angel Hill

After some photos, we were on our way, allowed into the road by the first of many courteous and patient drivers we encountered this weekend. Before we’d even gone half a mile, we’d passed the first of many, many pink cottages/houses and in short time we’d turned off the A143 and were climbing out of Bury. We were already in the countryside.

 

Our destination for lunch was Lavenham and our route there was very quiet. With quite a strong Easterly wind we were glad of the high hedgerows on the narrow lanes as we pootled Southwards. After crossing the A134, with the wind in our faces, we climbed steadily over to the amazing little town of Lavenham.

Stop Cock Our official stop, The Cock, is on the edge of town and wasn’t busy. We ordered some food and at some point everyone went off to explore Lavenham and marvel at the crooked buildings.

Lavenham Street

Crooked House, Lavenham

Lavenham Pink Cottage

Lavenham Guildhall

It was just before 3pm when we set off for our afternoon leg to Edwardstone and Bower House Tye. Fully laden, we sailed back down the ridge we’d climbed before lunch and soon were in Long Melford. It was only four miles from Lavenham so no one was in the mood for a proper stop but some took the opportunity to stock up on supplies. I missed a right turn when we set off, not that surprising when it looked like someone’s driveway, but we were soon back on track after a quick U-turn. There was even a short excursion into Essex as we headed down a pretty lane to the West of Long Melford.

We crossed the A134 for the third time and started to climb the ridge for the second time. There was a shriek from behind as Megan lost her front wheel in some gravel and tumbled onto the soft grass verge. Showing great spirit, Megan dusted herself down and got back on her bike – apparently she’s used to falling off.

Suffolk Tour 2012

After Great Waldingfield the lanes got even narrower, and more full of potholes. The roads had been up and down all day as we criss-crossed small river valleys and we hit our steepest hill yet as we weaved our way to the The White Hart Inn at Edwardstone. Megan’s chain unshipped as she changed down to her granny gear causing her to stop. A domino effect meant everyone behind her had to stop too.

Edwardstone

Soon after we pulled into the grounds of the pub and made arrangements to meet David and Gary in the morning as they were continuing another 4.5 miles to Bower House Tye to stay at The Brewers Arms. Meanwhile, the campers set about getting their tents up in the pub’s camping field. Despite all the recent rain the ground was quite hard and we were all relieved when Megan told us about the mallet she’d packed. Dave was more surprised than relieved, as he had been unknowingly carrying the thing in his panniers.

White Hart

The weather forecast for the day had been correct – no rain so far – although it was pretty cool and windy, certainly not warm enough to loll around our tents chatting. Paul, Dave and Megan knocked up their own meals while the rest of us ate at the pub (the food was excellent).

A session of putting the world to rights with accompanying beer (brewed on-site at the Mill Green Brewery) saw both our numbers, and the stock levels of Citra (our favourite beer) dwindle as the night wore on. After switching to the equally drinkable Lovely’s Fair, we chatted some more before retiring to our tents. Just as the rain began.

Day 2

The weather during the night was terrible – very windy and wet. In fact, had it remained that way in the morning I would have suggested abandoning the tour – riding with loaded bikes in heavy rain and high winds is no fun at all. However, by the time we were up and about it was just cold and grey with light rain. It didn’t look like it was going to break in the foreseeable future, but this felt like an improvement. The forecast for today was heavy rain all day and there was a suspicion that perhaps we might have got lucky and the worst of it had blown through overnight.

After a breakfast of coffee and pain-au-chocolat in my tent, I rounded up the troops and confirmed a departure time then strolled down the lane to the spot where there was strong mobile signal. I called Gary to confirm a meeting time. It turned out that David and Gary were struggling to get breakfast in their B&B echoing the situation on last year’s tour where the first B&B was just a B.

Suffolk Tour 2012

Before we could set off there were some tent/water issues to deal with. My own tent’s groundsheet had leaked and soaked my down-filled sleeping mat. There was no way that was going to dry so I was looking at a B&B room that night.

 

 

Also Jackie hadn’t quite managed the knack of keeping the inside of her (borrowed) tent dry. In her defence, it’s a very small tent so it is difficult when you’re not used to it. To round things off Josie had a broken tent pole and jumped at the chance of a room in a B&B. If we could get one at short notice on a Bank Holiday weekend…

Once on our way we briefly lost Paul who had stopped at a junction to put on his gloves. Quickly reunited we rode on to meet David and Gary who were sensibly sheltering from the light rain in a barn.

The highlight that morning was the beautiful village of Kersey where the church bells rang out as we approached. During the planning phase of this tour someone had described Kersey to me as the prettiest village in Suffolk and I had been determined to include it in our route. I was not disappointed. I sent Harvey ahead with his video camera and stopped everyone to warn them of the ford running through the village (and the videoing) but urged everyone to give it a shot. I was the first through the ford and was relieved that it was shallow but then I hit the slippery, loose cobbles on the exit! I might have said a naughty word at this point.

Suffolk Tour 2012

The route to Woodbridge, our location for lunch, again crossed several small river valleys each with their own descent/ascent but the lanes we were riding continued to be quiet and the few drivers we encountered continued to be patient and courteous. On one tiny back lane we were huffing and puffing our way up, an approaching tractor driver just stopped, gave a cheery wave, and lit his roll-up as we twiddled our way past him. Over-trousers and the odd jacket were removed as the weather steadily improved and soon we crossed the busy A12 and swooped into Woodbridge for lunch.

Suffolk Tour 2012

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Photobucket

 

 

 

 

 

The Tea Hut (by the River Deben, beside the boating lake) was great. Staffed by good looking young people and serving tasty food. It was also lovely and warm. After a meatball panini I tried phoning around for the extra B&B rooms we needed that night without much luck and leaving messages when there was no response. Thoughts then turned to trying to acquire some sort of tarp and cheap sleeping mat, again without much luck. Just as I was considering riding to the nearest Tesco (a big one) I received a call from the same B&B where David and Gary were staying, Church Farm. They had two rooms – just what we needed! We set off on in the kind of thick misty drizzle that soaks and chills you but I was happy.

Suffolk Tour 2012

Buttrum's Mill

A couple of minutes later we stopped at Buttrum’s Mill, Woodbridge’s most distinctive landmark after the Tide Mill. No one was really that interested so we crossed the A12 again and swooped back down to the quiet lanes that would take us to Kettleburgh.

About 3 miles from Kettleburgh we had stopped at a junction and heard a funny gurgling sound. Pete’s front tyre was punctured and the hole happened to be sitting in a small puddle of water on the road. Pete decided to carry on and try and make it to the campsite without mending the puncture – a feat achieved with only one more quick stop to add some more air.

Church Farm B&B was in Kettleburgh but the campsite was at The Queens Head Inn in the next village, Brandeston. As the campers headed off to their pub we went to find the village hall where we knew our landlady was helping out at some Jubilee celebration event. We parked our bikes around the back and hesitantly entered the village hall, not sure if we’d be welcome at such a local event. How wrong we were. For a small donation we were treated to waitress service of tea, scones, sandwiches and jelly with condensed milk!

Timewarp

Jackie

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

As we couldn’t get into the B&B until our landlady had finished helping out, and we were taking up a table in the packed hall, we rode on to Brandeston to see the campers. The folk of Brandeston were having a street party and the pub was pretty busy. Our guys were ensconced in a corner having either put up their tents or hung them in a barn to dry a bit first. Bizarrely the pub was closing at 6pm (as they always do on a Sunday evening). We had planned to eat there that night! You’d think something like this would be mentioned when you book the camping places?

That evening everyone ate at The Chequers Inn in Kettleburgh. It was OK, nothing special, and the landlord got a bit arsey at the way we were ordering food but to be fair, he’d had a pretty stressful day after the pub was burgled overnight and all the celebrations going on there that evening. It rained all evening and all night again.

Day 3

Suffolk Tour 2012

Our delicious breakfast at Church Farm B&B took a while so it was around 10am when we met the others in Brandeston. The campers were hungry but at least by that time it had stopped raining.

 

 

Suffolk Tour 2012

While there was some faffing going on, Gary took the opportunity to give his bike a quick clean. Anyone who has seen Gary’s bike will not be surprised at this.

 

 

 

We set off for Stowmarket with patches of blue sky appearing and a cool Northerly wind blowing. At Debenham, after stopping to get cash and a few supplies (more jelly babies for me) we went off route for a minute or two but soon corrected and were back in the lanes.

Megan

The approach to our lunch stop was interesting as to the uninitiated it looked like we were just going to Asda but the Museum of East Anglian Life is tucked away in the corner of the car park. The Ostier café was excellent and rounded up a trio of good lunch stops on the tour. Thanks to CTC Suffolk for recommending this one.

The next section of the tour was probably the worst of the three days, in terms of the roads that is – the weather was great. Unfortunately, our proximity to the A14 and a route between two of the largest towns in the area meant a lot more traffic and inevitably we encountered the odd idiot.

 

Thankfully as the roads got smaller, the volume of traffic reduced and it became more enjoyable. We did have a mother of a hill to climb at one point, probably the longest of the tour, but otherwise the standout moment was riding through the middle of a pig farm to get to an underpass under the A14 – I was relieved it wasn’t wet.

Suffolk Tour 2012

Crossing the A14 again , this time over a footbridge, meant we rode straight into Angel Hill (bathed in sunshine) which was a nice way to end the tour. We posed for some more photos, said our goodbyes and dispersed to cars, cafés and trains.

Suffolk Tour 2012

Photos and video

CTC Peterborough Flickr group

Pete’s Flickr set

JT’s Flickr set

Harvey’s video: