Five Go Cycling in Suffolk
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A self-guided cycling holiday in Suffolk during a global pandemic
I've never been on a cycling holiday before.
I've never been on a cycling holiday with our neighbours before.
And I've certainly never been on a cycling holiday with our neighbours during a global pandemic before.
What could possibly go wrong?
To be fair, the first couple of those points were
really no concern at all. We've all been covering a few miles in the saddle
this year, almost since the day lockdown started. Our neighbours on both sides
of us in Godalming, in leafy Surrey, are good friends and have been members of
Cranleigh Cycle Club for a while, so we knew we were in amicable and safe
We had originally booked to cycle in Puglia in
April, but of course that was postponed. We're hoping to escape there next
April or May, but in the meantime we thought we'd explore a few roads and
tracks in this country. Somewhere reasonably close. Somewhere reasonably flat.
And somewhere interesting, with things to do out of the saddle as much as when
Step forward Suffolk. Especially when my
wife Gill found an intriguing place to stay through Airbnb. The Round
House in Framlingham is a beautifully converted thatched
windmill, and an ideal base from which to explore countryside and coast,
whether on two wheels or four. 'Fram', as the locals call it, is a
charming market town, with an impressive church and the imposing 12th
century 'Castle on the Hill' that inspired a young Ed Sheeran when he was
growing up here.
Factor in a wine shop, a curry house and the
excellent Station Hotel - serving local ale from the Earl Soham brewery and
top-class food - a few wobbly steps from The Round House and Gill was almost
weighed down with brownie points. Owner Mark had given the whole property a
deep clean before our arrival, with other Covid-aware steps very prominent, and
was only too happy to share interesting stories about both The Round House and his
own regal life.
But what about the cycling?
There are guided cycling holidays around Suffolk,
but we were pedalling independently. Gill had mapped out a few routes to give
us some structure, and techy pro cyclist Simon had uploaded them to his Garmin
to lead out the peloton on the road. We cycled for six consecutive days, averaging
around 30 miles each day. Not huge distances, but perfect for the different
bikes and levels of fitness in the group. And it always seemed to be quite
windy, adding an extra challenge. And although it's not Puglia, it's definitely
a myth that Suffolk is completely flat.
Our routes gave us the opportunity to enjoy
idyllic, quiet lanes en route to peaceful villages and interesting towns. We
stumbled across ancient churches, quiet pubs with verdant gardens, and far more
tea shops than can be healthy for any athlete. And we rolled back to Fram
every day with tired legs, empty water bottles and ruddy cheeks, but always safe
in the knowledge that a hot shower, the Tour de France highlights and
comfortable beds were waiting for us at The Round House.
Here are a few highlights to include on any tour of
east Suffolk, whichever mode of transport you’re using:
Woodbridge – a vibrant
market town on the banks of the river Deben. Make sure you explore the River
Walk and Tide Mill.
Southwold - a
thriving seaside town and almost an island, defined by the mouth of the River
Blyth, Southwold Harbour, Buss Creek and the North Sea. Check out the intact 120-year-old
pier and make sure you don’t miss the Adnams Brewery.
Minsmere – a 1,000-acre
nature reserve, managed by the RSPB. Choose your time of day and year to
maximise opportunities to see some very special wildlife in this serene,
Dunwich – in
Anglo-Saxon times, Dunwich was the capital of the King of the Angles, but the
harbour and most of the town have since disappeared due to storm surges
and coastal erosion. Now a popular heathland and seaside village set
in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Aldeburgh and Snape Maltings – Snape Maltings is now home to the annual Benjamin Britten inspired Aldeburgh
Festival, its concert hall a reminder of a previous industrial purpose.
Performances are sadly curtailed during the pandemic, but the Maltings are
still a worthwhile destination and be sure to take the gentle boat ride down
the River Alde, spotting wildlife across the mudflats and reeds.
Bungay and Beccles – we drove north one day, cycling a rewarding loop from Bungay to
Beccles – ‘Gateway to the Norfolk Broads’ – and back again, seeing a different
landscape to other days and enjoying a rather long lunch in the Wherry Inn, in
the small village of Geldeston and straddling the Suffolk/Norfolk border.
There is much else for
Silver Travellers to explore in this timeless part of England, but hopefully
that’s given a flavour of what is achievable for independent Silver Cyclists.
Silver Travel Advisor partner Cycling for Softies don’t yet provide a Suffolk option,
but if you like the sound of spending a gentle week in the saddle (lycra
optional) they will guide you around the Cotswolds and Sussex, with many other
options in Europe, whenever normal life returns. They
also offer e-bikes which are a great alternative for less enthusiastic
cyclists, or those whose knees or hips have seen better days. Enjoy all the
benefits of cycling without the strain!
And by the way, we’re still talking to
our neighbours. And we’re all healthy, if a little saddle-sore.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Cycling for Softies.
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