Inspired by the hero of The Dig, in the summer I decided to plan a Basil Brown cycle route in his honour. Brown, a self-taught local archaeologist, discovered the incredible Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge, as featured in the film. He lived in Rickinghall, so this first leg links Woodbridge to Rickinghall. The plan is to publish a complete loop of places linked to his life, so this is the first instalment! This route is about 30miles (45km) with 900ft (250m) of ascent. It is largely on quiet roads but there are several off-road sections, 1 ford and three busy roads to cross. Read on for a route description and a download of the GPX route.
Woodbridge sits on the Deben opposite Sutton Hoo. During the dig in 1939, the academic archaeologists stayed in the Bull Hotel. Our journey starts here. Locally the story is told that when drinking in the evening, one local asked if they’d found any gold. ‘Yes my pockets are stuffed with it!’ came the reply. It would usually have been bravado but he did actually have one of the treasures in his pocket as he didn’t feel it was safe left in his room. Woodbridge today houses a fascinating museum on the water front where they are building a replica of the Sutton Hoo long boat. There are also a famous tide mill and numerous boutique shops and eateries.
When you are ready to start, travel down hill from the Bull on New Street on the one-way system, on to St John’s Street on the left and then left again (North) onto the thoroughfare (B1428). Continue over the lights in Melton and up-hill on Yarmouth Road, keeping a look-out for St Audry’s Road on the left. This soon becomes a bridlepath and then after crossing the A12 becomes a byway for about 1.5km of off-road. Head left to Bredfield and join EV21. Keep on this route through Dallinghoo, Charsfield and then into Hoo. Then turn sharp Left (West) along the undulating hills towards Cretingham, turning sharp right at the welcoming Bell Pub.
Heart of Suffolk
You are now on the Heart of Suffolk (HoSR) way-marked route. Follow this through Debenham, a small pretty town with a selection of places to eat. The route out of Debenham bears left as the road opens up – it is easy to miss! This is a very quiet section dotted with houses and farms. At a minor cross-roads where the HoSR goes left towards Thorndon, keep straight for Stoke Ash.
Pass the interesting sign to your left and dogleg right then left past the church, sweeping left and pause at the A140. This is a tricky junction and not to be rushed, you need to turn left then immediately right onto a muddy farm track. At this point the main road has a 50mph limit, so if you nip out you will be at risk if you stop in the middle of the road. The track has a finger post and is clearly used by vehicles even if signed as a footpath. Use the StreetView, below, to have a look around.
Off Road to Burgate Little Green
Continue along the track for about 700m where it splits 3 ways. Take the north-most and hard-packed track which heads across a ford on the River Dove. In summer this was a quaint stream, take care if there has been recent rain, especially if you cannot see the bottom. If needed you can return to the A140 head left (north) and left again (west) at the cross roads into Thornham Magna.
If you have forded the Dove, head north past the Four Horseshoes pub and up The Street. I turned left towards Thornham Hall and continued on the metalled path onto a byway. There were several laminated signs insisting this was a private drive. However it seemed well used by locals and no one challenged me. You could carry on the road past the cricket club, and then turn hard-left to head south-west. Both options then pick up the grandly named byway, Park Lane, which heads into mixed woodland. Continue on this track for about 2.3km carefully crossing the railway line and into Mellis Green.
In theory there is path that cuts a diagonal to continue the byway. When I rode the route there were livestock and electric fences so I continued left (west) on the minor road. I spotted the gap in the hedge that marks the start of the byway and headed across empty pasture of the Common to meet it. This final off-road section on Stonebridge Lane and Furze Way leads to Burgate Little Green. Continuing along Bugg’s Road you need to turn left onto a fast section of the A143. It’s relatively wide and there is a right-turn lane after about 500m signed for Redgrave, Rickinghall and Botesdale on the B1113.
Rickinghall and Botesdale are today one long linear village along the old main road linking Bury St Edmunds and Diss. The arrival in Botesdale at the top of a slope shows the village stretching out ahead, quite a rare sight for Suffolk! Basil Brown grew up at Church Farm (see pic at the top of the page) which is at the western end of the village. At the time of writing the farm is for sale, with plenty of pictures in the listing which may be interesting. It is undoubtedly more gentrified that it used to be!
Church Farm is next to the church (!), which has a rare round tower with an octagonal belfry. The church’s name is unusual (to me), St Mary’s Inferior … there is a St Mary’s Superior and two contrasting faces of the church sign. There are plenty of descriptions of the church online. Our purpose is Basil Brown and inside the church there is a small plaque to his memory. I looked for a more significant memorial to Rickinghall’s famous son and the best I could find was a small close bearing his name in a housing estate.
The map below also shows the route described and when I’ve figured out how to convince WordPress that it’s safe to add a GPX file, I’ll load that too. This route includes the directions to Basil Brown Close in case you are interested. Enjoy, and if you do ride the route, please let me know what you think in the comments below.
Next Instalment …
I’ll continue to develop this loop and post here when I have updates. I have ridden a loop already, but the roads back to Ipswich had fast traffic so I will be looking for alternatives. If you have any top tips, do please add a comment here or on the comments page.
It has taken longer than I wanted to publish this first instalment as I’ve been working with Cycling UK on the approved LowLE off-road route and story. And then there is the day job that pays for this site! There will eventually be a road version as well as one for those of us that like it wild.