We followed jack Thurston’s ‘Waveney Weekender’ (Ride number 27) to ride from Diss to Bungay on 16th and to return on 18th. We stayed two nights at Helen Bacon’s B and B at 54 St Mary’s Street, Bungay.
Wednesday 16th August
On Wednesday, we caught the 9:30 train from Liverpool Street to Diss arriving late (about 11:30). Once free of Diss, we rode on quiet lanes through Oakley and arrived at Hoxne at about 12:15 where we ate our sandwiches under the well cover on the village Green. Hoxne’s history and buildings are well preserved with former court room, doctor’s house, butcher’s shop all recorded.
The church of St Peter and St Paul stands at the top of the hill. It is a Perpendicular style church with a very tall tower. It contains an old carved font and faded wall paintings as well as a pew end depicting a wolf guarding St Edmund’s head after the Danes had cut it off.
We rode on to Syleham where we crossed the Waveney into Norfolk. The bridge is beside a fine old Mill building that has been spoilt by adding holiday apartments.
As we rode, we looked for swimming places as suggested in Jack’s book but the river is shallow and covered in lots of algae. Coffee and cake at a pub in Wortwell – an attractive village with rows of old houses. We found some lakes beside a caravan park but they too looked unattractive and an official came out and warned us off. We stopped again at the newly opened Earsham Wetland Centre– an attractive place with activities for childrem but apparently no swimming.
All Saint’s Church, Earsham is a big flint church in Perpendicular style with a very long nave. Inside we found another very fine font, this one with a set of carvings presumably representing bible stories. Earsham is cut off by marshes from Bungay so has avoided becoming a suburb.
We arrived in Bungay at about 4:30 pm (after a 33 km ride and earlier than expected) and sat in the lovely garden at the B and B until our hosts arrived from work. The room is very good: en-suite at the top of the house. After a rest, we explored Bungay:
- Bigod’s castle (a ruin with two towers still standing)
- then down the beautiful Bridge Street to the bridge (the Waveney is big here and Norfolk is on the other side).
- then a quick look at the outside of St Mary’s church (with a ruined prory behind it). Tower 1500.
Meal at Suffolk Stonehouse (calamari for starter and then enormous pizzas) we took the left overs for the next day’s picnic.
Thursday 17th August
It had rained all night and hadn’t yet quite stopped so during an excellent breakfast (home-made granola, fruit salad and toasted home-made break with a choice between several home-made jams) we made plans. We would explore Bungay for an hour or two and then set off on a circular ride via Reedham Ferry.
- St Mary’s church is built in flint and stone in C14-15 Perpendicular style; the tower is capped by pinnacles on each corner. The ruins of a C12 are priory behind the church. Inside, the timber roof is decorated with carvings of angels and animals. We were interested to hear the legend of Black Shuck once more (after encountering it at Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh). Unlike Blytheburgh there is no visible scorch mark but the story is illustrated in an embroidered panel. It seems that black Shuck came to Bungay after a thunderstorm in 1537 and then moved on to Blytheburgh.
- We walked a short circular route taking in the (Closed) museum in Broad Street, an alley called ‘Cork Bricks’, Bigod Castle again and the riverside.
Circular Ride. (48 km)
This is an anti-clockwise route starting east along Waveney via Geldeston and then turning northwards at Gillingham. We stopped for a picnic in a field near Ravenhingham (eating pizza from last night and plums from a farm shop).
Soon after we set off again, we came across then ‘Ravenous Cafe” in an arts centre in Raveningham. It was a very pleasant place: low buildings with tables outside and river opposite. We had coffees and managed one slice of cake – pity that we always find such places just after we’ve eaten. An exhibition of sculpture was being installed in a nearby field. Then we cycled into the grounds of the nearby Raveningham Hall and stopped to look at St Andrews church which has a round (octagonal?) tower. Inside there’s another beautifully carved stone font.
By the time we reached Reedham Ferry the sun was shining strongly so we decided to cross over the river Yare – it’s a chain ferry. We then rode into the village of Reedham and relaxed by the river Yare. There were more tea opportunities here! It’s a tourist place with people messing about in boats. There’s a railway station and a swing bridge to take the trains across the river.
Our return route was via Loddon – a small uninteresting town whose cafe had just closed. Eventually we sat down in a stubbly field nibbling our ‘bars’ and sipping our water. Despite the strong wind from the SW we progressed well on the southbound road into Bungay via Bridge Street,
Good evening meal in Three Cooks.
Friday 18th August
Bungay to Diss on Jack Thiurston’s southern loop.(44km), via the Saints, Hoxne, Eye and Mellis.
Another excellent breakfast and then farewell to our hosts Helen and Nigel. We set off at 10 am against a very strong wind from the SSW after getting sandwiches from a Deli and fruit from a greengrocer in Earsham Street.
Our first stop was at St Pater’s Hall, a micro brewery in a moated manor house. We just looked…
Next stop was St peter’s Church South Elmham, a simple, flint perpendicular style building with a tower. Inside there’s a delicately carved timber screen and a few carved stone corbels
Then we came to St Margarets South Elmham Church, another flint perpendicular style building with a tower. The door is set in an ancient stone arch with carvings. Inside there’s a good timber ceiling and lighting is still by oil lamp.
Mendham : an interesting village with attractive sign, a bridge over the Waveney and All Saints Church.
We stopped at 1:15 for a picnic lunch in the corner of a big field with bales of straw scattered about. At Syleham, we re-joined a section of the outward route and stopped for another look at the Mill and river bridge. Then we went to see St Margaret’s church Syleham – a partly saxon flint church with a round tower. Inside there’s a very slender stone font – has it been turned upside down?
Back at Hoxne, we had coffee and cake outside the village shop while we agonised as to whether to complete the (longer) loop against the wind or to take the short way back to Diss.
Strengthened by the stop we decided to press on and were pleased to find Eye, which must have been a very rich town at some time. There is a magnificent timbered C15 Guildhall next door to a large, beautiful church. St Peter and St Paul’s church, Eye was rebuilt in C15 from stone, bricks and flint with a beautifully patterned facade. Inside is a C14 painted screen and timber roof beams with carvings of angels.
The last stretch of the ride passes through some lovely villages with houses round a village green. We noticed ponies at Mellis and admired the layout of Thrandeston.
Suddenly we were at Diss Station just in time to jump on the 4.17 pm train – we were a bit slow getting the bikes into guard’s van and extracting the paper to read. We hope we didn’t cause serious delay.