When Andrew came with the bicycle, he apologetically admitted it had seen better days. On the plus side, it was free and when I got to ride it, I found everything was in working order and it rolled through the countryside at a pleasurable sedate pace. I wasn’t entering the Tour de France after all. My wife S, not being one of life’s peddlers, had turned down her offer of a bike.
Suffolk’s country lanes proved to be very enjoyable cycling territory. With a mixture of low hedges and being open to the surrounding fields, it was easy to spot oncoming vehicles (about one per hour) and admire the pretty thatched cottages, wheat fields and big skies that this part of England is known for. I should also give a shout out to the fruit farms – the one where we were staying produced delicious strawberries.
My first jaunt was a gentle Sunday morning ride through the parish of Lindsey. It might have been a bit longer had I not stumbled across (not literally) the Lindsey Rose. Andrew recommended this pub for food, but we had already booked Sunday lunch at the nearby Bell Inn in Kersey. Still, it would be a shame not to go in and wet the whistle as I was passing. I walked in to find I was the only customer. The bartender informed me the chef had covid and they were unable to serve food for a week. This meant all bookings were cancelled, so the usual Sunday lunch crowd were nowhere to be seen. Her eyes lit up when two more people walked into the bar, but it turned out they were just lost tourists who’d come in to ask for directions. So it was just me. I lingered for a while in the extensive beer garden, surrounded by bucolic rural scenery until I remembered that lunch booking. Not wanting to keep my wife S waiting, I drank up and got on my bike.
Kersey turned out to be a real picture postcard village. Attractive old cottages line the main street, going uphill from the river at the bottom of the valley. There’s a ford for vehicles and a little bridge for pedestrians. Some residents had little stalls in the street, selling local produce including fruit, vegetables and home-made preserves. No traders giving their sales pitches – just honesty boxes. We had a wander and then walked into the 14th century inn for lunch. The Bell oozes history and atmosphere, but I could see why it was the Lindsey Rose was recommended for food. It’s a great place to stop for a drink though.
My next 2 rides were a partial disappointment, but only from the refreshment point of view. I don’t know if this is typical for rural Suffolk, but I found that some planned pub stops were closed on a Monday and Tuesday. At least one had a message on the door explaining the reason was staff shortages. The first was the Peacock Inn, located in lovely Chelsworth. I cycled down a hill into a wooded valley, arriving at a narrow bridge over a stream. The idyllic rural scene was worthy of a photo stop, even if there were no drinks at the inn.
I rode on to the neighbouring village of Monks Eleigh, only to find that the Swan was also closed. At that point, I gave up and decided my best option for refreshments was to head back to our accommodation. I had forgotten that what goes down must come up, and it was a hard slog for a little while.
The following afternoon, I set off prepared with a water bottle, just in case. My ride took me through the lanes west of Lindsey, winding up in the village of Little Waldingfield. Passing the Commonwealth war graves at St Lawrence’s Church, I arrived at the rather closed looking Swan Inn. Time for a drink, nonetheless. Afterwards, I headed back along the quiet country lanes to Lindsey.
On Wednesday afternoon, I set off aimlessly but then decided to head down a narrow road signposted Edwardstone. From a liquid refreshment point of view, this turned out to be the jackpot. Although only serving outside as a covid precaution, the White Horse had a microbrewery attached to it. There seemed to be an endless choice of beers and ciders on tap to choose from. I decided to try a local cider, Suffolk being one of the areas of England well known for this drink. There was a lack of food on offer, but that was no problem on this occasion. It would have been easy to overindulge, but I resisted this temptation as I had to cycle back. The return journey to the farm was only slightly merrier.
Thursday was our last full day in Suffolk, so I decided to pay a final visit to the Lindsey Rose. The bartender greeted me like a long lost friend, although she was accompanied by quite a few customers, unlike my previous visit. A keep fit class was taking place out in the beer garden which seemed to involve a complete cross section of the local community – male, female, young, old, toned and less toned. I rang S to ask if she wanted to come up and join in, but she just laughed. So I sat there, drinking Suffolk cider and taking in the scene – the keep fitters being put through their paces, children playing ball with their Dad, an old man concentrating on his beer, a gentle breeze rustling through the trees in the neighbouring field and those big skies. If the chef was well and serving delicious food, I might indeed have been able to tempt S to join me.
S did join me for a visit to the historic St James’ Chapel, as it was only a short walk away from our accommodation. A little 13th century chapel built with flint stone and sporting a thatched roof, St James was built to serve the nearby Lindsey Castle. The latter is now just a small earth mound in a field 250m away. The Chapel may also have been associated with a nearby monastery as it ceased to used after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. The building became a barn, which is when it got its thatched roof – unusual for a religious building. A cottage is now adjacent to St James, which is on the edge of its garden. However, the chapel is still open for visitors and looked after by English Heritage. We had a look inside its Spartan interior. The lack of interior furnishings does help the visitor appreciate the simplicity of the mediaeval architecture and information on its history is on display.
After our visit to St James’ Chapel, I returned the bicycle to the farm. It was time to continue exploring on 4 wheels.
Lindsey is in South Suffolk, England, UK, 13 miles west of Ipswich and 83 miles north east of London.
The nearest train station is Ipswich which is 30 minutes by bus from nearby Hadleigh (4 miles away). Onward buses are very infrequent. All villages referred to are on country lanes close to the A1141 Hadleigh to Lavenham road. There are a number of signposted cycle routes in the area