Thursday, 12 March 2009

A cycle ride between the art, history and local services of Halesworth and Darsham.

This was written for the benefit of the High Tide Theatre Company

From: The Cut, New Cut, Halesworth, IP19 8BY
To: Haw Wood Farm, Darsham IP17 3QT

Distance: 5.4 miles, 9.18 km

Although the majority of this route is along a main road which HGVs travel between Ipswich and Norwich, the upside is that the road is smooth and wide with gentle climbs and descents. It should take a moderately fit person less than half an hour to travel by bicycle between the site of the High Tide festival at The Cut, Halesworth and the festival's campsite at Darsham.

On leaving the entrance to The Cut, head north (uphill) on New Cut and turn left at the A144/Norwich Rd, going downhill towards the roundabout.

But if your tyres need some air, turn right to Hammonds petrol station instead as this is the only local petrol station with a free air line.

Go straight ahead (second exit) over the roundabout onto Saxons Way. (The third exit Bridge Street leads to The Thoroughfare, a pedestrian shopping area.) A shopfront on Bridge Street belongs to the World Land Trust, an international conservation organisation that takes direct action to save rainforest and other wildlife habitats by buying it. The public library is almost opposite it.

On the roundabout on your left is Hooker House, once the home of the botanist Sir
Joseph Dalton Hooker which is now a dental surgery. Behind it the park on your left was given to the town by Lady Rugby, the grandmother of disgraced MP Jonathan Aitken who spent his childhood in Halesworth. This is the site of the annual ‘Gig in the Park’ every August.

The river running through the park was once navigable until embankments built downstream caused it to silt up and there was a busy quayside where grain from the many maltings in Halesworth (of which The Cut was one) was taken by boat to Southwold and from there by ship to London. At one time all of Halesworth's malt went exclusively to the Truman brewery in London's Brick Lane.

The car park on the right has a rank of bottle banks and beside them is Huggy's, a cycle shop and motor mechanic.

At the next roundabout continue on ahead. (The right turn is signed Angel Link and leads to The Thoroughfare and the town Marketplace.)

The road now sweeps in a curve to the right. Lansbury Road on the left is named after the founder of the Labour Party George Lansbury (see Mells). Archaeological evidence suggests the derelict land on the right was occupied in medieval times with lead-working, spinning, weaving and brewing carried out in several tenements. It is now the
contested site of a development for a Tesco supermarket.

At the next roundabout take the first left A144/London Rd. On the right is a Co-operative supermarket and a petrol station with a coin-operated pressure washer. Facing the roundabout is the Rifle Hall, originally built in 1792 as a theatre and was used from 1812 - 1844 by the theatre manager David Fisher. He owned an itinerant theatre group which travelled a circuit of theatres in East Anglia (including the Fisher Theatre in Bungay). It would take the company two years to complete the circuit travelling with their costumes, props and sets and publicising their plays as they went. They were highly successful with strong links with the London stage and the acting circle and the Rifle Hall once provided Halesworth what The Cut does today. The Rifle Hall has regretfully been neglected by Waveney District Council ever since they took it over in 1974 and its future looks uncertain.

Continue up the incline, mindful of the T-junction with the B1123 Chediston St causing traffic to stop or pull out in front of cyclists, passing Kerridges car dealership, and after that, turn left (heading south) at the A144/Bramfield Rd (at Highfield Residential Home). The road then sweeps downhill passing Blyth industrial estate. A cottage that once stood at the crossroads for Mells and Walpole was the birthplace of the founder of the Labour Party
George Lansbury. His grand-daughter is the actress Angela. The Mells road continues onto Wenhaston and this is a good route if you want a quiet back road to see the Wenhaston Doom. In the distance to the east along the valley you can also see the Holton Windmill.

At the 2 km mark, the road climbs again as you pass the
Halesworth Golf Club, crossing over the East Suffolk Railway, until it reaches a plateau. The trees at the right bend in the road have seen two fatal car accidents here in the last two years. A memorable road safety poster said "you see a lot of flowers in the country" and the remnants of wreaths were still there at the time of writing. To give a sense of distance if contemplating a side trip; to the east on the far horizon can be seen the Hinton Lodge water tower and next to it is Blythburgh Church, one of the finest churches in East Anglia.

The road then begins to descend towards the village of
Bramfield and with enough initial speed it is possible to coast to the centre of the village.

After the village sign, a short way up the first left turning is K W Clarkes, a quality butchers who produce local ham smoked on the premises as well as stocking locally sourced groceries.

After that turning, the North Manor Equestrian Centre stock the surrounding fields with horses and beyond that, The Bell, a 17th century pub, sells firewood and serves real ale but not food. It is one of the last places in the world where the traditional pub game ‘Ringing the Bull’ can be played.

Further on the
Bramfield Garage services and sells secondhand cars and motorcycles. Opposite the garage is the Queens Head, a long established award winning gastro-pub. Even though it is now only 5 kms since you left The Cut, you may want to slake your thirst from passing the half-way mark with a pint of locally brewed Adnams there. Nearby an overgrown dovecote made from a barrel raised on a post is a charming oddity.

At the village crossroads a choice of diversions awaits: The Walpole road to the right passes a crinkle-crankle wall and leads to the fine
St Andrews Church.

In the opposite direction; a short way down the Thorington road, a path following the ancient Dunwich road leads to circle of felled elm trees at TM 403 736 which often holds outdoor performances. The landowner is the managing director of a display pyrotechnics company who has evidently done extensive and sensitive natural landscaping.

The Thorington road also leads to Wenhaston and a ride to there and back to Holton and Halesworth via the Mells road is a pleasant circular route.

Continuing out of the village, an ancient defensive earthworks, the ‘Bramfield Castle’, becomes apparent on the left side. The road now divides two separate estates. On the right; the Georgian façade of Bramfield Hall can be glimpsed. This Tudor pile is the weekend home of the chairman of the Royal Opera House.

The road begins to climb again and here the surface has deteriorated in some places. A cast iron milestone is at TM 401 727 and near here a large colony of rooks makes an audible landmark that car drivers would miss.

Then on the right,
Brights Farm raises organic meat and is a special area of conservation. From the farm you can access twelve miles of grass walks passing a variety of different habitats including old meadows, ancient woods and ponds. Polocrosse is sometimes played in the fields too.

On reaching a flat plateau again, passing two WWII pillboxes marks the last kilometre. The vista is marred or enlivened depending on your mood by the sight of the A12 road and the whiff of a poultry farm.

At the junction with the A12, to reach Haw Wood Farm turn left towards the Little Chef restaurant and then turn right (signed for Hinton) and continue on, passing the turning for High Lodge golf course and shooting school, to reach Haw Wood Farm.

Otherwise, to continue onto Saxmundham, turn right at the A12 and continue on the cycle path towards the train station and petrol station which will become visible 2 km further south.

Darsham has all the basic essentials for a bicycle visitor including a
cycling centre and The Fox Inn is popular for Sunday lunches. A bicycle will ensure all its amenities are convenient as they are scattered over some distance.

Clustered around the train station 2 km further along the A12 from the A144 junction are two cafés, a Jet petrol station with a market, Monkey Drum; a shop selling multicultural musical instruments and fair-trade gifts, a paint and tile shop and a automotive tyre centre.

If you want to return to Halesworth by public transport, your choices are the train from Darsham which takes under ten minutes but only runs every two hours or the hourly 521 Anglian Bus which stops outside the station and The Fox Inn on which so far folding bikes have been tolerated.

Local Bike Shops


Coopers (an ironmongers selling tools but no bike spares)
53-54 The Thoroughfare
01986 872 110

Huggy's Bike Shop

Unit 5
18 The Thoroughfare
Tel: 01986 873932


Byways Bicycle
Priory Farm
Tel: 01728 668764

Mountain Bike Hire for Snape and Rendlesham forests (delivery and collection to your door with 24 hours notice).

Avocet Sports

07706 479965

Another map link:

Services in Halesworth

Besides The Cut, services in Halesworth cluster around the Thoroughfare and The Marketplace, both a short walk from the New Cut. Halesworth has a wide range of shops including specialist butchers, a fishmonger, a delicatessen, a organic shop, several greengrocers, a toyshop, several giftshops, an ironmongers, several cafes, a picture framer, a teddy bear emporium, several banks and building societies, a travel agent, a sports shop, a Spar, two newsagents, three hairdressers, a gun shop, a wine merchant, a copy shop, a stationers, chemists and several takeaways. There is also a Co-operative supermarket and several petrol stations and car dealerships locally.

For bike related items there is Huggy's and Anglia Sports has some clothing and Coopers is hardware shop with good tool department but it doesn’t stock bike bits.

Barclays and Lloyds cashpoints are in the marketplace (beyond the Thoroughfare, opposite the Angel Hotel) and HSBC has one at the north end of The Thoroughfare opposite Focus Organics.


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