Easter Sunday 31 April 2002
(Intro: I've long wanted to try this one. Suffolk is fascinating, and the local ferries start working on Good Friday. The National Trust have just opened a new interpretative centre at Sutton Ho, site of the burial in a complete longship of an Anglo-Saxon king in 625AD. All on OS Landranger map 169 (Ipswich and The Naze area)).
Eight of us met at the Cutty Sark at 9am, the clocks had gone forward that night. It took us 25 minutes to get to Liverpool Street. (5 miles). We got the 50% ticket discount for groups of 4 so the day returns to Manningtree cost £7.20 each. More joined us, including a Dursley-Pederson bike that looks like a cross between a penny-farthing and a hammock. 15 of us got on the 10.10am train with no problem at all.
Manningtree took 70 minutes, it's an excellent place to start rides from with a lovely old buffet that does good food . We headed east along the Stour estuary past the hop warehouses of Mistley and straight into quiet country roads. Harwich Old Town is fascinating, and not that easy to find through the dull suburbs. We got there at 12.45pm, just in time for the 1pm ferry across to Felixstowe opposite. (17 miles). The ferry costs more than I thought (£3 plus £1 for bike) but is a treat. It holds about 15 people and is like a small landing craft. We had to split the group. The crossing was excitingly choppy and took about 20 minutes. We were under cover but the bikes up front got splashed by the waves. I worried about the brand new Condor fixed wheeel track bike in training for next Saturday at the velodrome.
The ferry doesn't follow the route shown on maps....it used to land in the middle of the huge Felixstowe container port but rising landing charges means that it now beaches itself on the shingle beach a mile east right by Landguard Fort. Where a Hackney cyclist was waiting to join us.
(Ferry: it does the Harwich/Shotley/ Felixstowe triangle. 07970 115382. Starts Good Friday and runs every day until the end of September or October, weather depending. It also provides a water taxi service. They said it helps if groups of bikes phone ahead).
We rode the two miles into central Felixstowe, very Southendish in a smaller way. (19 miles). The place was packed with day-trippers. The third pub we tried had room for all. I shot back to meet the rest of us on the next ferry. The pub, The Miller, next to the pier was ok but too busy. The food took ages, but was ok.
Then the 3 miles to Felixstowe Ferry, a lovely little yachty/fishy place, I wish we'd lunched here. (22 miles).
The ferry across the river Deben was even smaller. Room for around 12 people, so two trips again. £2. The captain is John White, he's harbour master too. It runs from Good Friday to the end of October. 01394 270106 or 07803 476621.
Then up to Bawdsey and Shottisham on very quite local roads.
We got to Sutton Ho at 5pm, the place was closing fast. (33 miles). It's an extraordinary place. The ship burial of Raedwald, an Anglo-Saxon warrior king, in about 625AD with full armour and jewellery. Tomb robbers missed the spot and it was discovered in 1939 by one Basil Brown. Lots of other burials there too.
I stuck my head into the new exhibition area, and the cleaner very kindly said "We are closed, but you've got 5 minutes". And didn't charge us the £3.50. Then we walked the 500 metres to the roped off field full of burial mounds, and right round it. (Sutton Ho National Trust office: 01394 389700. email@example.com).
Woodbridge and the../ station were only three miles away. (36 miles). We got there in good time for a look round the intact square and fine church, and a beer. Several rode the 13 miles to Ipswich.
We changed trains at Ipswich where we bought our £2.70 Ipswich to Manningtree portions. And got back to Liverpool Street Bridge around 9pm.
Verdict: the train and two ferries combination is a fragile one, but it worked well for us. We expected a long day out in the newly light evenings, and got one. There's lots of good countryside and coast round here and the train/ferry/ride permutations are fascinating. 39 ridden miles, Greenwich to Greenwich.
3 April 2002