Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hastings and the Belgian connection


Spent the weekend in Hastings and St Leonards, staying at the grand but eccentric Royal Victoria Hotel, where we were waited on by Rik van Looy's nephew. The Emporer of Herentals no less.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Mid Suffolk Light Railway


A couple of weeks ago we set off for the Mid Suffolk Light Railway (the 'Middy') near Wetheringsett, via Haughley. More info here. Lunch was a sandwich and figs bought at the local shop in Mendlesham - since we'd had a big breakfast in Bury for a treat, at the Angel Hotel. Mendlesham has some very attractive bits but not much of a web presence, with the notable exception of this rave review of St Mary's church.

The Middy museum had closed for the season, unbeknownst to us, but we enjoyed a cup of tea courtesy of one of the helpers there, as we watched others prepare for December's Santa Specials, which involved some shunting, moving a load of old sleepers with a JCB, some head scratching and plenty of chatting.

The facilities at the Middy are excellent - modern and clean. It's obviously a labour of love for the volunteers there; they seem to be doing a great job and no doubt we'll be back when they are in steam.

Good hedges ride to Dalham


We've been cycling most weekends, but blogging less frequently. Too Busy, aargh. Going out on the bikes on a sunny Sunday is the perfect antedote to overwork every other day of the week; totally absorbing.

So today we went west of Bury to Dalham, and enjoyed lunch at the Affleck Arms - 2 courses of good quality, tasty food and drinks for £15 each. En route we enjoyed the many fine examples of hedging and topiary that seem the vogue round here.

Dalham is in the Kennett valley, with steep (well, steep for Suffolk) climbs in and out of the village. Repleat, we struggled up the road to Gazeley, past this old kiln (pictured) and through gorgeously autumnal woodland to loop back to Bury via West Stow and Culford.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ixworth Pykkerell


Just a 20 mile loop from Bury today, via the Pykkerell for lunch. £28 for roast lamb, pud and pint of orange and lemonade x2. We've been there before and it is consistently good for food and service, with the added advantage of an interesting-looking ancient outhouse at the back, and lovely old yard for parking the bicycles. Nice starched linen tableclothes too.

Ixworth itself seems to have seen better days, and has a rather faded grandeur to it. The village is no stranger to cycling though, and hosted the West Suffolk Wheelers' Ixworth Criterium earlier this year.

The return route took in pig town at Livermere and the mysterious but perfectly preserved Ampton Hall. Bury Blue has taken some nice photos of Ampton. But this is the view one gets from a bicycle.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Bury to lovely Lavenham

Lovely to ride in the sunshine on Sunday; so hot was it that the rays seemed positively to press down on us. We headed for Lavenham, 'a remarkably preserved medieval village' according to the National Trust, which has a presence there (the Guildhall, below).

Our route to Lavvers is fantastically rural - arable land just about all the way, as far as the eye can see. The combine harvesters were out, getting in the barley and wheat, but we also passed fields of sugar beet, oilseed rape, sweetcorn and great purple swathes of linseed.

We lunched at Sweetmeats Tea Rooms and ice cream parlour, down the side of the Swan Hotel. Three courses of unusual but tasty grub and a pot of tea for £25.

Lavenham looks beautiful on a sunny Sunday, no doubt about it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Weekend of le Grand Depart


By train to London for the Tour de France Prologue. We headed for the Serpentine, saw some riders zipp past through spectators 3 deep at the barriers, then saw the finale on a big screen at the People's Village. It was all very good-natured depsite the huge numbers of people, beer (plastic bottles of Carlsberg from the beer tent), and queues to join queues for the footbridges to cross the course. Really disappointed Bradley Wiggins didn't win, but he's still the man.

Went out on the mountain bikes during the Canterbury stage, in between ITV coverage. Nobody about in the countryside around Ware, Much Hadham etc, lovely. Stopped for a route-planning meeting at Latchford, on the little footbridge over the river Rib. It's a good spot for wildlife - have seen fish, crayfish, and an otter there in the past on various occasions. This time we had leaping trout. There's some stuff about wild trout conservation on the nearby river Ash in in Hertfordshire here. Not mad about landowner Buxton, who is mentioned though; he gives every impression of loathing cyclists, and we're certainly not made to feel welcome on his land - even on the rights of way that run through it.

Bury to The Buxhall Crown

The Sunday after our epic Yorkshire Dales tour, we were surprised to find the relatively gentle West Suffolk terrain hard on the legs. The intermittant rain felt familiar though.

We rode eastwards towards Stowmarket as far as Buxhall, for an expensive but delicious lunch - beautifully presented and with excellent service, in the Crown. Two points to note:
  • £30 should be enough to feed and water two cyclists at lunchtime. Increasingly, in Suffolk on a Sunday, it's only just enough. Ideally we'd re-fuel in tea rooms, but gastropubs are usually the only option away from the main towns.
  • This was the first day of the smoking ban, hence the pub was smoke free. Good.