Weather: Hot and sunny, despite a breeze. Misty at the end.
Location: Aldeburgh to Dunwich.
Distance: 11½ miles.
Total distance: 609½ miles.
Terrain: Shingle bank, concrete prom, gravel paths, shingle, soft sand, soft sandy ‘cliffs’, heath, road, woods – in that order!
Tide: Out, coming in.
Rivers to cross: None.
Kissing gates: No.83 in the final wood.
Pubs: The ‘Mill Inn’ in Aldeburgh where we enjoyed Adnams ‘Regatta’ and Strongbow cider.
‘English Heritage’ properties: No.21, Leiston Abbey – though this was situated two miles inland so we didn’t have to visit it, but we passed it on our bikes and it made an excuse for a rest!
Ferris wheels: None.
How we got there and back: We drove, with bikes on the back of the car, from our camp at Shottisham to Dunwich where the huge car park is free but they ask for donations to local charities. We then cycled a very long distance – part of it along a B.O.A.T. (Byway Open to All Traffic) in a wood which was a bit bumpy and scarey! We stopped at Leiston Abbey on the way, and found the information boards to be very interesting. On arrival in Aldeburgh, we chained our bikes to the fence where we had left our car yesterday.
At the end we sat drinking our tea, watching the mist rise and creep over the marshes where we have to walk next time. Then we drove to Aldeburgh to pick up the bikes, and returned to our campsite at Shottisham.
The City of Dunwich
“Sigbert was a devout Christian and a man of learning, who had been an exile in Gaul during his brother’s lifetime, and was there converted to the Christian Faith, so that when he began his reign, he laboured to bring about the conversion of his whole realm. In this enterprise he was nobly assisted by Bishop Felix who came to Archbishop Honorius (of England) from the Burgundian region, where he had been brought up and ordained, and, by his own desire, was sent by him to preach the word of life to this nation of the Angles. Nor did he fail in his purpose; for, like a good farmer, he reaped a rich harvest of believers. His Episcopal see was established at Dunwich; and after ruling the province as its bishop for seventeen years, he ended his days there in peace.”
By the time of the Norman Conquest, the growth of the shingle spit southwards from Southwold and the silting up of the marshes behind it had produced a fine deep-water harbour at Dunwich where the River Blythe entered the sea. But the waves had already taken their toll, for in the Domesday Book of 1086 it is recorded:
“Edric of Laxfield held Duneuric (at the time of King Edward) as a manor, and now Robert Malet holds it. Then 2 carucates of land, now one. The sea carried away the other. Then 12 bordars (smallholders), now 2.”
In 1173, Prince Henry (son of the then King, Henry II) plotted to depose his father. He was encouraged by his mother, Queen Eleanor, who apparently couldn’t stand her husband. Waiting until his father was abroad and his right-hand-man was way up north repelling Scots, he enlisted the help of the Earl of Leicester for a coup d’état. The Earl landed at Walton where he teamed up with the Earl of Norfolk who had a castle there. They rode northwards, exhorting money from all the villages they passed through, and remained unopposed until they got to Dunwich. There, they threatened the citizens with the decapitation if they didn’t surrender; but the people replied that their King was still alive and that they would remain true to him. A local monk, Jordan Fantosme, wrote a poetic account of the ensuing siege which ends like this:
“– – The Earl of Leicester began to grow incensed
And causes gallows to be erected to alarm them
That day you might have seen burghers, right valiant knights
Issue forth to their fortifications, each knows his business
Some to shoot with bows, the others to hurl darts
The strong to help the weak to rest frequently
Within the town there was neither maid nor wife
Who did not carry a stone to the palisade for throwing
Thus did the people of Dunwich defend themselves
As these verses tell which are here written
And so brave were great and small
That Earl Robert retired completely mocked.”