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      July 2012 > Every picture tells a story...

Every picture tells a story...

I was in glorious Suffolk a week ago, writing the notes for our new four-night walking holiday in the UK, which follows the delightful Waveney Valley along the border between Secret Suffolk and Norfolk, starting at Beccles in the east and passing through Bungay and Harleston on the way to Pulham Market. One of the many things that I loved about walking through this gentle landscape was the ornately carved and painted sign that greeted me as I arrived at each town or village.

Walking holidays in Suffolk
Queen Elizabeth I sets the tone, greeting you right royally on your arrival in Beccles, where this walking holiday starts, as she grants a charter in 1584 to John Baas, Port Reeve of Beccles, conferring grazing and other rights on local fens to the freeman of the borough. This is one of the first such signs erected in Suffolk, carved in 1936 by local sculptress Judy Quinton Barber. After a leisurely walk along the meandering River Waveney, you reach Geldeston and the Locks Inn, where picturesque sailing wherries once plied their trade between the rich agricultural hinterland and the towns along the river to the sea at Great Yarmouth.

Walking holidays in Suffolk
Leaving the river behind, you wander through rich agricultural land, where wool merchants found great wealth through the husbandry of sheep, as illustrated in the sign at Shipmeadow, referring to the 'sheep' (not ships) that were farmed on the rich alluvial grasslands. Walking on, and you soon reach the remains of Mettingham Castle, once the fortified and moated home of John de Norwich. The medieval mansion has long since disappeared but the towering gateway still stands and can be seen along the drive as you walk by.

Walking holidays in Suffolk

Another fine castle greets you in Bungay, this time the former home of Hugh Bigod, a powerful lord and landowner in the 12th century. Its strategic location, on a hill overlooking a wide loop of the River Waveney, gave him control over all he surveyed (and much more, no doubt). It's free to visit the castle, and only a few metres from your accommodation. From Bungay, you again follow the river, passing through a number of quiet rural villages including Mendham, home of Suffolk artist, Sir Alfred Munnings, who was famed for his paintings of horses. The village sign depicts a scene from one of his paintings.

Walking holidays in Suffolk

Pulham Market is your final destination and here you stay near the expansive green, which is surrounded by beautiful thatched cottages. The village sign is based on the emblems of the original four Pulham Market pubs: the Falcon, the Crown, the Duck's Foot (at Bush Green) and the Queens Head (on the A140). The main picture depicts the bible story of Mary Magdalene bathing Christ's feet, referring to the church which is dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. From here, you can undertake a circular walk which takes you through an ancient woodland and several small villages, famous for their medieval churches. These include Hardwick, whose sign depicts a crown above a pastoral scene and the coat of arms of the former lords of the manor.

Walking holidays in Suffolk
Finally, this leisurely walking holiday reaches Pulham St Mary which, together with its sister village, Pulham Market, is known for itsr Royal Navy connections during WWI.  Under great secrecy in 1912, a large air station was constructed by the Admiralty for the operation of airships (like Zeppelins). By the end of WWI, more than 3000 Royal Navy personnel were based in the 'Pulhams' and depictions of an airship taking off and returning can be seen on both sides of village sign. The airships were known as the ‘Pulham Pigs’ – legend has it that an old Norfolk farmer saw the huge balloon in the sky and declared ‘Thet luk loike a gret ol’ pig!’ – and the name stuck…


Posted: 09/07/2012 15:20:16 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: heritage, slow, UK

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