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Within the firm of wolves and kings: Suffolk’s new medieval cycle path | Biking holidays



It was an inauspicious begin. Having cycled no quite a lot of metres, from the steps of the Angel lodge into the grounds of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, I fell off my bike.

I blamed the wolf: in dismounting to take its picture, I had kicked my very own pannier and despatched myself sprawling. The great passersby of Bury St Edmunds got here to my (embarrassed) support. Saint Edmund himself, sculpted in bronze, standing beside the wolf statue, appeared the opposite approach.


I might hardly complain about grazed knees in such firm. After refusing to surrender his Christianity to Viking raiders in AD869, Edmund – then king of East Anglia – was shot stuffed with arrows and beheaded. In accordance with legend, his head was later discovered being guarded by a wolf, and when reunited together with his physique, miraculously fused again on.

‘The wolf is a vital image in Suffolk’ … Bury St Edmunds Cathedral grounds. {Photograph}: Robert Chicken/Alamy

Thus the wolf is a vital image in Suffolk, which is why a newly launched 400km (248 miles) biking path has been known as the Wolf Method. Utilizing bridleways, byways, gravel tracks, cycle paths and quiet backroads, the route weaves across the highlights and hidden corners of this largely flat however assorted county. It was impressed by Norfolk’s Rebel Method, opened in 2022. However whereas Rebel was developed by Biking UK with funding from the European Regional Growth Fund Expertise mission, native couple Sharon Calton and Chris Bower put the Wolf along with nowt however their very own legwork and enthusiasm.

“We got here up with an overview of the route in a day, and took a yr to fine-tune it,” Sharon informed me at their cottage simply exterior Bury. “We would have liked to check it, journey the roads, discover the most effective choices – recce-ing has been time-consuming however enjoyable.”


Uncover Suffolk has given recommendation, guaranteeing the Wolf Method sticks to permitted rights of approach, however in any other case this mission is the results of two cycle-passionate amateurs in search of solely to encourage extra folks to discover this under-pedalled county.

The result’s a satisfying loop, roughly a 3rd off-road, that rides into the lesser-visited reaches of Dedham Vale, down the River Orwell, by way of the Suffolk & Essex Coast & Heaths nationwide panorama (the designation that has changed “space of excellent pure magnificence”) and into the splendidly bizarre Brecks, taking in the whole lot from neolithic settlements to misplaced seaside cities, medieval wool cities, UFO websites and the village of Hoxne (the place Edmund allegedly misplaced his head). Chris has created a wonderful digital StoryMap to accompany the route, which flags up locations of curiosity alongside the best way, with helpful net hyperlinks, whereas the Wolf Method Fb group is an efficient place to choose up ideas from different riders.

The ruins of Bury St Edmunds Abbey. {Photograph}: Maurice Savage/Alamy

There are additionally variants, together with a 100km (62-mile) Wolf Cub route, a Winter Wolf suggestion, which avoids the seasonal Bawdsey ferry, and a beginner-friendly 13km (8-mile) Wolverine choice. An 80km (50-mile) choice will likely be added too.

I’d come to pattern a bit of the unique Wolf Method, ranging from Bury and biking to Ipswich (roughly 97km/60 miles). On the plus facet, this meant spending time within the good-looking market city, with its intensive abbey ruins and what have to be the nation’s most spectacular Wetherspoon’s, housed within the previous neoclassical Corn Alternate. On the draw back I had, mentioned Sharon, picked the route’s hilliest bit.

The Bures chalk dragon considered from St Stephen’s chapel. {Photograph}: Jayne Lloyd/Alamy

Irrespective of, it was hardly mountainous – this was nonetheless Suffolk in spite of everything – and I used to be in no rush. I’d borrowed a mountain bike from Sharon – a hybrid or gravel bike would even be wonderful – although Maglia Rosso, just a few miles exterior Bury by bus, hires out bicycles. Leaving Bury through well-marked cycle paths, I used to be quickly out within the countryside, tootling alongside lanes lined with just-budding fields. I met a hare, preening on the highway, whereas kestrels and buzzards gave low flybys. Then a grassy off-road path supplied a extra sobering encounter: a plaque marking the positioning the place a USA air pressure B-17 crashed, with the lack of all 10 crew, on 27 March 1944; the trigger was by no means formally established, however there have been rumours of sabotage by German spies.

‘England’s best-preserved medieval village’ … Lavenham. {Photograph}: chrisdorney/Getty Photographs/iStockphoto

East Anglia was dotted with USAAF bases through the second world warfare. There was one simply exterior Lavenham, the place I cycled to subsequent. Again then the village was flooded with American troops. Now it’s stuffed with Harry Potter followers, in search of the wizard’s birthplace, which was performed within the motion pictures by timber-framed De Vere Home – simply certainly one of greater than 320 listed buildings in what is taken into account to be England’s best-preserved medieval village.

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St Mary’s church, Brent Eleigh, has among the oldest wall work in Britain. {Photograph}: Sarah Baxter

Lavenham was terribly cute, however I made a decision to miss its tearooms and pushed on to little Brent Eleigh as an alternative. In addition to a church concealing among the earliest and most interesting medieval wall work in Britain, the village is house to Cafe Como. Run by Miranda Elgar, in a cool outbuilding in her farmyard, it’s precisely the kind of impartial enterprise the Wolf Method hopes to assist. “About 80% of my clients are cyclists,” Miranda informed me, handing over a home made sausage roll and a very good espresso. “I lived in Italy for a few years, and wished to convey a little bit of it again to Suffolk.”

This was good gasoline for the subsequent stiff-ish climb, and a skiddy journey on a bit of messy single-track. Suffolk is ordinarily one of many nation’s driest counties, and most different sections of the Wolf Method, which traverses areas of quick-draining sandy soil, stay remarkably agency year-round. Alas, I’d chosen the wettest little bit of the route after Suffolk’s wettest winter on file. Once I rolled into Lengthy Melford, having coated 28 miles, I used to be splattered in mud however genuinely having a ball.


I quickly cleaned myself up on the cosy Black Lion, house for the evening. And I had sufficient power left to wander the independent-lined excessive avenue – which is, because the village’s title suggests, very, very lengthy – and pop into the massive, light-flooded church. The medieval stained glass right here is extraordinary; a surprisingly great amount survived the Reformation, and is within the means of being restored.

Stopping to absorb the surroundings at a ford close to Assington, Suffolk. {Photograph}: Sarah Baxter

After , lazy breakfast, I set off late, ready for winter solar to chase off the rain; my intention was Ipswich, 30-odd miles away. The route crosses briefly into Essex, selecting up a part of the previous Nice Japanese Railway line, now a strolling and biking path resulting in Sudbury, Gainsborough’s birthplace. Certainly, with low gentle glinting off low hills, the River Stour chopping by way of, and the whole lot properly watered and inexperienced, it appeared like certainly one of his panorama work.

From right here, climbs and floods added challenges. Ipswich was nonetheless a way off, however I acquired distracted in Bures. Exterior this beautiful county-border village, up Cuckoo Hill and so hidden down a farm observe I questioned if I’d gone awry, lies the lonely thatched chapel of St Stephen. It was consecrated on Boxing Day, 1218. Nevertheless, in keeping with legend, it stands on the positioning the place Edmund was topped King of the East Angles on Christmas Day 855, aged simply 14.


One other native folks story tells of “an evil dragon of extreme size” plaguing the world round right here within the early fifteenth century. To mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee, the massive beast was marked out on the slopes reverse, utilizing tonnes of chalk. The sphere behind the chapel supplied the proper dragon view.

No wolf, then, however a journey into so many various Suffolk tales.

For Wolf Method route information and GPX recordsdata, go to Additionally see the wonderful Wolf Method StoryMap and Fb group. Lodging was supplied by the Black Lion, Lengthy Melford (doubles from £89 B&B), and the Angel lodge, Bury St Edmunds (doubles from £149 B&B). Higher Anglia serves stations together with Bury, Sudbury and Ipswich. Most trains don’t require bike reservations, however examine earlier than journey;​​​​​​ Additionally see and

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