Suffolk’s Bermuda Triangle by Kevin Mayne
Suffolk’s Bermuda Triangle by Kevin Mayne
Kevin Mayne is the former Chief Executive of Cycling UK, now working as Development Director of the European Cyclists’ Federation in Brussels. He spent his formative cycling years in the small market town of Bungay in North Suffolk’s Waveney Valley. In this ride he recaptures some of his youthful experiences getting lost in the maze of lanes and villages south of Bungay.
South of the historic town of Bungay is a gently rolling landscape of huge skies, fields and trees interspersed with farms and hamlets, each boasting a big medieval church that hints at the immense wealth when this region was selling wool to the weavers of Flanders. When I return I am drawn by the period houses, the open skies, narrow lanes and hedgerows, bleak in winter but bursting with life from spring to autumn. Artist John Constable was seeing these skies, just fifty miles or so further south. There are no challenging hills and busy roads, just miles of windy lanes and some nice village pubs.
If you deliberately want to go out and get lost on a bike I can recommend no finer place. And that is the connection with the Bermuda Triangle, the legendary zone in the Atlantic where boats and planes go in, but they never come out. You will get lost, I promise.
The Saints is the collective name for 12 villages south of Bungay, each of which carries the name of its church. To know your way round confidently you have to navigate between St. Cross, St. James, St. Margaret, St. Mary, St. Michael, St. Nicolas, St. Peter, All Saints, St. John, St. Lawrence, St. Andrew and another St. Margaret. Two with the same name? Remembering which one you have just been through? Which comes next? No chance from memory alone. The accompanying gpx route is from a 20 mile summer ride in 2016, but it is possible to weave around almost endlessly, but actually that is part of the fun, and the reason I can always go back for more.
Today’s road signs make it a bit easier. But my memory as a young cyclist is that they were never completely there, every one of the old wooden finger posts had at least one arm missing or was pointing the wrong way. During WW2 the British took down all the road signs to confuse German invaders. Nobody knows if it would have worked, but some of the US airmen based on the two local airfields are probably still there, lost forever after a night out in Bungay.
It only took a moment discussing the subject with my brother and we were reminiscing about how we “town boys” never got to grips with navigating the Saints, biking back from teenage parties involving cheesy discos and cheap sweet cider in the various church halls.
In our memories there would always be fog or thick mist which only added to the mysteries of the Saints and the sense of blind oblivion which would lead us back to the same spot more than once. I can still remember four bikes, two working lights and a fog so thick every bend in the road was a discovery. We weren’t doing too badly until we discovered we were in the middle of a partially repaired bridge which was closed to traffic, only we had sailed blissfully through the warning signs without seeing any of them. Any worries were negated by the fact that someone recognised the bridge and we were just relieved to have some inkling that we were on the way home.
In the 21st Century with mobile phones and GPS to complement some good maps there should be no reasons to get entirely lost, in fact you should make it part of the experience and you will experience a genuine cycle touring paradise, a step back in time.
But then again nobody every explained all the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle. You have been warned.
Waveney District Council publishes a Saints Tour Cycle route map and leaflet http://www.discoversuffolk.org.uk/assets/Cycling/Images/Leaflets/Waveney...
The Heart of Suffolk cycle route passes through the area, leaflet here
To visit: St Peter’s Brewery brews ales in the grounds of St Peter’s Hall, some parts of which date back to 1280. http://www.stpetersbrewery.co.uk/
A longer version of the story and some other Bungay memories can be found on Kevin’s blog, www.idonotdespair.com