Monday, April 27, 2009

wheeling around Suffolk

Suffolk and Norfolk (well, East Anglia generally) used to be fenland. Marsh, swamp, wetlands, or whatever term you prefer. Eye means 'island', and Diss may have meant 'lake', so you can tell that water defined the landscape. While the fens were drained over the course of centuries, and made over into farmland, water is still easy to reach--dig a hole and you have a moat or a fishpond.
The roddens (lost rivers) can still be seen in aerial photos, and there's a terrific picture here. That photo is from Cambridgeshire, probably the flattest of the former fens. Suffolk and Norfolk have some hills, and as Mark and I cycled back and forth across the Waveney (the little river that marks the boundary between Suffolk and Norfolk) I did have some work to keep up with him.

We'd done a bit of online research into hiring bicycles, without much success, but luckily Mike and Sue, our wonderful hosts at Gables Farm, had bikes they weren't using and were willing to lend to us, no charge. Even better, Michael was close to Mark's height and Sue to mine, so no fiddly adjustments were needed.
Here's my faithful blue steed, resting in a typical bit of local landscape. You'll notice that it's overcast, and this pic was taken on one of the very few overcast days we had. Mostly we had astonishingly pleasant weather, sun and occasional cloud. I even got a bit of sunburn, the day we went out to the Saints.

I should mention that for most of this trip I had a cold. It stopped at all the stations: dry cough, catarrh, losing voice, streaming nose, hacking cough, and so on. Also palindromic rheumatism bouncing about the body; one day my ankle stiffened up so that I couldn't walk without limping, but fortunately could still pedal.
But it didn't touch my mood; I was still pretty close to blissful. I kept thinking how fortunate it was that we could do this now, that we had the time and the funds to be here and that I was able, physically, to bicycle around and really see. Having to stop and blow my nose every couple of klicks wasn't much of a price to pay for that.

I mentioned before the necessity of OS maps, didn't I? Here you see one of the perils of navigating in the English countryside: the shortage of distinctive names.
The road signs, met at every tangle of lanes, are fairly helpful, except for two little quirks.
1) the default distance for any locality is 5. Once we went from 5 to 6 to 5 again for the distance to Syleham, while aiming (as) straight (as possible) for it.
2) when you get within a certain distance from a locality, it disappears from the signs. So you know you're almost at Syleham when you lose it. This is why you need the OS maps.

I'm not really sure why East Anglia appeals to me. Perhaps my childhood reading of the Green Knowe books, with Tolly's arrival in the midst of a flood at night, and Green Knowe seeming as much ship as house. Perhaps three childhood years in Richmond (aka Ditchmond) before it was completely subdivisioned, when there were flat fields behind the houses, and deep ditches scoring the fields and roads, ditches easily as deep as a Suffolk river--deeper than some.
I'm fairly sure I have no ancestral ties to this part of the UK, so it can't be the deep call of the ancient blood or whatever overwrought phrase is wanted.

This last pic is my view for most of this part of the trip. I do find it an attractive view.
And look - visible shadow! The sun is shining.

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