Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Sandlings Walk - Bromeswell to Snape

Wantisden church

A 16 mile walk along the Suffolk Sandlings Path between Bromeswell and Snape taking in Rendlesham and Tunstall forests

The route leads across gorse covered heathland and through forest which typifies the modern landscape of the Sandlings. The forests are a modern development, set up with the founding of Forestry Commission during the 1920's to provide Britain with a sustainable source of timber. One cannot fail to notice the twin airbases of Woodbridge and Bentwaters, the scene of a infamous military encounter with a UFO during December 1980.

Bromeswell to Snape Maltings Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Bromeswell View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Snape Maltings View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
16 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy

Maps:

The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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GPX data for route (download)

Transport:

Details of public transport that is required for the walk

First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
65 - Unfortunately the First Group 65 service between Ipswich and Aldeburgh providing connections between Snape and Woodbridge has been severely cut back in 2017. There is now only one bus in each direction during weekdays and no service at weekends.
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2010-04-03
Walk Time
09:30 to 16:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Cool but bright. Odd threat of a shower but nothing eventually occurring

Walk Notes

It should be noted that in 2017 the bus service was severely slashed for this part of Suffolk. There is now only a single service in each direction between Snape and Bromeswell each weekday with no service at all during weekends making it very difficult to perform this walk without assistance from friends or family with a car. The alternative is to start the walk from Melton adding another 1.5 miles to the start and curtailing the walk on the Blaxhall road and walking the 3.5 miles along country lanes through to Stratford St Andrew, or to continue onward from Snape to Aldeburgh which will add another 5.5 miles to the walk.

This route was served by Anglia buses up until 2013 and they provided a popular and friendly service. When the company was taken over by the national Go-Ahead Group the route was immediately axed stating that it was unprofitable. First Group subsequently stepped in and supported the route as an extension of their existing 64 service but have now cut back the 64 and all but removed the 65. This has left villages and communities along the route without any buses whatsoever and deprived walkers of using the long distance Sandlings footpath without having full over night gear. This issue has been brought up with the appropriate authorities who have responded by stating that First Group is a private company and therefore need to make a profit and as a result unprofitable routes will be axed. This certainly does not encourage tourism or the use of this under-rated gem of a trail. It is notable that when Anglia buses ran this route they returned a profit but the big nationals deem it unprofitable. No doubt there are many more layers of management to support in these huge organisations.

Despite this lack of transport, I will continue with describing this part of the Sandlings area and footpath. There are little signs of civilisation and the only time any other walkers are encountered are in the popular Rendlesham Forest. But even here there are only a few people most of whom are dog walkers.

The route on this particular occasion diverted away from the Staverton Park area in order to take a break and refreshments at the Butley Oyster pub, a little treasure to search out. This pub reopened in 2017 after an extended period of closure.

Throughout the route there is plenty to see with both flora and fauna as well as more man made artefact's. Gobblecock cottage is worth a snigger just because of its name. The remote Wenhaston church is something one would not discover without walking the Sandlings Path. Both Woodbridge and Bentwaters airfields contain a certain eeriness with little signs of life behind their tall fences.

The route passes the official start to the UFO trail which is something probably no other trail can boast. It is worth taking time out and reading the triangular marker board and taking in what happened way back in 1980 and which has become known as Britain's Roswell. Although there is still debate over exactly what happened during those nights around Christmas 1980, to my mind there are far too many witnesses and too much evidence to discount that it was purely fantasy and mistaken identity of the obvious Orfordness Lighthouse which sits directly east on the horizon. This, together with hearing the testimony from acquaintances who were around at the time, all go to add to the weight that this was a lot more than a mistaken regular flashing light in the forest. We will probably never discover exactly what happened, the event downplayed by the authorities and official documentation safely hidden away in top secret repositories.

Gobblecock Cottage
Gobblecock Cottage

Directions

The Sandlings path is adjacent the bus stop at the junction of the A1152 and B1084, opposite the road into Bromeswell village. Follow the waymarked signs through to Snape Maltings. We diverted from the edge of Rendlesham forest and took the road to Butley for refreshments at the Oyster. The path was rejoined just beyond Butley

Rendlesham Forest
Rendlesham Forest

Pubs

The Butley Oyster Inn, Butley View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Woodbridge Rd, Butley
Website

This village inn dates back to 12th Century and still retains many old features such as oak beams, and a cast iron fire surround which allegedly dates from the 1700's and the walls are adorned with local photos and articles. Tax records show that the pub was known as The Great Oyster in 1617

After over four years of closure the pub reopened in March 2017 and is a charming, warm, rustic old pub, unspoilt by the rigours of age. The new owners have plans for an on-site shop and a microbrewery.

Review

Adnams ales on offer, a roaring fire to sit in front of and some old locals telling us about the history of the old inn. Perfect.

Plough and Sail, Snape View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Snape Maltings, Snape
Website

There has been a pub here since the 16th century, when it was a smugglers inn at the head of navigation on the River Alde. Throughout this period and right up until 1965 the pub was also the focus for the sailors who traded barley on the Thames Barges that berthed on the quayside.

The pub was taken over in April 2012 by twin brothers Alex and Oliver Burnside. They offer quality seasonal food produced from local suppliers as well as local ales. There is a spacious restaurant, a cosy bar and intimate balcomny area. Seating is provided in front of the pub and there is a courtyard at the back.

Review

A final pint of Adams Explorer before the bus home. Although the air was cool it was still warm enough to sit on the bench outside and reflect on the great days walk.

Rendlesham Forest
Rendlesham Forest

Features

Gobblecock CottageView in OS Map | View in Google Map

This somewhat amusing name is probably derived from the old Suffolk name for a turkey-cock which was known as a gobble-cock and could reflect the keeping of turkeys in days gone by. This 19th century rubble flint thatched cottage is a grade II listed building. This cottage is the sole surviving intact example of a gamekeeper's cottage on this shooting estate.

The Sandlings ForestsView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The area of East Suffolk known as The Sandlings is characterised by extensive unfertile sandy soils. This is the domain of hardy plants that can survive this habitat: gorse, bracken and heather are abundant throughout this area.

The first world war brought realisation of how much timber was imported into this country and after hostilities ceased The Forestry Commission was set up to provide a home grown timber resource. Naturally the farmers and landowners from the Sandlings area were eager to sell their poor quality land to this new organisation and thus in 1921 the forests were set up at Rendlesham, Tunstall and Dunwich.

The combined forests cover about 8648 acres of the former Sandlings. The great storm of 1987 devastated much of Rendlesham forest with over a million trees being blown down. Since then the forest has been replanted with a more varied mix of trees to include both conifer and broadleaved varieties intersected with clearings, wetland and heath to provide a varied habitat that encourages wildlife and fauna.

Each forest area has public access. Rendlesham Forest has been enhanced with cycle and walking trails including the UFO Trail to commemorate the landing and encounter with a UFO by USAF Servicemen in 1980. Sometimes referred to as The British Roswell, this event happened over several days of the Christmas period of 1980 and witnessed by dozens of military servicemen as well as civilians. The UFO Trail navigates from The East Gate of RAF Woodbridge, where the UFO was initially witnessed landing in the forest, and leads through the forest on the alleged route the servicemen travelled to where they found the unknown craft landed, and which is now marked by a sculpture. Full details of a walk incorporating this trail can be found at An Extended Walk around the Rendlesham UFO Trail.

The forest also includes activity areas and regularly hosts events including Theatre in the Forest. A camping area provides access for those who want to stay over in these delightful surroundings.

Staverton ParkView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The area north of RAF Woodbridge, to the east of Rendlesham forest is known as Staverton Park. It is thought that this was originally a deer park created between the 11th and 13th centuries. Records show that during this time that the abundant oak was used in a wide variety of manners. This included bark for tanning leather, acorns for pig feed as well as the usual timber and fuel.

Later, during the 16th century the oaks started to be pollarded which was done on a 50 year cycle. During this period there was also Staverton Hall located to the south west of the present woodland in what is now Rendlesham Forest

Today the site, described in 1986 as 'a famous and awesome place of Tolkienesque wonder and beauty' is a Special Area for Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The ancient woodland consists of oak and birch with some holly trees which are said to be the largest in Britain. It has an awesome woodland of ancient oak and birch, and part of the site has holly trees reputed to be the largest in the UK. It may have been a deer park in the Middle Ages and there is a fenced-off area for these mammals now. Privately managed.

Wantisden ChurchView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Wantisden church, dedicated to John the Baptist, can be found on the track that leads around the eastern perimeter of RAF Bentwaters. There is no road access to this remote church and up until the 1950's it was positioned within the enclosure of the military area. This necessitated a military escort for those who wanted to visit the church.

The significant feature of the church is the coralline crag tower of which there are only two examples in the county, the other being at nearby Chillesford. The tower dates from the 15th century and is curious by the fact that it has no battlements.

Moorings at Snape MaltingsOld trees on the edge of Staverton Park
On the left Moorings at Snape Maltings; On the right Old trees on the edge of Staverton Park

Links and Bibliography:

Gallery

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2017-12-15

2013-05-02 : recast into the latest format with additional information
2015-09-01 : bus service changes following First groups decision to reduce the service to a two hourly frequency
2017-12-14 : bus service changes added

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