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

Saturday, 26 January 2019

An Extended Walk around the Rendlesham UFO Trail

A 12 mile circular walk starting at Eyke and incorporating the UFO Trail in Suffolk's Rendlesham Forest

The Rendlesham UFO trail is a waymarked 3 mile trail around the eastern end of Rendlesham Forest that navigates around the key areas that were involved in the Rendlesham Forest Incident of 1980 in which both civilian and military personnel witnessed unexplained craft land within the forest. Although this can be walked by parking up at the visitor car-park in the forest, a longer alternative is to take the footpaths from Eyke, and make a day of this most wonderful and intriguing part of Suffolk.

An Extended Walk around the Rendlesham UFO Trail - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Eyke View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Butley View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
12 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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ViewRanger App 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 Details
64 - First Group 64 service connects Ipswich, Woodbridge, Wickham Market, Saxmundhamm, Leiston and Aldeburgh.
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2011-12-21
Walk Time
09:30 to 15:30
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
A very cold winters day, some sun and blue sky but generally overcast

Walk Notes

The Rendlesham Forest UFO TRail is a waymarked trail through Suffolk's Rendlesham Forest that has been marked out by the Forestry Commission. The trail takes the visitor to the various locations associated with the alleged 1980 UFO encounter. The leaflet produced by the Forestry Commission for this trail can be found here. This specific walk uses most of the UFO Trail but extends this to Eyke and Butley to provide a full days walk with refreshments and public transport. It should be noted that the bus service through Eyke has been reduced and one needs to now travel from Woodbridge as there is no longer a through service to Aldeburgh. There is a car park at the Woodbridge end of the village.

The Rendlesham Forest Incident (RFI), as it has come to be known, has a significant interest to me personally. As an impressionable teenager in the late 1970's, I was reading books by authors such as John Keel and Jacques Vallee, both UFO investigators who attempted to uncover evidence of the phenomenon. I remember the RFI news breaking in the eighties and have somewhat kept up-to-date with the case, especially having moved to the area, despite losing interest in the mainstream UFO literature. The RFI has all the classic UFO based phenomenon: lights in the sky, radar contact, close encounters by trained military personnel, visitation of civilian witnesses by mysterious black suited men bearing uncanny similarities with the so called Men-in-black, audio and physical evidence and a cover up by both US and UK authorities. In recent years more information has become available with the Freedom of Information Act, although many documents relating to the case have mysteriously gone missing.

Many of the key military witnesses have now retired and are willing to discuss the event without fear of jeopardizing their career prospects. Without doubt something happened in the forest in 1980 and I am certain that there are those in authority who know a lot more than they let on. I do not subscribe to the little green men from Mars ideas that appear to pollute such cases and try to distance myself from such avenues of interest. The fact that a base housing nuclear weapons appeared to be compromised by a seemingly intelligent aerial phenomenon in my book warrants an investigation of our national security yet this was all hushed up and witnesses ridiculed. Consequently we are only left with the words of those who experienced the events.

The previous year I had been lucky enough to attend the Rendlesham Forest Incident 30th Anniversary Conference hosted in Woodbridge. This event presented two of the principle witnesses, ex-USAF airmen Jim Penniston and John Burroughs as the key speakers along with former USAF airman Larry Warren and the co-author of his book 'Left at East Gate' Peter Robins plus ex-MoD and UFO researcher Nick Pope. The event was concluded with an excursion into the forest in the early hours of the morning where Jim and John recounted their experience 'as it happened'. This provided a great insight for this particular walk as we could navigate around the forest with those events still in mind.

The forest was idyllic in respect to it being peaceful and quiet with the only signs of life encountered being a couple walking their dog and one logging lorry and certainly no UFO enthusiasts. Due to the 1980 incident the area does unfortunately attract a certain amount of fanatics who claim to witness aliens behind every other tree. However, on this occasion, it was a relaxing and peaceful meander with the early morning rain and misty conditions leaving the trees laden with droplets of water which provided some good photographic opportunities.

This area, comprising of the land from south of the Alde estuary down to the Deben estuary has a history of sightings of strange lights. Even today, long after the US military were around, there are still numerous reports of anomalous lights in the sky. Recently I was told of sightings over this area from Aldeburgh of orange lights that danced around the night sky, converging, diverging and making patterns. Then in an instant these light hurtled away at high speed. There are numerous similar stories that I have heard, though most of these are second hand accounts and reports in the media. Nonetheless, the area has attained this mystique about it.

At the far end of Butley as the road bears round to the left and just before the footpath leading through to Friday Street there is a high hedge bounding the garden of a house. This is reputedly haunted and it is said that in the late evening the ghostly form of a young lady can be seen on a swing in the garden. Unfortunately the hedge is so tall and thick that if the ghost was there as we passed it went completely unnoticed!

The path along Fenn Row to Friday Street, which borders the Bentwaters base was most intriguing. First there was a couple of old traction engines which looked as if they were being renovated. Further along, to the left of the track there are many mysterious concrete ruins and earthworks. Unable to fathom out exactly what these had been, I later contacted the Bentwaters Cold War Museum who replied in email explaining that they are the remains of buildings from WWII that were associated with RAF Woodbridge even though they were much closer to Bentwaters. The reply stated that the museum holds photos of the buildings yet on a subsequent visit to the museum I could not locate any photos of this area. I even asked two of the curators and they could not offer any assistance to either the location of the photos or any information about the area or the use of the old buildings. Photos from this visit can be viewed in The Bentwaters Cold War Museum photo album.

Fenn Row is mentioned in the first book written about the Rendlesham Forest Incident, entitled 'Sky Crash'. It was here,in the weeks following the incident, that two of the co-authors, Brenda Butler and Dot Street, had decided to drive after being denied any information about the events of Christmas 1980 from the RAF liaison officer, Squadron Leader Donald Moreland. His manner at first confirmed that an incident had taken place but on finding that they were UFO investigators he gave a blank refusal for more information. In frustration, they had driven down this lane, which at best is no more than a dirt track, when their car started to speed up despite Brenda having her foot off the throttle. The book quotes that they reached speeds close to 70mph before they managed to bring the car under control and stop it. This shook them both up and they could find no explanation as to why this happened. After some time to recover from the ordeal, they gingerly drove back along the lane in order to get back to Leiston and luckily the car behaved itself. After returning home Brenda had the car checked out by a local mechanic but no reason could be discovered for the odd behaviour.

The final part of the walk into Eyke was a very muddy farm-track. Despite the downpour the previous night and the damp conditions during the morning we had kept dry and mud free, but this final few 100 yards into Eyke soon changed that!

Butley Church
Butley Church

Directions

There are footpaths through to Rendlesham forest from Eyke. The UFO trail is on the eastern side of the forest and is well defined. Return is via Butley then using the track past Staverton Park, Fen Row and Friday Sreet.

Take the road out of Eyke by the church and keep to this as it turns to a track and eventually emerges onto a road. Turn right and follow the road down the the junction. Turn left (though it is possible to enter the forest directly opposite if logging operations are not being undertaken) and follow the road until the Sandlings Path on the right points into the forest. Follow the waymarkers through the woods until it crosses the road. turn right and walk down past the end of the runway. Soon after there is a track down to East Gate which is marked with the UFO Trail marker posts. This will be walking the trail in reverse so it is important to keep an eye out for these waymarkers which face the opposite direction.

Keep to the UFO Trail all the way through the forest until it comes to the field at Capel Green. On the northern edge of the field follow the footpath out to the road. Turn left on the road and where it junctions continue straight ahead on the footpath. Keep to this footpath through to Butley. The path has been rerouted to that shown on the OS map, taking the field boundary rather than directly across but footpath signs clearly mark this out.

Continue on the road through Butley village and bear to the left at the junction. As the road bends round to the left there is a footpath that leads onto a track. This leads past Staverton Park campsite and follows the perimeter fence to Bentwaters eventually coming out on the Hollesley road at Friday Street. Turn left then a little further on right into Cracks Lane. At a bend in the road, on the left a footpath leads into the centre of Eyke.

The alleged landing site though this is now disputed by the USAF witnesses
The alleged landing site though this is now disputed by the USAF witnesses

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

Being a Wednesday, it was good to see so many people in this somewhat isolated pub. A roaring fire provided a warming centre piece and Adnams Winter Spiced and Yule Tide ales were on offer at the bar. These are excellent seasonal pints for a cold winters day. A worthy accompaniment was a bowl of their home cooked tomato soup with crusty bread.

East Gate, where the Rendlesham Incident started
East Gate, where the Rendlesham Incident started

Features

The Rendlesham Forest IncidentView in OS Map | View in Google Map

It was 1980. The cold war was at its height. The bases of the former RAF Woodbridge and RAF Bentwaters had been leased to the USAF and were the home for the 81st Fighter Wing. Commonly known as the twin bases, these airfields played a key role in the defence of Western Europe during the Cold War including unofficially the holding of nuclear weapons on the Bentwaters site. This made the area highly sensitive to outside intrusion and was under high security measures.

It was during the Christmas period of 1980 that the Rendlesham Forest Incident began to unfold. This incident started with the guard on the East Gate at Woodbridge base witnessing a bright ball of light crashing into the forest. At first it was thought that it was a plane crash but on further investigation found this craft to be a pulsating mass of lights.

The guard who made the initial observation, John Burroughs, returned to the guard house and called base security to which a patrol led by Sergeant Jim Penniston responded, arriving on the scene at 2am. Penniston still assumed this to be a downed aircraft that was blazing out of control and after gaining permission to move off base, proceeded with that in mind. A three man team including Penniston, Burroughs and a young guard named Cabansag, entered the forest but soon experienced radio communication breakdown with base and had to form a chain with Cabansag staying back to relay messages back to base. As Penniston and Burroughs continued, the air became alive with energy that left their hair standing on end and their skin tingling. They eventually came upon the craft to which Jim Penniston has since stated It was definitely not in the Jane's book of World Aircraft. He described it as a triangular shaped object about the size of a small car and was floating on beams of light about 30cm above the ground. It had a strange misty aura about it and incomprehensible symbols on its side. Then, with a burst of light the craft soared up into the air and away.

Two nights later, at an officers party that was being held on the Bentwaters site, the Deputy Base Commander Lt Charles Halt was interrupted by Lieutenant Bruce Englund claiming that 'it' was back. Commander Halt gathered a team of men, together with equipment including Geiger counters, a Dictaphone for making notes and gas-powered lighting rigs known as lightalls and set off to debunk this talk of UFO's. A security cordon was set up around the perimeter of the forest and the team set off into the woods. As happened on the previous night the radio communications were soon affected by static interference and the lighting rigs would not operate. Then, as they proceeded deeper into the forest they encountered an object in the sky that resembled a huge eye with a dark centre which they attempted to get closer to, chasing it for more than an hour before it shot skywards and began directing beams of light to the ground. This was all being recorded by Halt on his Dictaphone, the recording of which has since been released into the public domain.

In the days after these episodes the military witnesses were told to not speak or discuss the events and civilians in the surrounding areas were visited by officials and told to keep quiet about their observations or suffer the consequences of speaking out about it. Exactly what those consequences would be has never been related.

Initial investigations can be dated back to the first few months after the incident when UFO investigator Dot Street made a report in the 1981 Summer edition of The Lantern, the quarterly journal for The Borderline Science Investigation Group. The report details statements made from both military and civilian witnesses of sightings of mysterious lights in the sky and reports of an object with three legs and 'entities' that had landed in the forest. It is interesting to note that this report acknowledges that after the initial statements made by local civilian witnesses, they subsequently refused to talk about the event after pressure from visiting authorities which were claimed to be from the British Government. This report in The Lantern is of great significance because it is still, to this day, generally accepted that the incident did not break into the public domain until 1983 when the News of The World declared 'UFO LANDS IN SUFFOLK' on its front page.

Dot Street, together with Brenda Butler and Jenny Randles went on to write the first book about the event. 'Sky Crash' was published in 1984 and was the first of a number of publications that sought to establish the events authenticity. Probably the most famous, and certainly the most investigative is Georgina Bruni's 'You Can't Tell The People' which was published in 2000. Trained as a private investigator, Georgina uncovered many more witnesses and information that had not come to light previously. The title of her book came from a conversation with the former Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher at an official function. On tentatively asking her views on the UFO phenomenon and alien technology she had affirmed the question with the quote of 'Yes, but you cant tell the people' which was a most unusual remark from such a straight-laced no-nonsense woman.

Probably the best eye-witness account that has so far been published is Larry Warrens 'Left At East Gate'. Co-authored by Peter Robbins, this book details the first hand account of Larry Warren after he was ordered to join the military investigation in the forest which resulted in him witnessing the landed craft in the field beyond the trees. In more recent years Larry Warrens account has been discredited with detractors stating that the story had been either completely fabricated or borrowed from another airman, the principal suggestion being Airman Adrian Bustinza, who was the NC officer on the third night of activity. Despite this, Larry Warren maintains his involvement and his account as authentic.

A joint book that was supposed to break open the whole case was Encounter in Rendlesham Forest which was co-authored between Jim Penniston, John Burroughs and Nick Pope, the former UK Ministry of Defence UFO Desk official. This book revealed little more than was already known but does provide a useful overview of the whole event.

Not included in this book is John Burrough's lengthy battle with a heart condition that was initiated during his time at Rendlesham and which, with the help of Senator John McCain, took to the courts to claim compensation from the US Veterans Association to fund his treatment. During this case it was found that his medical records were classified by the military and could not be released, an unprecedented situation to which there is no explanation. On February 22nd 2014 the US Veterans Association eventually conceded the case that included evidence provided by a declassified UK document known as the Condign Report. This document, prepared by private subcontractors to the military discusses Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP) and uses the case of Rendlesham to highlight the radiation issues associated with such phenomenon. Buried in the depths of the report, on Page F-4 of ANNEX F, "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defence Region: Executive Summary, Scientific and Technical Memorandum – No. 55/2/00," it clearly states

The well-reported Rendlesham Forest/Bentwaters event is an example where it might be postulated that several observers were probably exposed to Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) radiation for longer than normal UAP sighting periods.

This is a direct admission from the UK MOD and an acceptance by the US authorities that such phenomenon do exist and can and do have have adverse physical affects on humans and that something out of the ordinary occurred at Rendlesham, a fact that headed the press release put out by Burroughs and his attorney Pat Frascogna after winning the case,

The United States Government has, for the first time ever, acknowledged by de facto the long-suspected reality of the UFO phenomenon.

The latest book publication comes from the Deputy Base Commander, the former Colonel Halt, and is appropriately titled The Halt Perspective. This provides Halts view of the events that he was directly involved with. This has brought about confrontation with some of the airmen involved who dispute some of his recollections.

The incident was also brought up in UK parliament when the Admiral of the fleet, Lord Hill-Norton, raised questions. He later stated that Either large numbers of people were hallucinating, and for an American Air Force nuclear base this is extremely dangerous, or what they say happened did happen, and in either of those circumstances there can only be one answer, and that is that it was of extreme defence interest. Despite this, both UK and US authorities have maintained that nothing of defence significance happened at Rendlesham over those nights and the incident remains closed.

One thing that is noticeable between the primary witnesses are the amount of conflicting statements between individual accounts. Since many of these airmen have now retired from military service other revelations about the incident have emerged, these not spoken about before as it would have jeopardized their career prospects. Airmen Sgt Munroe Nevilles, Larry Warren, Adrian Bustinza have all testified their accounts of what happened and all are adamant on their own experiences even when they appear to conflict with other accounts. Others involved have also spoken publicly including the tower operator Rick Bobo, a female driver who actively ferried airmen to and from the forest known as Cookie. Cookies statement can be heard on Youtube and makes interesting listening. She witnessed the craft of the first night. Airman Steve Longero has also provided an interview which can be found at openminds tv.

The principle argument against what happened was that the airmen had been confused by the Orford Ness lighthouse beam. It is true that this powerful beam, in certain weather conditions can produce some strange effects. Given the right cloud conditions I have even witnessed it 30 miles away at Stowupland, bouncing of the cloud layer and eerily flashing across the sky. Even so, it is still easily identified as a lighthouse beam. It beggars belief that the beam could confuse trained airmen over several nights for many hours at a time, let alone confuse locals who had grown up with the lighthouse.

Other propositions put forward to explain the event includes a prank carried out by the 67 ARRS who were stationed at RAF Woodbridge and had access to a dummy Apollo Command Module use for recovery training. Although similar in size to the alleged craft seen on the first night there is little other evidence to substantiate this claim. Another prank has also been alleged to have been carried out by the British SAS which fails to stack up against the evidence. There are also other claims that the airmen were fooled by a burning fertilizer truck or by a USAF police officer driving his car around in circles with all the lights flashing. None of these explanations fit with what the airmen sighted and would have been seen as a highly dubious exercise considering the sensitive nature of the base.

The witnesses are not solely confined to the military, there are also civilian witnesses who have confirmed that anomalous lights were seen on the nights in question and reports that the forest was full of activity with roads blocked by the military. One of the principle witnesses was game warden Gordon Levitt who, whilst walking his dog at Sudbourne, witnessed a silent craft in the sky that looked like an upside down mushroom with a greenish-white glow.

There are also reports from UK contractors who worked out of the twin bases, with reports that the day after the event the end of the runway lights had been damaged with a trail of destruction into the forest away from the runway as if something had come down yet no evidence of either the object that had caused the damage or signs of its removal. I have been told that they were all firmly told by the base commander that under no circumstances should they talk about this.

An interesting issue from the perspective as an outsider to the event is that each time any of the principle witnesses involved appear to make common ground towards something of a untied front, something always crops up that drives them apart. It is as if they are being manipulated by outside forces. This may not be so far fetched as there are accusations that those involved were debriefed by AFOSI and CIA agents including hypnotic techniques, could they have trigger phrases that put each participant at with each other.

In conclusion, this is probably one of the best UFO encounters in Britain if not the world with the wealth of high-calibre witnesses. There will probably be no resolution as to exactly what happened and it will remain as the British Roswell surrounded in more and more mystery and folklore. So, why not take a weekend camping trip to Rendlesham Forest and walk around this fascinating trail and soak up this unique atmosphere for yourself. Unfortunately the base is no longer in military use and the lighthouse was retired in early 2012, but the trail is well marked out including the alleged landing sites.

References
Field at Capel Green looking towards Orford Ness
Field at Capel Green looking towards Orford Ness

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: 2019-01-26

2012-05-06 : add additional links to youtube documentaries and publications - expanded feature description
2013-01-20 : add additional link to Jeni Randles article plus added in the visit to Bentwaters Museum and the story about Brenda Butlers and Dot Streets car journey along Fenn Row
2013-01-26 : Butley Oyster pub closed in December 2012
2013-12-20 : Add in link to Alien Mysteries Episode 4 video
2015-04-26 : Update links
2015-09-01 : bus service changes following First groups decision to reduce the service to a two hourly frequency
2017-02-21 : General website updates
2019-01-23 : Updates to the main story with latest information
2019-01-24 : Adjust notes
2019-01-26 : Addition of references to Project Condign

  1 comment:

  1. Great research and interesting walk.

    A late night coursing poacher with a 5 million candle flash light (+ a little British humour) might also explain the events of that night too.

    ReplyDelete

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