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

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Alde Valley Walk - Sweffling to Badingham

more Suffolk countryside

A circular walk through the quintessential Suffolk countryside following the River Alde

A circular walk following country lanes with a few footpaths along the Alde Valley. This is typical Suffolk countryside where one can take a lazy stroll. There are pubs to visit, three to be precise and all named the White Horse, along with three churches that are not named the White Horse!

Alde Valley Walk - Sweffling to Badingham - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Sweffling View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Badingham View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
9.5 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy walking
Country lanes, footpaths
The walk crosses the busy A1120 at Badingham, care should be taken in crossing this thoroughfare


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)


Alde Garden CampsiteView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Alde Garden Campsite - a unique and quirky campsite in the heart of the Suffolk Countryside with an eclectic range of rustic, quirky accommodation as well as a handful of small tent pitches. A field kitchen with all that any camper needs enables any camper to arrive with little more than a tent and still have all the necessities of life. Highly Recommended

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
10:00 to 15:00
Weather Conditions
Sunny summers day

Walk Notes

The most curious of things any walker may question about this walk is the coincidental naming of the pubs along its route. The White Horse. Three such pubs, all identically named, within a five mile radius and not another pub available. That means if one is picky about the name of the pub they frequent then those who abhor the name White Horse will be bitterly disappointed.

So why the same name? The name of the White Horse is thought to have been used to demonstrate loyalty to the royal dynasty of the House of Hanover whose emblem was a white horse. This dynasty began with King George I in 1714 and lasted until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. It would therefore seem that the fact we have three close villages all with the same named pub is nothing more than the fact that these villages wanted to express their allegiance to the monarch.

It is also notable that the village of Bruisyard once had a pub that was called the Butchers Arms which appears to buck this trend. Badingham also once had another pub named the Bowling Green although this was half way to Peasenhall and there is also evidence of another Butchers Arms in Badingham in the late 18th century. Therefore this coincidence may nothing more than an accident of history where all other pubs in the vicinity have closed down leaving just White Horses.

The walk follows the quite country lanes either side of the River Alde, which is no more than a stream at this point with Badingham being close to its source at the village of Brundish. Even so, this river was said to once have been navigable through to the sea using small punt-like boats.

At the first crossroads one encounters a lonesome building on the corner. This was the former Bruisyard smithy and just up from this is the bridge across the river known as the Bruisyard Arch. There is more of Bruisyard on the return leg. For now we continue up the valley. There are another couple of junctions off of this little lane and both which lead across the river. The bridges across the river are hardly noticeable and are modern constructions for not too long ago there was no more than a ford to cross the river at these locations.

Eventually one comes to a footpath on the right. This leads down some steps into the field. It is easy to misjudge the route ahead which leads through the hedgerow on the left and diagonally across the field. On this occasion another walker strode confidently ahead of us, with all thee boldness of a bald bloke boldly going where a bald bloke regularly goes. Thinking he must know the route, and despite a few reservations about the map details not depicting a path alongside a boundary, we paced after him. Within a hundred yards he stopped. He turned. He wandered slowly to the hedge. Then to another hedge directly ahead. He was lost. It was at this point the realisation that map reading was a better policy than following a bald bloke boldly going where bald blokes go. We turned, retraced our steps and took the path through the hedgerow by the steps. As we headed across the following the field the bald bloke not so boldly followed us. The moral of this story is never trust anyone who appears confident, trust a map, it is drawn by experts not bald blokes who don't know where they are going.

The path runs diagonally across a field then across a footbridge, round a building and then through what looks like some overgrown area which is bursting with vegetation. The path cuts through this area, which may have once been either heathland or parkland surrounding the river, and then emerges on the road opposite the Badingham White Horse Inn. Time it right and you will end up as the pub is opening up for the lunchtime session. And the ever-changing selection of ales are all served straight from the barrel.

Beyond the pub, along the road into the village, there is a somewhat hidden footpath by the side of the village hall. The hall is the location of the volunteer run village shop but unfortunately this does not open over the weekend. The footpath rises over a hill known as the mound, which was once the location of a mill, and emerges on a lane opposite the former rectory, a magnificent well-to-do building. This mid 19th century construction is now used as holiday accommodation. The lane leads down to the main road then crosses ahead towards Colston Hall, another historic building that has been converted to holiday accommodation.

This lane crosses back over the river to return back along the lane used on the outward journey. It traces this back for a few hundred yards to the junction signposted to Bruisyard where one of the fords used to be located

Now, Bruisyard is one of those curious Suffolk place names. It is well off the beaten track and one has to make the effort to go there to visit it in the flesh. In that respect it has an almost mythical quality about it as there are signposts on the through routes to Framlingham and Yoxford but there is no reason to take these other than to visit the village itself. As for the name, there are many references across the web that state it has been derived from old English words 'bur' and 'geard' which translates to a 'peasants enclosure' ( see University of Nottingham's Key to English Place Names).

The first building to be seen in this tiny parish is the church of St Peter, its distinctive round tower being easily picked out from the road leading into the village. It is worth wandering through the lychgate, just around the bend in the road, and visiting this peaceful retreat. There is nothing overly special about this humble place of worship other than its quiet location. But that is enough reason for most intrepid explorers of Suffolk.

Trekking beyond the initial houses it does appear that this is all there is to the village. The lane leads out into more Suffolk countryside. But then as the road rises, it passes the entrance to Bruisyard Hall and then meets a junction where the village sign is proudly displayed on a grassy island in the roads that lead down into another hamlet. This end of the parish is properly known as Bruisyard Street and is quite a distance from Bruisyard. The village sign is notable, depicting some saintly woman holding a leafed stem. Quite what the leafy stem is supposed to represent other than a leafy stem is unknown, however the saintly woman is St Clare of the Order of nuns collectively known as the Poor Clares. That does appear to be something from the scripts of Monty Python but the Poor Clares were founded in the early 13th century by Clare of Assisi. One would have assumed she was a poor peasant girl but she hailed from a wealthy family and ran away to live a devout life of poverty. The association to the village comes from when the order founded an abbey at Bruisyard which survived through to the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. The village sign appears to have been based on a fresco by Simone Martini in the Lower basilica of San Francesco, Assisi. This includes the leafed stem but we are still no closer as to what this represents.

The walk continues through to Rendham where there is the second White Horse Inn to visit - once again more ever-changing selections ales served straight from the barrel. Another church to visit, this time the Rendham parish church of St Michael.

We then cross the fields using footpath and tracks to get to Sweffling village. Another curious Suffolk name, this name is supposed to have been derived from old English for Swiftels Peoples. Old Swiftel, whoever he or she may may been, must have left little impact of the area other than the village name for there is no mention of him or her in the history books. Another church is one of the first buildings encountered and I would like to have said it was a welcoming refuge for the walker. Unfortunately the door was locked.

The walk ends back down at the Sweffling White Horse. All three pubs on this walk are an absolute delight to visit and all serve their ale straight from the barrel. However it is the Sweffling White Horse which is the most unique in character. This really is back to basics of the old English village Inn where the drinks are served from a tap room and entertainment is conversation, live music or the bar billiards. This is well supported by the locals. Aside the pub is the Alde garden campsite, a unique camp site that has the flavour of an old English garden and prides itself on the sustainable technologies that it employs on the site. Ducks run around the tents and a communal field kitchen enables any camper to turn up with little more than a tent and still have all the necessities of life. I really cant recommend this highly enough.

Rendham Church
Rendham Church


A circular route using country lanes either side of the River Alde from Sweffling to Badingham

Leave Sweffling White Horse and proceed down the road the pub is on. Keep to this little used country lane. Continue straight ahead at the crossroads and ignore all other roads that junction with this. After approx 2 miles from the crossroads there is a footpath that leads off to the right. This is not the first footpath on the right, which leads across to Bruisyard, but the one beyond the junction to Coltson Hall which is signposted Badingham! The footpath descends down three steps to the field. A path then immediately cuts through the hedgrow and runs diagonally across the following field to a footbridge. Cross the bridge and follow the path around the hedgeerow to the track. Turn left down towards the house and before the track leads into the ground take the footpath on the right. This leads through some heathland to the main road where the Badingham White Horse stands directly opposite.

Continue along the road down the side of the pub for just under a quarter of a mile where the village hall stands on the right. Walk into the gravel drive at the far end and at the end of this there is a footpath that heads up through a tree lined path. Follow this through to the lane where the old REctory stands in resplendent grounds opposite. Turn right, and follow the lane past the rectory and down to the main road. Cross straight over the main road and continue along the lane, past Colston Hall and down to the Alde Valley where it meets the lane taken on the outward journey. Return along this road until the next turning on the left to Bruisyard. Take this and follow the road through to the village. The church entrance can be found just before the first houses.

At the top of the hill, turn right at the junction and follow the lane through to its end. Turn right by the village sign and follow the road around Bruisyard Street. Take the Rendham road on the left as lane bends around to go over the River. This is another quiet country lane that runs through to the village of Rendham

At the junction where the White Horse pub stands on the left and the church on the right, continue straight ahead and follow the road for a third of a mile until there is a footpath on the right. The path leads directly across the meadow although it is not particularly well defined due to the short cut grass. Head for the turn in the lane by the side of the meadow where there is a style out onto the lane.

Keep to this lane and follow the track through as it leads along the side of a farm. This now becomes no more than a farm track which makes a sharp bend to the left at the end of the field. Do not take this bend but continue ahead for a few yards where there is a footpath waymarker on a post. Take the path that leads off to the right. This leads down the side of a hedgerow and then through a wood emerging on a clearly defined path across the field to Sweffling village. At the road continue straight ahead onto the driveway and follow this around into the church grounds. Walk through the churchyard and out onto te road. Turn right and keep to the road until it meets the junction with the White Horse pub and the start of the circular walk

Alde Garden camp site
Alde Garden camp site


Badingham White Horse, Badingham View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Low Street, Badingham

Originally a 15th century coaching inn, this pub captures the old charms with open fires, pan tiled floors and exposed oak beams. Home cooked food, accommodation with en-suite rooms and an extensive garden make this free house a favourite for visitors and locals alike. An ever changing list of ales which are served straight from the barrel, together with real ciders and locally brewed craft lagers provide a drink for all tastes.


It may look a little classy but this hostelry offers some excellent ale, all served straight from the barrel. On this occasion the Badingham Bitter was selected, a brew from Earl Soham brewery made for the pub. A pleasant and easy drinking English bitter, perfect for a walk.

Rendham White Horse, Rendham View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Bruisyard Road, Rendham

Friendly village pub serving home made food, including many traditional English dishes made from freshly prepared and locally sourced produce. A range of Real Ales all served from the barrel. The pub has hosted a beer festival each August Bank Holiday since 2004.


Four ales, all served straight from the barrel. The Maldons white Adder was selected and a lovely pint that made a good accompaniment to the fish and chips dinner

Sweffling White Horse, Sweffling View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Low Road, Sweffling

This Suffolk real ale pub stocks an ever-changing range of locally brewed ales and ciders, locally made bottled ales and spirits and a range of organic fairtrade and local wines all with the emphasis on local and small. Drinks are served from a taproom door and entertainment is provided by a selection of traditional pub games including bar billiards, darts. The lounge bar has a large woodburning stove, and the public bar is home to a wood-fired range cooker which also heats the radiators. As well as the two main rooms the pub also has a small beer garden with a rustic arbor, enchantingly lit by candles and fairylights at night. The beer garden is open from spring equinox to autumn equinox, every Sunday lunchtime and every pub night until 10pm. Accommodation is provided in the form of a self-catering cottage and campsite

Note the opening times are Friday: 7pm-11pm; Saturday: 7pm-11pm; Sunday 12pm-3pm and 7pm-11pm Monday: 7pm-11pm


This is a must for anyone who appreciates a traditional old pub. There is no bar, only a tap room from where the ale is drawn from the barrels. Excellent atmosphere, unspoilt village pub and well supported by the local villagers. I cannot recommend this highly enough

Gate to the Alde Meadows
Gate to the Alde Meadows


Bruisyard HallView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The history of Bruisyard Hall is well known and documented in many publications. Its site occupies the location of the former Abbey that was converted from an earlier Manor House known as Rokes Hall in 1364. The Abbey was the home to the Poor Clares, an order of nuns founded by Clare of Assissi and dedicated to a life of poverty. The Abbey survived through to the dissolution of monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII.

The present building dates from the early 17th century with later alterations although there some inclusions from the original Hall notably in the left hand wing. The present owners can trace ancestral links back to the abbey and have proudly restored some of the original features of the nunnery, including carved beams in the ceilings of the present day kitchen, games rooms and bedrooms. There are also a couple of priest holes, one under one of the bedrooms near the clock tower and one behind a fireplace accessed through a tunnel from the attic. These would date from after the dissolution when Sir Nicholas Hare was given the Abbey estate by Henry VIII. The Hare family were staunch Catholics and consequently needed the priest holes to hide their clergy in those protestant times. The building is now rented out with an emphasis as a wedding venue.

With such a history it is probably not surprising that it has a few ghostly tales. The present owner, Paul Rous issued a caution in 2015 to Liz Dodd, a reporter from the independent newspaper, about her stay at the residence, stating that the hot water may fail, the wi-fi can be eccentric, and one may run into some ghosts during their stay. Despite this the reporter had no untoward experiences.

There are other reports that have been noted in various publications that allege ghostly encounters although there is little specific information other than the insinuation that the Hall is haunted by a nun from the former Abbey. Probably something anyone could imagine whilst staying there and knowing its history.

One of the more elaborated stories tell of a stain on the floorboards in the attic room which refuses to be removed from regular cleaning. The report dates from the late 1920's and is said to have appeared in a publication named East Anglian Miscellany although I have yet to find the original report. The report is said to claim that the bloodstain is from a murdered nun but does not elaborate any further.

Another tale reports of a ghostly form that glides across the lawns of Bruisyard Hall and which is said to be the ghost of Maud of Lancaster. There seems to be no specific witness accounts or times and dates of such encounters or any further details. One would assume that Maud is the Countess of Ulster from the 14th century. If this is the case, then upon the death of her second husband, Sir Rapth de Ufford, she returned from her residence in Ireland to become a canoness at the Augustine Abbey of Campsea Ash in Suffolk in 1347. She later become a member of the Poor Clares at Bruisyard Abbey in 1364 where she lived out her life, passing away on 5 May 1377 aged 67. It is said she was buried in Bruisyard Abbey. This certainly makes a connection with the Hall.

Other mysteries of note include graffiti on the narrow staircase in the attic which include names and dates going back to 1805. This part of the house is said to date from the mid 16th century and one explanation is that when the house was unoccupied and in a state of ruin in the 19th century, local villagers would dare each other to climb up to the spooky attic and write their name.

There was also a secret room which lay undiscovered until the 1980s when a chimney fell in. The room was found by an architect who noticed a window where there was no access to a room. The wall along the upstairs landing was knocked through and the room discovered. It has now become an en-suite bathroom.

This surely is an interesting old house with plenty of history.

Bruisyard church
Bruisyard church


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: 2018-12-06

2018-08-17 : Initial publication
2018-12-06 : General website updates


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