Beccles Cycling Break

Beccles from the air.jpg

Date: 2022 TBA

VENUE: Kings Head, Weatherspons

4–6 New Market, Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 9HA


BECCLES: From the Anglo Saxon 'Beck' (Stream) and 'Leas' (Meadow).


There has been a community based here since pre-Saxon times, with Beccles  representing the first crossing point over the River Waveney between here and the coastline. Many street names end in 'gate', derived from the Saxon for 'street'. 


The town was once a flourishing Saxon Sea Port, prospering on the herring industry. Beccles was eventually granted its Charter in 1584 by Elizabeth I. There's a signpost that depicts the handing over of the Charter of the Corporation of Beccles to John Baas Port Reeve in 1584. It was during Elizabethan times that the tidal estuary eventually silted up to create the river and marshes seen today. However the town remained a busy port adopting new industries such as malting, tanning and wool. The town was also home to Catherine Suckling who was married in the town's St Michael's Church in 1749 to Edward Nelson, father of Lord Horatio Nelson. Under the streets of Beccles there is a network of tunnels linking the river's cliff edge with the various buildings in the town. Smuggling was widespread. By Victorian times the town began to rely more heavily on the relatively new advances in print technology. Clowes of Beccles was possibly the largest the largest book printers in Europe.


Being based in the town, there's easy access to all the facilities: pubs, cafes (over a dozen), Greggs, restaurants (including Prezzo Italian), post office and so on. The River Waveney is attractive and cycle routes (mostly Sustrans) radiate out from Beccles in all directions. There's a Sustrans route all the way to Sothwold, whilst another goes to the Norfolk Broads. Other cycle routes take you to nature reserves and historic monuments (there's a castle at Bungay). Lots of options, some of which are detailed below. If it's wet (hopefully not) there's an outdoor heated pool, a bus station and a railway station for possible ventures into Norwich etc.


The King's Head Hotel dates back to the 17th Century with the earliest recorded reference to it in a lease granted to George Coke dated 1668. Three years later, he was granted the "tenement in the cornerstead of the Market", making him the pubs first landlord. The King's Head remained as a coaching inn for hundreds of years with an open archway leading into a cobbled yard with galleries at the bck and stables at the rear. It is quite possible however that the King's Head that stands today replaced an even earlier building. Beccles was ravaged by fire in the 16th Century. The 'Great Fire' swept through the town on the evening of 29th November 1586 and "raged with the greatest violence in the vicinity of New Market". Other fires raged through the town in the 1660's so the King's Head may have been burned down at this later date. The King's Head was designated a Grade II listed building on 22nd September 1971. 


King's Head Hotel (Weatherspoons), Beccl
King's Head Hotel (Weatherspoons), Beccl

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The Kings Head Hotel, Beccles
The Kings Head Hotel, Beccles

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St Mary's Church, Gillingham-2
St Mary's Church, Gillingham-2

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King's Head Hotel (Weatherspoons), Beccl
King's Head Hotel (Weatherspoons), Beccl

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Many fascinating churches can be found along the cycle routes, some of Norman origin, many dating to Saxon times. Round tower churches are rare in Britain, except in this part of East Anglia where 180 survive. Some are attributed to the 11th Century, nearly all are built of flint and many have an octagonal belfry. There's even a 'Round Tower Churches Society'.

More information HERE and HERE

1. St Michaels, Beccles

St Michael is the only church in Suffolk other than St Andrew, Bramfield, to have a bell tower separate from the body of the church. The church was built first, without a tower. A bequest of 1369 by Robert de Mutford left money for building the 'new church'. But in the early 16th century, in a display of piety, power and civic pride, the great square belfry was built to the south east.

2. All Saints, Ellough

In 1973, All Saints was one of the first churches in Suffolk to be declared redundant, but still boasts a fine 14th century tower and is a Grade I listed building. The church was restored in 1882 by William Butterfield.

3. St Michael's Church, Benacre

This 13th Century parish church is now privately owned by Sir John Gooch of Benacre Hall, whose ancestors are buried here. The church was heavily damaged by fire in the 18th Century and has been much altered.

4. St Michael's and All Angels, Rushmere

The parish church is a round-tower church which dates to the Norman period and is a Grade I listed building. The church is dedicated to St. Michael and All Angels. The majority of the building is medieval and the roof is thatched. The building was derelict in the 1930's but was restored by the local community and reopened in 2010.

5. St Mary's Church, Sisland

The construction of Sisland church possibly started soon after the Norman Conquest, although very little of this early building now remains. The list of rectors date back to the 13th Century. In 1761, the main structure of the church was badly damaged by a lightning strike with little of the original building remaining. However, there's still part of the 14th Century chantry chapel remaining to the north of the church. 

6. St Mary's Church, Norton Subcourse

This parish church comprises a combined nave and chancel as well as a west tower. The flint built tower dates to the Saxo-Norman period and dominates the body of the church which is later in date, being mostly from the 14th century. Many original features survive. There is evidence to suggest that this church has connections with the college of priests at nearby Raveningham and this may explain why a church of this scale serves a relatively small parish.

7. St Mary's Church, Gillingham

St. Mary’s Church dates back to the times of the Normans, and some old records suggest that it was built on the site of an earlier Saxon church. The windows are 15th century in Perpendicular style. The building was much altered in 1859 by the addition of aisles and the rebuilding of apse in Neo Norman style.


Centred around the beautiful 15th century Holy Trinity Church,  Loddon has many fine buildings which reflect the growth of the town over the centuries. The earliest written mention of Loddon (Lodne) is in the will of Aelfric Modercope written around 1042. The name Loddon actually means "Muddy River" and the river has always been a source of much of the industry in the town with wherries delivering goods to the various businesses. Loddon Staithe (old Norse for Harbour) was once filled with wherries bringing in coal, wheat and timber. The last trading vessels sailed away in the 1940's.

RIDES (click on the title to view and download the suggested route)

1. SOUTHWOLD (33 miles)

From Beccles, this route follows Sustrans Route 31 (a few very short sections of good quality off road) to Southwold via Scotterley Hall and Reydon. Down to the Pier and the sea side for refreshments (numerous cafes) before a loop to take in Southwold Harbour and the River Blyth. The return route takes us through the Broads via Wrentham before picking up Sustrans Route 517.


This route is a little more hilly, taking Sustrans Route 1 to Sisland where there's a Vineyard and a quirky rural thatched church, dating back to Doomsday. Back to the Broads via Loddon and the River Chet, a short detour along Wherryman's Way takes us to Reedham Ferry. A crossing of the river to the Reedham Ferry Inn for lunch.  Sustrans Route 33 takes us back to Beccles via Raveningham Hall.

3. BUNGAY CASTLE (20 miles)

A short ride to historic Bungay and a chance to visit the Castle. This one utilities Sustrans Routes 1 and 40.