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.
Eyke to Butley Walk - Essential Information
First Group - Bus Service
- Service Number
- 65 - First Group 65 service connects Ipswich, Woodbridge, Rendlesham, Snape, Leiston and Aldeburgh. Unfortunately this was made into a 2 hourly service from August 2015
- Suffolk On Board Website
- Date of Walk
- Walk Time
- 09:30 to 15:30
- Griffmonster, Kat
- Weather Conditions
- A very cold winters day, some sun and blue sky but generally overcast
I have to admit, that despite living in the area for well over 10 years I had never walked the complete UFO trail in Rendlesham Forest. I was determined to do it this year and with the winter solstice being so close to the anniversary of the 1980 event that spurred its creation it seemed a worthy occasion. I had originally planned to drive into the forest and walk from there with an excursion to the Butley Oyster for lunch, but with frequent reports in the local press of cars being broken into whilst parked in the area we eventually decided to extend the walk to Eyke from where there was public transport to and from home at Leiston. This proved to be an excellent decision as it provided a full days walking with an extended route through the forest plus some really intriguing footpaths on the north side of Staverton Park, along the perimeter of the old Bentwaters RAF site.
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 Jaques 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 after having moved to the area despite losing interest in the 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 ideas. 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 we 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 from Aldeburgh looking south 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.
The UFO trail is marked out with the distinctive alien waymarkers. Each waymarker has a symbol underneath it and at first we thought these would translate to a message. Maybe they do, but we certainly could not decipher it even though we took photos of each one for future reference! I have since learnt that they are supposed to spell out the words 'hello earthling' and provide a little discovery game for kids to decipher as they wander around the trail. All in all this section of the walk was interesting but it is very much a managed forest area and although this provides well defined routes it does lack a certain wildness and naturalness that the next stage, from Butley back to Eyke, had.
After an excellent spot of lunch at the Oyster, we started our walk back to Eyke. 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 through Fenn Row to Friday Street 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!
We arrived in the village with an hour to spare before our bus back. Unfortunately the pub, the Elephant and Castle was closed, and I have heard many reports that it is closed for good though how true this is I do not know. Therefore we used the time to peruse the church, but even this did not take up an hour. The bus arrived about half and hour late as well. At least Anglian buses are very friendly, the driver even taking a diversion through Thorpeness to drop of a visitor even though this was not the official route on this service.
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 Butley Oyster Inn, Butley View in OS Map | View in Google Map
- Woodbridge Rd, Butley
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. Home cooked food and Adnams ales are on offer.
Unfortunately this traditional old pub closed for busines in December 2012.
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.
Sadly, I have heard reports that in December 2012 the pub was boarded up and is no longer in business. Another sad reflection of the ongoing Government policy towards alcohol that is driving such estabishments out of busines. A great loss to the area, to those who walk through this landscape and to the social aspects of the local community.
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 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. On entering the forest they soon experienced radio communication breakdown and had to form a chain 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 onto 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 they encountered a craft that resembled a huge eye with a dark centre which they followed through the woods, 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 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 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.
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 after he was ordered to attend the military investigation in the forest which resulted in him witnessing the landed craft in the field beyond the trees.
The incident was brought up in 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 is that the primary witness accounts have a lot of conflicting statements and there even appears to be a certain amount of animosity between some of those involved concerning their 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. This, in my view, aids the authenticity of the event as it goes to show that there is certainly no corroboration between those involved. There have also been other US personnel who have come forward with reports both pre-dating this incident and of subsequent incidents.
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. Today there is a campsite in the heart of the forest and it is noticeable that there are no reports of strange craft from campers who are unfamiliar with the area and the lighthouse.
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.
For those who are interested in this incident, then it is highly recommended that the following books be read. 'Left at East Gate' is authored by USAF Airman Larry Warren and investigator Peter Robbins and details Larrys first hand account of encountering the object that landed on Capel Green on the third night and the aftermath that followed the incident. 'You Can't Tell The People' was written by Georgina Bruni, a private investigator, and is a comprehensive account of the incident and those involved. 'Encounter in Rendlesham Forest' was authored by Nick Pope, the ex MOD UFO Desk officer, in conjunction with USAF airmen Jim Penniston and John Burroughs who witnessed the event on the first night.
Links and Bibliography:
Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information
Summary of Document Changes
Last Updated: ... 2017-02-21