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

Sunday, 4 March 2012

A Walk to Suffolks Mystery Brampton Standing Stone

A 14 mile walk between Halesworth and Beccles along the East Suffolk Line Path

This waymarked route links the railway stations at Halesworth, Brampton and Beccles. Taking the train between these towns will provide an interesting glimpse of what is in store along the walk, including the rather curious Belle Grove Farm looking as if it is out of some fantasy movie and the mysterious Brampton Standing Stone just south of Brampton Station.

Halesworth to Beccles Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
HalesworthView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
BecclesView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
14 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy

Transport:

Greater Anglia - Train Service
Service Number
East Suffolk Line - There is a two hourly service between Saxmundham and Lowestoft and an hourly service between Saxmundham and Ipswich
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2012-02-25
Walk Time
10:30 to 16:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Sunny day, a little warmth in the sunshine but with a chill north-westerly breeze

Walk Notes

After weighing up the merits of the direction to walk this section of the East Suffolk Line Path we decided to opt for the Halesworth to Beccles direction on account of the free Quay car-park in Beccles, whereas Halesworth parking is well over £3 per day. We opted to take the train down to Halesworth rather than the bus and was glad we did as it was on here we witnessed both the Standing Stone and the Belle Grove farm which provided features on the walk to look out for. I have travelled this line on numerous occasions but cant recall ever seeing either of these landmarks. This can be understood for Belle Grove as, after a little investigation, it was found that it was constructed in 2011 by the farm owners Nick Fisher and Jo Jordan. It was inspired by a sketch from a Russian architect and is fashioned from bricks from the original farm house with timber frames and bales of straw for walls. Trees from Dunwich Forest were used to create the tower with the huge metal mesh dragon on top peering down the chimney stack. The interior is just as unique with corrugated iron from the farm workshop acting as kitchen cupboard doors, and a twisted elm trunk from a local ditch placed as a centre piece in the house. The building is a truly remarkable sight with a bell shaped tower. Although easily visible from the train, from the footpath you can only see the rear and even walking down to the driveway can't provide a full appreciation of its structure.

The standing stone proved to be something more of a mystery, as discussed in the features below. I would love to find a little more about this huge boulder but I have thus far found no documentation whatsoever. If anyone has any information then please get in touch.

The walk was pretty much well waymarked but there are key points where the waymarkers have either been destroyed or simply not been placed. This is not an issue provided one has an OS map. The path does have some amount of field walking and although the weather had been predominantly dry, recent showers were enough to provide a clinging mud on some of the tracks across the fields. As it was spring, the crops were small and some of the paths were not totally distinguishable.

Soon after the start of the walk we encountered the Holton Airfield Museum. This windowless brick building on the edge of the former airfield is dedicated to it's use during the war as an American base for both the 56th Fighter Group and the 489th Bomb Group. Unfortunately it is only open during afternoons on Sundays and Bank Holidays between April and September so we could not investigate further.

The land we went across was pretty high by Suffolk standards and the end section was all downhill to the quay at Beccles. This took us through Puddingmoor which is most untypical of Suffolk topology. The road is at the bottom of a steep hill with houses at the top of the hill and gardens terraced down the hill. Alleyways with steep steps lead to the top from Puddingmoor. Together with the old cottages, the scene is something reminiscent of what one would expect of Devon rather than Suffolk. As we wandered down the road, taking photos and in awe at this part of Beccles, a woman came up to us and asked if we had seen the peacock. We hadn't. She went on to tell us of a resident peacock which would wake her up each morning pecking at her door until she opened the door and gave it some food.

This was the first major walk of the year after a winter of smaller walks due to the hours of light in the day. 14 miles is not a great distance but even so the legs let us know about it. Stiff knees. Sore feet and legs. No matter how much I walk each year, it still takes a little time to build back up after a winters break. It is all worth it though. Taking ones time, enjoying the day and doing some more frequent walks and we will be back up to the 25 mile a day mark!

The unique looking Belle Grove Farm building
The unique looking Belle Grove Farm building

Directions

A simple walk following the East Suffolk Line Walk waymarkers.

Beccles Quay to Beccles Station

The free car park at Beccles Quay is a rough piece of ground on the edge of the north side of the town. From the car park turn left and follow the Fen Lane around to the junction. Turn left up to the junction with the main road. Turn right and head into town. The station is on the left opposite the mini roundabout.

Halesworth to Brampton

From the South bound platform at Halesworth station, emerge onto the road heading southwards, following the road around into the housing estate. At the end is a footpath down the side of one of the houses. this leads round to a track. Turn left (no waymarker) and continue up the lane with the cemetery on the right. On reaching Town Farm the waymarkers are on a post just inside the farm boundary but it would appear that the path is now diverted, picked out by the trod down grass diagonally across the preceding small field. This leads along another track. Continue to the road, go straight across until it emerges onto a road opposite the old Holton airfield and museum. Turn left and follow the road round the airfield, continuing right onto the road around the airfield perimeter. Follow the road round to the left, past Moat Farm and take the bridleway on the right. This crosses the railway and crosses the Spexhall to Westhall road at Deadmans Grave crossroads. Turn right and before the railway bridge take the footpath on the left. (Belle Grove Farm is just before the bridge). The footpath crosses directly across the first field, turns right at the boundary for a few yards, then goes out across the next field. when it meets the next field boundary, turn right and follow the edge around past the farm buildings and out onto the road. Turn right and just past the farm is a track on the left. Keep to the track until it meets some woods on the right and starts to bend around to the left. There is a footpath on the right through the trees down to a little footbridge across a stream and then up to the railway. In the pasture by the railway is Brampton Standing Stone. The path passes through a gate and alongside the railway to emerge on the road at Brampton station.

Brampton to Beccles

Take the road westwards from the station and when it bends sharply round to the right there is a footpath through the hedge and across the field. The waymarker has been felled here and it is not obvious where the path is. Continue across the fields, across the road and down to Wood Farm. Go around the right hand side of the Farm cottages, into what seems like the rear garden, then follow the path by the pond and down to the bridleway in front of Great Wood. Turn right and keep to the bridleway which turns into a track to pass in front of Redisham Hall. As the track bears round to the left, continue straight on along the footpath alongside the stream. Follow this through until it emerges onto the road at Pound Farm. Keep to the road up to Ringsfield village crossroads. Turn right and the Three Horseshoes pub is about a third of a mile down the road on the left. Return to the crossroads, go straight across and just past the school on the left is a bridleway on the right. Follow this through until it junctions with a track just across a stream. Turn right and follow the track through to Ringsfield church. Continue along the road and take the track on the right. At Lodge Farm turn right and follow the path up alongside the field boundary. Cross the boundary and keep following the footpath until it meets with a road at a sharp bend. There is a track down the hill which comes out opposite Roos Hall on the main Bungay road. Go right towards Beccles and then left down Puddingmoor. When the road junctions turn left and follow Northgate down to the quay. Cross the Quay on the footbridge and the car park is at the end of the creek.

Brampton Standing Stone with Kat next to it to demonstrate the sheer size of this lump of rockBelle Grove Farm from the footpath
On the left Brampton Standing Stone with Kat next to it to demonstrate the sheer size of this lump of rock; On the right Belle Grove Farm from the footpath

Pubs

Three Horseshoes, Ringsfield View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Three Horseshoes, Ringsfield
Website

Small local pub on the edge of Ringsfield Corner. The building dates from the early 1800's with the earliest recorded landlord being Robert Bettram. Guest ales and pub grub available.

Review

Friendly village pub. They had two ales, Green King Abbott and Everard's Tiger. I was hoping for some local micro-brews but even so, the Tiger was a rewarding pint. A variety of pub grub was on offer, all at very reasonable prices. We opted for ham, egg and chips and was delighted with the chunks of ham and two eggs laid across a plateful of chips.

Redisham Hall
Redisham Hall

Features

Deadmans GraveView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The ancient practice of burying suicides at crossroads

The crossroads on the Spexhall to Westhall road where Nollers Lane junctions with Butts road is locally known as Deadmans Grave. There is no recorded history about this name or this crossroads but it is assumed that this could well be the site of a suicide burial.

It was the custom in middle-ages England to bury such 'blood guilty' people at crossroads during the hours of darkness. It was considered that the spirit of the guilty may well return to reek revenge and by placing their bodies at a crossroads would confuse the spirit as to the direction of their home. To further prevent the spirit from raising it was often customary to also drive a wooden stake through the heart.

This type of burial is documented as far back as 1510 when Rober Browner, the superior of Butley Priory in Suffolk, hanged himself after mismanaging monastery finances. The practice was finally outlawed by an Act of Parliament passed in 1823 which allowed suicides private burial in a churchyard, but only at night and without a Christian service. A review of the law resulted in a new Act in 1882 allowing normal burial. Parliament did not decriminalise suicide until 1961 (Suicide Act 1961.

Brampton Standing StoneView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Just south of Brampton station, alongside the public footpath and stood in the centre of an area of rough pasture is a Standing Stone. This large solitary stone of approx 8ft x 4ft x 2ft dimensions stands upright in roughly a northwest-southeast direction. Despite exhaustive research consulting many historic texts and catalogues of ancient stones, there is no reference to this item so the history of this stone remains a complete nystery. The northwest side is covered in moss, and, not being a geologist, I would not like to guess as to its origins or its substance. I can only say that I have never noticed this stone, which is visible from the railway, in the pasture before. That is not to say that it was not there. The only online reference is a photo from March 2011 from another bemused walker. The only references to 'Brampton Stone' or indeed 'Redisham Stone' as it is closer to this parish, is in connection with a stone in a garden in Beccles and this comes nowhere near the dimensions of this particular stone.

This part of East Anglia does not have any exposed native stone or rock and the stones and boulders that do occur on the landscape are the result of glacial drift during the last ice age. These stones were venerated by early occupants of the area and used as ancient way-markers or meeting places. When Christianity arrived churches were often sited close to such stones as they were often considered hallowed ground.

Not far from this stone is the famous Stockton Stone, on the main A146 road between Beccles and Norwich and placed on the grass besides a lay-by. Local legend states that if anyone moves it they will be cursed and suffer a premature death. This was emphasized when the road was straightened in the 1960's when the workman entailed with moving the stone suddenly died.

Therefore, in conclusion, and this is purely guesswork and conjecture, I have to say that this stone at Brampton may well be a modern day folly or joke. A stone placed there by a landowner as a conversation piece or purely a practical joke. I would like to think that this is not the case, but such a significant piece of stone so close to a well used railway and a public footpath, is surely something that could not have been overlooked by those who study such artefact's and therefore its absence in records of ancient stones around East Anglia is noticable. Even so, this conclusion still begs the question of how the stone was placed here. The only access is the footpath from the station which is narrow and bordered by thick hedges and the narrow footbridge across the stream from the other direction both routes being too restrictive for such a large feature. The other two sides of the pasture are bordered by a hedge and the railway.

Redisham HallView in OS Map | View in Google Map

18th century mansion

Redisham Hall is a modern mansion standing in 400 acres of parkland to the south-west of Ringsfield village. The extensive grounds contain the ruins of the church of the quondam parish. The Hall is an 18th Century Grade II listed building partially used as holiday cottages. The hall occupies the site of a mansion built by Nicholas Garneys during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and demolished to make way for the present building, constructed in 1823 for John Garden with further additions in 1904.

References

All Saints Church, RingsfieldView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Quaint thatched village church

Probably the most notable aspect of this Victorian thatched church is the rather flamboyant angel at the side of the church. This is the grave of Princess Caroline Murat who was married to the local squire and was the great-niece of Napoleon Bonaparte and a grand-daughter of the King of Naples. On the south side of the church is a brick memorial to Nicholas Garneys, who died in 1599. The top of the memorial is decorated by a terracotta mermaid.

References

Roos HallView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Roos Hall (also known as Rose Hall) is a Grade I red brick Tudor manor house dating from 1583 set in medieval parkland with river frontage. It is said to be among the most haunted houses in England. One legend states that on each Christmas Eve, at midnight, a ghostly carriage pulled by four horses and a headless driver draws up to the Hall. A beautiful woman is then said to step down from the coach but if any person dares to look into her eyes then they will be driven to madness or instant death. This was said to have been the fate of two poachers in the late 19th century.

A guest-room is also said to be haunted and the Devils hoofmark can be seen burnt into a wall inside the Hall. There is also a tale concerning a certain window which can never be kept closed. A blacksmith had once ironed the window permanently shut yet the next morning it was found in its usual open state.

In the grounds stands an old oak tree which is said to be the site of a gibbet where many criminals had been hanged in chains as a warning to others. It is said their ghosts now haunt this area. Legend says that if you are brave enough to walk around the oak tree six times counterclockwise then the Devil himself will appear and ask your business.

All Saints church, Ringsfield
All Saints church, Ringsfield

Images

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

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

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: ... 2016-01-15

2012-04-26 : additional info for Belle Grove Farm

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