Along abbey roads

EADT Suffolk - - SUFFOLK WALK -

tun­nel re­calls those brush-stroke branches from Tor’s win­dow, but soon it’s a world of wide plains and wrap-around sky. Across Abbey Road, it’s time to pot­ter down Pot­ter’s Street and fall in line, past the curved cedar tree canopies and dis­tant Ge­or­gian arches of wartime bat­tal­ion HQ, The­ber­ton House.

The path­ways weave a gen­tle, covert de­scent to East­bridge. On the vil­lage sign is the wind­mill from Tor’s win­dow, perched above a watery world with a host of cu­ri­ous com­pan­ions in­clud­ing an eel, old boot, and a smuggler with The Law in hot pur­suit. But there’s no men­tion of monks, no lonely ru­ins, and no Ge­or­gian­fronted farm­house . . . .

The Eel’s Foot pub makes sense of a cou­ple of things, then a map-mo­ment later, at a sign­post by a smug­glers’ track to the marshes, the ad­ven­ture takes a de­tour down a dif­fer­ent sort of abbey road. The lure of ‘Chapel (re­mains of)’ on a hazy hori­zon is a mys­tery that’s hard to re­sist.

From a dis­tance, it’s tricky to see the form of Lower Abbey farm­house and the wind­mill is far from view – moved to Stow­mar­ket’s Mu­seum of East Anglian Life af­ter its col­lapse in 1977. But every step of the way, the world be­comes wilder. By Sandypy­tle Plan­ta­tion, the ruin rises into view and Tor’s pic­ture comes to life.

Up close, the gable ends have gone and it har­bours a wartime gun em­place­ment, an ob­vi­ous hide-out in a land so in­hos­pitable, so re­mote and just the god­for­saken place those Pre­mon­straten­sians would have been look­ing for. This is where their Leis­ton Abbey started out in 1182, un­til con­tin­ual flood­ing made it more in­tol­er­a­ble than even they could bear. In 1363, they fi­nally de­camped to higher ground, tak­ing what they could of their build­ings with them.

Back in East­bridge, a path leads between smuggler-se­clud­ing hedgerows, past the thatched, aisled barn of Up­per Abbey and near to Leis­ton Old Abbey, where the Hon­ourable Miss Thel­lus­son pro­vided af­ter­noon tea and en­ter­tain­ments for Leis­ton folk af­ter the grand re-open­ing of St Mar­garet’s Church in 1854.

To­day paths through wood­lands – the 1958 pine plan­ta­tions of Kenton and Goose Hills – process round to meet up at Sizewell Belts, where cat­tle graze the fresh-wa­ter marshes by the reedbeds and hay is har­vested the old way. It’s a land­scape fes­tooned with Lady’s Smock, dot­ted with orchids, home to a mot­ley crew of dart­ing king­fish­ers, Bit­tern, Bog­beans and Bearded tits. A great, scorched swathe of com­mon, shim­mers pur­ple and gold with cropped grasses and gorse.

Suf­folk’s hid­den trea­sures con­jure up so many colour­ful pic­tures of the past and they’re all wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered.

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