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Hoxne walk: Murder, martyrdom and mighty treasure

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
2:49 PM

David Falk tracks down the hidden treasures of a quiet Suffolk village that played an unusually large part in England's turbulent history

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David Falk tracks down the hidden treasures of a quiet Suffolk village that played an unusually large part in England's turbulent history




Stripped from his skin, bound to a tree and shot with arrows. Not a particularly nice way to go. But then the marauding Danish Vikings who murdered Edmund, King of the East Angles, in Hoxnes fields 800 years ago did want to make a point.


They sliced off his head too, however the carved relief on the village hall fortunately spares us representation all of these gory details!


Hoxnes history is marked by flurries of excitement from major prehistoric finds to one of the UKs largest mega-hoards of Roman treasure. Most days though, its simply a relaxed and unsuspecting, half-timbered village on the Suffolk/Norfolk border, as mellow as the undulating arable landscapes which surround it a pleasant place to be; a great place to walk.


Bounded by the Waveney and the Dove, the Parish includes sweeping stretches of water-meadows and ancient woodlands, with the church perched on a narrow east-west ridge which the Anglo-Saxons likened to a hoh-sin or heel sinew, hence the modern name Hoxne (Hock-sin).


The circular walk loops up the impressive Church of St Peter and St Paul with the isolated, tower-less, yet beautifully wooded St John the Baptist at Denham.




The Walk



Under the roof-top gaze of St Edmund, leave the village hall to cross Goldbrook Bridge where King Edmund allegedly hid from his enemies before a passing honeymoon couple saw his gleaming gold spurs and betrayed him. Thanks to Edmunds subsequent curse on the matrimonial pair, brides still avoid crossing the bridge en route to their wedding even today!


Head for the village centre, past the site of a bishops country palace, Hoxne Hall, and keep right to walk up to the B1118 and the church beyond. Inside theres plenty to see from medieval wall paintings and treasure chests to storyboards about all the local archaeological finds.


Peek round the back to glimpse the moated old vicarage, perhaps the site of the original bishops residence.


Time to retrace steps back village-ward to that cursed bridge, but this time bear right walking uphill past shady conifers until you sight a 1950s brick kiln set back on the left.


The historic brickearth pit on the right is where amazing flint hand axes were found and the Hoxnian Interglacial period was discovered by John Frere in 1797. Near here in 1992, a local metal detector unearthed the remarkable, priceless silver and gold artefacts known as the Hoxne Hoard, now in the British Museum.


A marked footpath opposite Chestnut Lodge leads across arable land, over a wooden bridge before directing right, then left over a stile, up a short climb to a footbridge, through a copse. Eventually theres a road and a mound mooching in the trees: once the site of a post mill.


With Mill Mound on your left, Nuttery Vale leads to Eye Road, where a sign-posted footpath (left) follows field margins and crosses two stiles by Gissing Farm, arriving at a lane where you turn left again and follow signs through the impressive, 16th century bricknogged Red House farmstead.


Take another left turn at a break in the trees, behind some cottages to a small bridge. Here the fields fall away in sheer Suffolk beauty as you continue past Low Barn to Denham Low Road, before climbing on up to medieval Denham Church.


Church admired, return to Denham Low Road to head past the Leys Fish Ponds, over the Goldbrook, then left up a field edge footpath towards Cross Street. As you climb out of the valley along a tree lined grass path, take a moment to look back to the site of the Chapel of St Edmund opposite, reputedly the place where the martyrs head was found in the forest, protected by a wolf and still speaking...


Turn left into Cross Street past interesting examples of local Banham brick walling and along Abbey Hill. Impressive Abbey Farm is worth a sneaky detour, likewise the short stretch along the permissive path to the granite St Edmund Monument situated in the field where that unfortunate ancient martyrdom oak once stood.


Grisly tales absorbed, continue down Abbey Hill, forking right on to a driveway to a footpath. Finally cross the small wood and Chickering Beck to Hoxne Low Street and its more civilised watering hole, The Swan Inn.



The finer detail


Top tips: This is one of the Treasured Suffolk Walks series, a new portfolio based on archaeological finds and historic sites around the county. Our Mendham / Metfield walk is ready to be explored. Other routes in progress are set to cover treasures around Wingfield / Syleham; Santon Downham; Coombs /Badley; Brockley and Westhorpe.


For more information: Download a colour copy of the Treasured Suffolk Hoxne In the footsteps of a Saint & Philanthropist leaflet at Suffolk County Councils official countryside website, www.discoversuffolk.org.uk . Look out here for the other new Treasured Suffolk routes as they appear over the coming months too for some enchanting countryside walks.


How to get there: Hoxne lies on the B1118 about 5 miles east of Diss and 4 miles north of Eye and is clearly signed off the A143 and A140. On arriving in Hoxne take the road down into the village centre, bearing left over the bridge following signs for the St Edmunds Hall (village hall) where the walk begins.


Park up and go: Free parking is available at St Edmunds Hall by Goldbrook Bridge.


Distance: approx 5.5 miles (9 kms)


Refreshments: Hoxne boasts a magnificent, rambling 16th century pub, The Swan Inn, right in the village centre a cosy and fitting place to refresh and refuel. The village shop and post office is a useful stop for snacks and picnic provisions.


Terrain: An easy, slightly undulating route with a mixture of on- and off-road walking along quiet lanes and footpaths. Can be damp on the trouser legs and muddy in parts after a spell of wet weather! Walking boots advisable.


Useful additional map: OS Explorer No. 230


Convenient conveniences: There are regrettably no public conveniences in Hoxne what a good excuse to call in for a drink and warm up at the Swan Inn!


Public transport: Call 0871 1200 2233 or visit www.suffolkonboard.com for details .



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