#1
22 July 2006

COAST STORIES

LOOKING FOR LITTLE GREEN MEN IN SPOOKY SUFFOLK

Tony Stewart


Suffolk (Anglo-Saxon: "South People") is one of England's most rural, prettiest and spookiest counties.


NOBODY can say with any certainty that what happened on one foggy winter's night more than two decades ago is true, but many believe it to be.

For like the haunting burial grounds of Anglo-Saxon kings, swashbuckling tales of piracy off its coast and eerie fables of rural witchcraft, the celebrated visit of extra-terrestrials has become part of Suffolk's rich folklore.

While it's accepted that thousands of visitors flock into this beautiful region of England, few would have expected aliens to travel through galaxies to experience its many delights.

Known as "The Rendlesham Forest Incident", it's claimed that on Boxing Day 1980, a UFO crash-landed in dense woodland near the American air force base of Woodbridge, close to the coast.

Witnesses claim that 3ft-tall "aeronaut entities" (that's spacemen to us) emerged, looking like "kids in snowsuits". Spooky.

An airman has since thrown doubt on "Britain's Roswell" - a reference to the famous incident in New Mexico in 1947 when it's alleged a flying saucer came down in the desert. He claims it was nothing more than an elaborate hoax, even if many locals still believe in the UFO sighting.

Some might argue that any spaceship's awayday would be to somewhere a little more exotic than Suffolk, but many others would claim our alleged alien visitors got it spot on.

Here you can experience the history of bygone eras at a spectacular range of Norman castles, churches and museums, enjoy the watersports in the picturesque coastal resorts, or ramble and cycle through the undulating countryside that inspired the paintings of John Constable.

There is a strong personal bond with Suffolk. My Scottish father Jim loved visiting it so much that he decided to stay. He reserved a plot in Felixstowe cemetery, where he now rests in peace.

It may be a little jaded since its glory days as a bustling Victorian resort, but Felixstowe remains a quiet, relaxing seaside town with the shingle beaches so typical of this coastline.

From Felixstowe in the south to Walberswick and Blythburgh in the north, Suffolk boasts more than 40 miles of unspoilt Heritage Coast set in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

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The famous scorch marks on Blythburgh church door in Suffolk were allegedly caused by a ghostly black dog which appeared to the congregation in 1577 - " ...placing himself uppon a maine balke or beam, whereon some ye Rood did stand, sodainly he gave a swinge downe through ye church, and there also, as before, slew two men and a lad, and burned the hand of another person that was there among the rest of the company, of whom divers were blasted."



A weather vane in the village of Bungay, Suffolk shows Black Shuck, one of the ghostly black dogs that haunt England. Black Shuck appeared in Bungay in 1577 before he went to Blythburgh and attacked several churchgoers and the church door.



My wife Pauline and myself enjoyed a stay in the welcoming White Lion Hotel in the lively Georgian coastal town of Aldeburgh - home to the annual festival founded by composer Benjamin Britten in 1948. It became our base for a long weekend exploring the historic sites and the more modern pastimes of theatre and shopping.


Aldeburgh seafront.

Just down the road is the brilliant Snape Maltings, where the concert hall has staged the Aldeburgh Festival since 1967.

The Maltings are renovated 19th-century granaries which form a spectacular array of shops, pubs, restaurants and galleries.

Nestling beside the River Alde, this showcase complex provides an inspiring shopping experience and cultural inspiration, with holiday accommodation to boot.

Also well worth a day trip is the town of Woodbridge, with its clutter of antique shops and stunning Tide Mill - one of the most photographed buildings in Britain.

Close by is Sutton Hoo, the legendary Anglo-Saxon burial ground. It was here in 1939 that tenant farmer turned local archaeologist Basil Brown unearthed the 90ft-long burial ship of a warrior king - thought to be Raedwald, the pagan king of East Anglia - and all its treasures that had remained undisturbed for 1,300 years.


Raedwald was Braetwalda (High King) of East Anglia (Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire)

Now a 254-acre estate owned by the National Trust, this is a great place to visit for all the family.

Educational and exciting, the centrepiece of the modern exhibition hall and museum is a full-sized reconstruction of the ship's burial chamber. The original treasures are now kept in the British Museum in London, but a selection is loaned to Sutton Hoo for special exhibitions.

From here, you can stroll through the grounds. One walk takes you past Rabbit Field, into the mounded Burial Ground and on through Top Hat Wood.

With an 80-seater licensed bistrostyle restaurant, refreshments are easily available.

Nearby is the magnificent 12th century Framlingham Castle.


Framlingham Castle

Built as much as a stronghold as a symbol of power and status, you can still enjoy the sights from the wall-walk.

Standing alone, Orford Castle is a less spectacular late 12th century citadel, but well worth clambering up to the top for its commanding views out to sea.

With its wealth of beautiful towns and villages and a relaxing pace of life, you are sure of a wonderful time here. Aliens may not have landed here more than 25 years ago, but Suffolk is still out of this world.


GETTING THERE..

TONY and Pauline were guests at the White Lion Hotel, Market Cross Place, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5BJ. Call 01728 452720 or visit whitelion.co.uk

For a free copy of the Choose Suffolk short breaks brochure, which provides an overview of the county and accommodat ion suggestions, call 08700 770881 or visit choosesuffolk.com