The EA Hairy Biker ride is a 9 day cycle ride through East Anglia and the venues Eastern Angles have played as well as the places the plays have been about. To support the ride please visit
After the rain of yesterday the skies cleared so it would have been rude not to wander the streets of Aldeburgh before breakfast.
Aldeburgh has been the setting on no fewer than three Eastern Angles shows – and none of them have been about Benjamin Britten whose fine house looks straight out to sea.
No Name (1997) was an adaptation of the Wilkie Collins book of the same name. Collins description of Aldeburgh feels as fresh and true today as when it was written in 1861, especially those last lines
‘Thrust back year after year by the advancing waves, the inhabitants have receded to the last morsel of land which is firm enough to be built on. The first fragment of their possessions is a low natural dyke of shingle, surrounded by a public path which runs parallel with the sea. Bordering this path are the villa residencies of modern Aldeburgh. Viewed from the low level on which these villas stand, the sea, in certain conditions of atmosphere seems to be higher than the land’.
Leaving Aldeburgh (also setting for Warning to the Curious and Up out of the Sea) behind I pass the Maggie Hambling sculpture on my way out towards Thorpeness
and onto Leiston where Another Three Sisters was set. I pause briefly at the Long Shop Museum, once the Garretts of Leiston factory -whose closure in 1980 Another Three Sisters revolved around.
I push on through a glorious RSPB forest, spotting none of the controversial rabbits I’m told about later, but hearing plenty of bird song. John Clare would have been happy here.
Next stop is Westleton. Even at just 16 feet above sea level when the Round Britain race came through the Green here was the highest point. King of the Mountain took on a rather different meaning that day.
I’m greeted in Westleton by EA promoters Pat and Marianne armed with fresh coffee, cherries and biscuits. They told me how Eastern Angles provided such an important service bringing theatre to communities who might not other wise be able to access it.
Two coffees later I’m on my way – but not before Marianne has left me with a rather useful Robert Frost quote:
‘but I have promises to keep
and miles to go before I sleep’
So it is I head down to Dunwich Heath (and Cliff). First stop the National Trust site where I hang my wet clothes out to dry on my bike whilst I go for a walk (refresh and recharge is the NT tag line for Dunwich).
Then its down to the town -once one of the rottenest of rotten boroughs (returning 2 MPs for a population of sub 300). The town museums exhibits include a series of photographs which documents the fall from grace and into the sea of All Saints Church.
Dunwich is of course the setting for The Brontes of Dunwich Heath and Cliff, our alternative Christmas spoof for 2013/4. Not known for their East Anglian connections I decide to reclaim the Brontes for Yorkshire in a curiously ridiculous ritual involving reading four words of Jane Eyre.
That key and vital task completed I shuffled off in the direction of Walberswick where the good burghers dismantled their own church in order to pay for repairs. Making sure I caught some crabbing (I caught crabs in Walberswick, 2008) but having heard tales of snow at unexpected times here and with my bags sadly lacking in stocks of ‘Omega 3 – anti ageing serum in my bag’ I leave toot suite (Gills Around the Green 2010/11.
A brief, restorative lunch stop in Southwold allows me to appreciate the proximity of Adnams brewery and the parish church. Like the two cathedrals of Liverpool the two places of worship face up to each other in a daily show down of majestic import.
Then its onwards. I’ve a little over 70 minutes to cover the 14 mile windy route (NCN 31) to Beccles before joining Peter Labdon at Hungate Church, another of our venues. Its a gloriously beautiful route with oncoming traffic a rarity. With my eye on the clock though its best pedal forward to make that appointment.
Peter is waiting for me outside the front of the 1863 United Reformed Church which often hosts Eastern Angles. Peter himself has also been out fundraising today – parachute jumping to raise funds for his grand daughters safari. Peter has a long track record with Eastern Angles. As Head of Arts and Theatres in the eighties, Peter tells me, ‘I came into contact with Ivan in the early days’. There is a glint in his eye, but I feel it best not to probe further. ‘Much of what I worked for’ muses Peter later ‘has sadly been dismantled’
Pointing out the short cut Peter sends me on my way to Lowestoft where, apparently, fun is to be had! I’m left wondering if Don Capps ever did record his hit song ? ( Ferry cross the Waveney, 1992)
Arriving at 6pm – and knowing I have a long day of cycling along the Norfolk coast tomorrow I push on to Great Yarmouth. Arriving sans accommodation I try my luck at one sea front establishment. Given the David Copperfield (dramatised for stage by EA in 1995) connections its pleasantly Dickensian. The proprietress appears to be in her nineties, whilst her eager to please son with his ruddy cheeks and slight stutter seems to come straight out of the pages of the novel.
Day 7 sees me head up the Norfolk coast to Overstrand (Father Brown), Cromer (Message from Neptune) and finally Sherringham (Beyond the Breakers).