This route is entirely on road and so it’s suitable for any bike or level of rider experience. It’s short length and almost totally flat profile are forgiving of fitness and age and the fact it goes to a zoo makes it a fantastic option for families. It’s entirely on quiet back lanes apart from a 200m low speed section of B road and a crossing of the same B road a few km later. It’s certainly not short of interest though with stories of Royal Tudor intrigue, princesses and treason at Kenninghall and secret World War II mission disasters that changed the course of US presidential history at Fersfield. There are pubs and shops at Kenninghall and Banham too so you won’t go hungry or thirsty enroute either.
Drones and Joe Kennedy
The route itself starts by reversing the final furlong of the Sands and trees route, continuing through the long linear village of Bressingham. After you’ve rolled through the heart of the village it’s time to divert north west, twisting and turning through gently rolling farmland studded with ancient churches and timeless farms to the scattered hamlet of Fersfield. The remoteness of this location was the exact reason the now abandoned airfield was the site of secret bombing raids and experimental projects during World War II. That included using old heavy bombers packed with explosives as early remote controlled drones that could be flown directly into heavily protected targets hard to destroy by conventional means. Early raids were unsuccessful though and when future president of the United States - and elder brother of John F Kennedy - Joe Kennedy was killed while piloting one of the drone planes the whole project was abandoned.
The next village on the route - Kenninghall - was the scene of similarly secretive political tragedies some 400 years earlier. These involved the Howard including one of Henry VIII’s ill-fated wives Catherine and her father the Duke of Norfolk as well as the future Queens Mary and Elizabeth. The various political and religious intrigues and indiscretions of Catherine meant it didn’t end well for the Howards with both being killed for treason by Henry. These dark days don’t seem to spoil the peaceful present repose of this pretty village though and with a pub and a really well stocked corner shop in the village square it’s a great place to stop to regroup, refuel and refresh.
You can head directly to Banham Zoo from Kenninghall too but you’d be missing out on a lovely loop and swoop through wooded lanes past a mysterious mound. That’s why we’re heading straight across at the crossroads in the centre of the village towards Quidenham. Look out for the lump of the ‘Viking’s Mound’ on the left just after you cross the stream too. Despite the name current surveys suggests it’s unlikely to be Viking or the burial mound of rebellious Celt Queen Boudicca which is another local legend. It’s probably actually the platform for a small Norman castle, but just the fact there as so many options shows how deep the history of this area is.
Turning right immediately after the mount takes you past the gateway to a modern Carmelite Nunnery hiding in the trees. Then it’s on along a deserted road with sandy strips down the middle past a wildlife rich wood with a winding before you’re back into golden harvest fields. Kinking over a dogleg junction puts you on a direct course to the gates of Banham Zoo. The zoo opened in 1968 with a few pheasants and parrots, but became a real attraction in 1971 with the arrival of their first family of wooly monkeys. It’s now an award-winning home to 2000 animals including rare snow leopards, giraffes, a bird garden and a lemur encounter experience and attracts 200,000 visitors a year. If you don’t fancy the zoo itself there’s a cafe and shop opposite where you can have your own feeding time.
From the Zoo head into Banham but take the right fork up the slight rise towards Winfarthing. You turn before the village itself though, heading south across the far side of Fersfield Airfield and then across to Shelfhanger. While the road is signposted right to Diss, we suggest you cross over and then take the next right as that’s a much quieter back lane route past old moated farms all the way back to Diss, then it’s a roll in past the historic Saracen’s Head pub and the magnificent St Mary’s church to work out which of the many options to pick for a post ride feast.
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