A walk around the village where the last King of East Anglia met his untimely death.
Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 197ft (60m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Country lanes, field and woodland paths, 2 stiles
Landscape Farmland, woodland and river
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 230 Diss & Harleston
Start/finish TM 179769
Dog friendliness On lead across farmland, off lead in Brakey Wood
Parking Hoxne village hall
Public toilets None on route
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1 Turn left out of the car park to cross Goldbrook Bridge, noting the inscription on the bridge: 'King Edmund taken prisoner here, ad 870'. Turn right to cross a tributary of the River Dove and pass the Swan Inn on the left. Fork right to climb past the post office alongside the village green and continue to the top of the lane to arrive opposite the Church of St Peter and St Paul.
2 Turn right along the road and take the second left, Watermill Lane. Bear right along a concrete lane signposted 'To the watermill'. The lane drops down into a valley beside the water-meadows of the River Waveney which marks the border between Norfolk and Suffolk. When you reach the entrance drive to the mill, turn right on to another concrete track that swings to the left past some huts to become a green lane bordered by hedges. Turn right alongside a fence. The path swings left and right across the fields then becomes a tarmac lane. Turn right at the end of the lane to return to the main road.
3 Turn left, walk around the bend and turn right on to a country lane, signposted 'Hoxne Cross Street'. After crossing a stream, turn right to enter Brakey Wood, a new woodland created to commemorate the millennium. Keep to the right alongside the stream and walk around the edge of the woods before crossing a stile to arrive at a sewage works.
4 Keep straight ahead on a footpath along the edge of the field. St Edmund's Monument can be seen in a field to your right and it is usually possible to reach it on a permissive footpath. Cross a plank footbridge and stay on the public footpath as it bends to the right around a second field and enters a narrow belt of woodland before arriving at Cross Street by the side of a small garage and shop.
5 Maintain your direction, walking straight ahead for another 60yds (55m). When the road bends sharply to the right, continue ahead on a public footpath between the houses which then turns left around a field. The path turns right and left to cross a ditch and drops down steeply beside the next field with a tall hedge on the left-hand side. Cross a stile, turn right and in about 50yds (46m) go left over a footbridge. Pass through a gate and keep walking straight ahead on a sloping cross-field path until you meet a road.
6 Turn right and walk along the road to return to the start of the walk at Goldbrook Bridge.
Hoxne, which rhymes with 'oxen', is best known as the place where King Edmund lost his head. Edmund, the last King of East Anglia, born in ad 841, was a Saxon prince who was named by King Offa as his chosen successor. When Offa died on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, his companions returned to Saxony and brought the young boy home to be crowned King at the age of 14. He reigned peacefully for 15 years, but frequent raids by Danish Vikings unsettled his kingdom and eventually led to all-out war. In ad 870, after a particularly bloody battle, Edmund was captured by the Danes. When he refused to renounce his Christian faith, he was tied to a tree. His body was pelted with arrows and his head was cut off and thrown into the woods.
So many legends surround the death of King Edmund that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. One story tells of the King taking refuge beneath Goldbrook Bridge, which you cross at the start of this walk. A newly married couple spotted his golden spurs reflected in the water and betrayed him to the Danes, thereby ensuring his death. Edmund pronounced a curse on all future brides and to this day people take care to avoid Goldbrook Bridge on their wedding day. A relief sculpture on the outside wall of the nearby village hall shows Edmund crouching beneath the bridge while the bridal party passed overhead.
The other colourful story concerns the head itself. Some time after Edmund's death, his followers returned to Hoxne to search for his body. The cries of a howling wolf led them into the forest, where they found the wolf cradling the King's head as if it were her child. A chapel was erected on the spot and became an important shrine, but later his body was moved to Bury St Edmunds. The former King is now known as St Edmund the Martyr and was briefly patron saint of England because of his resistance to the Viking invasion.
The walk passes close to St Edmund's Monument, which sits in the middle of a field where a huge oak tree once stood. The story goes that the oak collapsed suddenly one night in September 1848, without any apparent cause. Tests showed the tree to be more than a thousand years old and embedded in its trunk were several iron points which could have been the remains of arrowheads. Could this have been the very spot where the good King was murdered?
In Brakey Wood, look for two small groups of sequoia trees which have been planted at either end of the woods. At the moment these are still young, but they are related to the Californian redwood, one of the tallest trees in the world, and should one day grow to a height of over 100ft (30m).
Look into the Church of St Peter and St Paul to see the local history exhibition. There is an interesting display on the Hoxne Hoard, a remarkable find of some 15,000 Roman coins, 29 pieces of gold jewellery and 100 items of silver tableware discovered in a local field in 1992 by a farmer searching for his tools. The hoard now belongs to the British Museum. Also worth a visit is Wingfield College, a 14th-century house near Hoxne with cloisters, walled gardens and contemporary sculpture in the grounds. It is open on summer weekends, when you can also visit the De La Pole Arms, a pub in Wingfield belonging to St Peter's Brewery.
The Swan at Hoxne is an old timber-framed pub with large riverside gardens that are appreciated both by children and dogs. It serves a good menu of home-cooked food, from simple soups and sandwiches at lunchtime to more elaborate dishes such as baked turbot and mushrooms stuffed with goat's cheese later in the day.