For my daily exercise, mid-crisis, I have occasionally taken to my bicycle. Only having set off one day in the Woodbridge Road area, I suddenly had the idea of taking a different route. Rather than heading out to the surrounding villages, as I would often do, I thought I would stick to the Ipswich area. Initially I thought I would try a simple circuit by attempting to choose a route that would look like a smooth circle once mapped on my cycling ‘app’. Before another few hundred yards had passed, however, I developed my thoughts further.
I was a fan of the Ipswich Corporation Transport years and, in particular, the bus routes of the 1970s which, of course, were little changed from the trolleybus routes of the post-war years. I suddenly had the idea of making my circuit of Ipswich aligned to many of the Corporation routes (numbers in parenthesis), termini and sites of that period, without straying beyond the original Borough boundary if possible.
I was then at Sidegate Lane roundabout, by the Royal George. That was it! The idea was to be implemented – first stop Sidegate Lane (11) turning circle. Like many of the surviving turning circles this one is now used as car park space for local residents, but it is intact.
From there I made my way through the Selkirk Estate to tick off the rest of the no. 11 and 11A routes, Renfrew Road etc., which was added when that estate was built. Within no time at all I was at the original Lattice Barn or if you prefer the Rushmere terminus at the end of Playford Road (3). It was a sunny and warm early April morning and that was two routes or termini ticked off within minutes. From there it was an easy ride to Foxhall Road roundabout (5) and through Broke Hall (4), before crossing Felixstowe Road bridge and turning 180 degrees into Cobham Road to pass the museum or if your prefer, the Corporation depot. Many times as a teenager had I biked there on summer evenings to watch the buses return to the depot after the daytime service wound up. This also covered the Felixstowe Road and Kingsway versions of the no. 4 route. The Kingsway blind was latterly only shown when the bus was essentially returning to the depot. In trolley days the service turned at St Augustine’s roundabout. The Broke Hall terminus was another one added as the estates around the town mushroomed.
I peddled along Lindbergh Road (2, aka Priory Heath), which was wired in trolleybus days, and on to Nacton Road to ride to the Airport and Crane’s sites both of which were at the limit of the Borough (2A). I used to deliver newspapers around this area so know it well. I even passed the house of one of my very first girlfriends, but don’t tell anyone. The memories of all those men from Crane’s cycling home along Nacton Road after their shift seemed as fresh as ever. The buses would be busy too with the top deck full of smoke!
Clapgate Lane and the Reynolds Road extension (6B) were soon behind me as I sped along Landseer Road (6A) recalling how the AEC Regents loved to stretch their legs on this open downhill stretch. I wondered what speeds they were capable of – above 40 mph? Perhaps someone in the ITS family might know?
As I travelled ‘via Duke Street’ as the blinds once proclaimed, I was unsure whether to stick to the Waterfront and head straight for Bourne Bridge which would keep my ‘circle’ of Ipswich as neat or round as possible. In the end the bus theme took over. I decided instead to follow the various eastern routes’ main path to Electric House, past Fore Street Baths, Sneezums and Martin & Newby. When I left school years later, my mate Clive got a job working in Martin & Newby and got to wear the routine brown overall coat they all wore in there. I digress. Up through the Wash and across Majors Corner, past the Grey Green coach station and I was soon ‘pulling in’ to Electric House.
Once there it seemed obvious to ‘become’ the Ipswich Station (X) and cycle down Lloyds Avenue, across Cornhill and down the full length of Princes Street. As it was ‘mid restrictions’, the Cornhill was deserted. Certainly there were no corrugated iron-roofed shelters, bus only lay-bys or ‘green bus stops’ to admire. My memory of the X was of largely empty buses which once at the station used to have a long layover before returning to Cornhill possibly as an 8 or 9B – but others may correct me. I also mused which Corporation or Borough Transport vehicle had the honour of being the last to pass under the Lloyds Bank building before the Avenue was curtailed. In another life I became the Manager at that bank and looked down from the windows hoping to see the 12 head off under my desk!
Next stop was Bourne Bridge which did mean an element of doubling back on myself. I was careful not to reach the Ostrich mini roundabout as that would have possibly taken me across the Borough boundary and goodness me, Corporation buses never did that except on high days and Suffolk Show days.
Back along Wherstead Road, I then turned to cycle up Station Street and Luther Road to reach Maidenhall Approach (1B). Like Whitehouse, Chantry and other places around the town, the postwar expansion of Ipswich was and is still evident. I chose not to circumvent Stoke Park via Stoke Park Drive as my memory told me that was essentially a 1980s development: or certainly the bus route came along much later than the early 70s. Therefore, I cycled along Belstead Road, a preserve of the 208 Eastern Counties route, of course, before charging down Cambridge Drive (12) to meet Birkfield Drive (12A). My journey through Chantry took me then through Annbrook to Ellenbrook (12B and 7B) and thence up Bridgewater Road to Hawthorn Drive. It was if I was following an AEC Swift. I weaved my way through to the north western side of Chantry to the edge of the park and to London Road (7 and 7A). I recalled the trolleybus extension through Dickens Road, so arrived by Fred’s Café from Hadleigh Road and the now forlorn Earl Kitchener pub§. Many other iconic Ipswich estate pubs were to be found along my route too of course, most now in the history books. The Golden Hind is still open but the Duke of Gloucester and Waveney have long gone, amongst others.
I took a quick detour along West End Road to turn in front of Constantine Road depot. How could my ride not encompass this heartbeat of the Ipswich public transport scene? But soon I was back cycling along Yarmouth and Bramford Roads. The buses I passed on this cycle ride were all empty. I feel for the driver as keeping to time is impossible so you see many buses waiting for time at bus stops along the way. Rather like being a train driver in these odd days!
Was there a turning circle near the Red Lion pub? It looks like there was once. Next terminus was Adair Road and the Whitehouse estate (8) via Ulster Avenue. Being an east Ipswich lad this was certainly foreign territory for me, as indeed was Whitton, Shakespeare Road and Defoe Road (9, 9A and 9B) but of course the Maypole terminus was very familiar as it was on the main northerly route out of Ipswich and then the A45.
My cycle ride was nearly complete as I turned into Henley Road. I was worried for a moment that this was beyond the Ipswich Borough boundary but I am not so sure now. Once again, you may know better. Did the border not stretch out towards Westerfield here somewhat? Either way a quick circuit of the ‘by-pass’ would allow me to complete much of both the circulars (0). As a child at St Matthews School but living on Broke Hall, I would often catch the Woodbridge Road or Felixstowe Road circulars if I could as they were somewhat unusual and being a fledgling enthusiast, that was attractive. Furthermore ADX 1 and ADX 2 were often allocated to the circulars and they always carried an appeal, even then! I certainly recall alighting in Bixley Road one day to be reprimanded by the conductor. He insisted I should catch the no. 4 as the circulars were meant for the children at St Albans and Northgate. I told my parents I had been told off and they rang Constantine Road to complain!
One other story on a non-transport theme came flooding back. My brother often travelled home with me from St Matthews but being ‘normal’ (i.e. not into buses and trains at all) we would come home together on the no.4. The longer trip on the circular was of no interest to him. At that time a lot of the Ipswich Town youth team had digs on Broke Hall or in that part of the town. Indeed they were part of the FA Youth cup-winning team in which George Burley played. They also caught the no. 4 bus. They would try and get the same bus as ours because my brother had a ‘party piece’ which would entertain those on the top deck. He could (and I think still can) carefully fold the whole of the outer part of his ear into a parcel, retained by the opening to his ear canal and earlobe! It would remain folded in place for a varying length of time before slowly releasing and sort of popping open again. This would be met by a round of applause from all who would witness such a thing. And all on an AEC Regent double-decker along Felixstowe Road.
Back to 2020 and 26 miles later I reached my starting point at the Royal George. The map is an interesting shape and it was a rewarding trip as the memories came flooding back so if you have a bike, clean it down, get it mobile again and relive your own segment of Ipswich whilst keeping healthy.
I am very happy to be corrected on any inaccuracies regarding the routes and numbers as much of this came from memory. I am combining the end of the trolleybus era with the changing 70s motor bus world, after all, and that marked the beginning of much change. I am confident some Ipswich Transport Society expert opinion can develop my thoughts further!
Tim Ward (This article first appeared in the Ipswich Transport Society Newsletter.)