From playing run outs with friends as a kid to walking my dogs as an adult, I’ve always enjoyed visiting Hadleigh Castle. The land on which the castle stands were gifted to Hubert de Burgh by King John in 1215. A powerful man, the castle was a symbol of his influence, yet he later quarrelled with King John’s successor, Henry III, and was forced to return his lands including the manor of Hadleigh in 1239. The castle was later to be used as a Royal residence by Edward II.
Later, in the midst of French raids along the Thames Estuary during the Hundred Years War, Hadleigh Castle was valued for its strategic importance. Edward III spent much time there, and today it’s possible to explore the excavated foundations of his great hall. As with many historic buildings, however, it fell out of favour and was sold off as building materials.
In 1891, what was left of the castle and its surrounding land was bought by William Booth so the Salvation Army was able to set up a farm. The farm was used to train poor people from London with a view to skilling them up so they could have a future in the colonies. The castle itself was given to the government in 1948 and is now managed by English Heritage. Entrance is free, as is access to the neighbouring Hadleigh Country Park where you’ll find a reconstruction of an Iron Age Roundhouse.
These days, the country park contains the only Olympic mountain bike course that’s open to the public. Hard surfaced trails make this a year-round facility and with 18km of trails, there’s something to suit all ages and abilities. For more information about Hadleigh’s castle, farm and country park click here: http://www.hadleighcountrypark.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/hadleigh-country-park-leaflet.pdf
This website has full details of the mountain bike trails: