First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
The young roe deer browsing the hawthorn hedge in the field behind the White Hart glanced casually over its shoulder at us, quite unafraid, then carried on nibbling the leaves. Finches and blackbirds chirped away under the blue sky and warm morning sunshine. A perfect day to walk the field margins and parklands of south Suffolk as spring made way for summer.
The dandelions were all gone to powder-puff cloaks, the hedges full of may blossom. Brilliant yellow oilseed rape gave out its sweet thick scent. A long red fox loped along a ditch and vanished, leaving the hare it had been stalking to continue nibbling bean shoots unmolested.
In the broad parkland of Helmingham Hall the fallow deer grazed as they have done for five hundred years, ever since the Tollemache family built their palatial country house of good red Tudor brick. The path meandered across the grass to The Mount, an obelisk-topped viewing mound from where we got a wonderful view eastward to the Hall, all chimneys and windows.
Strolling back along the rabbit-burrowed banks of a stream, we were watched by three tribes of deer – red, roe and fallow – each in their ear-flicking and tail-twitching segregated groups under giant old oaks. Some of these tremendous trees, storm-blasted and squat, could date back to the Norman Conquest.
Beyond the park and its church of flint and pale limestone, a path led alongside fields of young beet and corn. In the little flowery haven of Rectory Strip we picnicked among buttercups and lady’s bedstraw. A brown hare came lolloping through the hedge, stopped to inspect us from a few feet away, and lolloped away quite calmly.
The homeward path lay along arable field boundaries, punctuated by a swampy old horse-pond where trees had rooted, a miniature Everglades of Suffolk. A breath of earthy fragrance heralded a beanfield full of pink and white flowers with dark velvet eyes.
Beyond Hall Farm we finished the walk along a green lane hung with briars, waiting for a few more days in the sun to burst out in dog roses all over.
Start: White Hart PH, Helmingham Rd, Otley, Suffolk IP6 9NS (OS ref TM 202557)
Getting there: Bus 119, Framlingham-Ipswich. Road – White Hart is ½ mile north of Otley, on B1079 (off A12 Woodbridge bypass). Please ask permission to park, and please give pub your custom!
Walk (8 miles, easy, OS Explorer 211): From car park, right round field edge. In 500m, at T-junction (196557, fingerpost/FP), right on grassy track. In 400m at field corner, through hedge; dogleg right/left (194560, FP) under power lines and on with hedge on left. At 3-finger post, ahead; in 50m, right; in 20m, left over plank bridge and on along field edge. At end by Round Wood, left (192565); in 30m, hedge turns right, but keep ahead (west) over fields towards path by hedge in dip. Follow it to B1077 (187563).
Cross road (FP); across to corner of field; right with hedge on left. At next corner, through hedge (185566), across field to road (184569). Right past Mill Mount to B1077 (188572). Behind ‘Helmingham’ sign, cross 2 ladder stiles (FP). Follow yellow arrows/YAs across Helmingham Park. In 500m at corner of fence, left (184576, YAs) past The Mount and Obelisk (178577). Just before fence and deer gate, turn back right (175578), following YAs along stream. In ¾ mile, by ornamental bridge, right (186581, YA) to left of Helmingham Hall. Through deer gate (187579); along drive (YA); in 150m, left (YA) to cross brick bridge (189577) to church and B1077 (191576).
Left for 50m to B1079 (Grundisburgh) turning on right. Beyond central triangle, path (FP) across field with hedge on left. Across footbridge (194577, YA); up field edge; in 50m, left through hedge, right up narrow meadow and following field edge to east corner of Highrow Wood (201582). Right along field edges, heading south. In ⅔ mile, pass memorial bench to Rita Ling (203573); in another 3 fields/700m, look left for unmarked hedge gap and plank bridge (203566). Path crosses narrow field, then broad one, east to road (208566). Don’t go on to road; turn right along hedge, skirting Hall Farm’s embankment and cottage gardens beyond. At end of garden fences, through hedge, across plank bridge (FP) to green lane (206563). Right to return to White Hart PH.
Lunch: White Hart, Otley (01473-890312, thewhitehartotley.co.uk)
Accommodation: Premier Inn, Paper Mill Lane, Ipswich IP6 0BE (0333-003-1739; premierinn.com).