First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A hot sunny day in Half Moon Lane, the fair weather bringing ‘Good morning’ from cyclists passing through Redgrave. Lambs crouched panting in the shade of the hedges, and the stubble fields beyond the village glistened with reflected sun.
This stretch of north Suffolk is well wooded, a low landscape of corn and pasture whose long-established field paths run straight to their meetings with roads and farms. Moles had thrust up hundreds of miniature volcanoes of powdery dark earth along the edge of the old hornbeam coppice of Tanglewood.
A short detour led to St Mary’s Church, tall and stately on its tump – the parish church of Redgrave, nearly a mile outside the village. Green men clustered round the south door, and goggle-eyed gargoyles spewed viciously toothed water spouts. Opposite the church, Hall Farm makes tasty beer in its Star Wing Brewery – a treat we promised ourselves for after the walk, when we’d worked up a thirst.
Back on the path we passed the rusty old shed at Holly Farm and went north across a huge, hedgeless field towards the contrasting wild greenery of Redgrave and Lopham Fen National Nature Reserve in the valley below.
The infant River Waveney runs through this remarkable nature reserve, the largest valley fen in England. Considering how much water is extracted hereabouts by farms and houses, it’s a fantastic achievement to keep the water levels constant enough to nurture the snipe, the marsh orchids, the dragonflies and rare insects that thrive in this juicy green wilderness.
This summer’s exceptional heat, however, had dried up most of the pools and flashes of water, home to the reserve’s famed fen raft spiders with their yellow stripes and five-inch leg span. We’d have to return in rainier times to spot them, said the warden.
But we were happy enough walking the peaty paths through whispering thickets of reeds, watching orange comma butterflies among the thistles and tiny roe deer in the hedges. Through the green screen of willows there was the occasional glimpse of the hard dry arable fields beyond, an alien world that seemed shut outside and far away.
How hard is it? 7 miles; easy; farmland tracks and paths
Start: Redgrave Activities Centre car park, Redgrave IP22 1RL (OS ref TM 048780)
Getting there: Bus 304 (Bury St Edmunds)
Road – Redgrave is on B1113, between A143 (Bury St Edmunds-Diss) and A1066 (Thetford-Diss)
Walk (OS Explorer 230; Redgrave & Lopham Fen downloadable trail map, see below): Left into Redgrave; left (‘Bury St Edmunds’). In 200m, left down Half Moon Lane. After houses, along footpath (fingerpost). In 250m, right at fingerpost (053777, yellow arrow), then left for nearly 1 mile. At road, left (066779). In 150m, right up field edge to road (065784). Dog right/left, north for ¾ mile to road (064797). Left; in 300m, right (062797, fingerpost, ‘Angles Way’/AW). In 200m, cross footbridge, through gate into Redgrave & Lopham Fen NNR (062799). Left (‘Waveney Trail’/WT). In 300m through kissing gate/KG (060801); in 100m, left (KG, WT). In ½ mile, left opposite Visitor Centre (053802) on waymarked Spider Trail. In 600m, through KG (053796); right. In 500m Spider Trail turns left (050796), but keep ahead (WT). In ¼ mile, left across River Waveney (045794)’ in 150m, right at junction (046793, AW). In ½ mile cross road (043797); south for ½ mile to Churchway (046780); left to car park.
Accommodation: Park Hotel, Diss IP22 4LE (01379-642244, parkhotel-diss.co.uk)
Info: Redgrave & Lopham Fen NNR (suffolkwildlifetrust.org)
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