Search Results : suffolk

May 182019
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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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).

Info: visitsuffolk.co.uk
satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:02
Jul 072018
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A cool damp afternoon in the flat river country of the Norfolk/Suffolk border. Pale sprigs of mugwort and purple-flowered teasels grew with royal blue viper’s bugloss in the verges of Moor Drove East, and the banks of the Little Ouse River and its tributary drains were bright yellow with ragwort and lady’s bedstraw. This is not all soulless prairie farming country, but a complex maze of water channels and lush grassy banks.

Beyond the tall twin gates of Little Ouse sluices and a brief roaring strip of road, we turned aside into the ‘otherworld’ of the RSPB’s nature reserve at Lakenheath Fen. Ditches lay spread with waterweed, marsh woundwort raised stout pink flowerheads, and outside the picture window of the visitor centre a kingfisher perched in all its bronze and cerulean glory beside a pond that plopped with fish.

‘Used to be carrot fields,’ said the warden, ‘very intensively farmed. We dug it out, replanted it with fen species and let the water in – controlled it carefully. Now we’ve otters, bitterns, water voles, marsh orchids, even nesting cranes – just about everything that was here before the Dutch drained the Fens nearly 400 years ago. Isn’t that something special?’

Lakenheath Fen is special, all right. We followed the main trail west on paths of grass and gravel, ducking aside into strategically placed hides to watch great crested grebes preening themselves and swallows zipping low over the meres. With ping and a whistle a flock of bearded tits came skimming through the reed heads – endearing little birds with fine black Fu Manchu moustaches.

From the viewing point at Joist Fen we saw a male marsh harrier pounce into the reedbed in a flurry of large pale wings, while his dark-hued mate perched in an elder bush, turning her gold-crowned head from side to side.

Following the flood banks of the Little River Ouse back to Hockwold, we passed scattered herds of cattle, surely the most contented beasts in Fenland, up to their hocks in the green swamp and chewing lush grass with all the appreciative deliberation of connoisseurs.
Start: Red Lion, Hockwold-cum-Wilton, Norfolk IP26 4NB (OS ref TL 735880)

Getting there: Bus 40 (Thetford-King’s Lynn)
Road: Hockwold-cum-Wilton is on B1112 between Lakenheath and Feltwell (A11 to Mildenhall)

Walk (7¾ miles, easy, OS Explorer 228): Pass church; on down Church Lane. In 500m fork right (734876) along Moor Drove East. At river bank, left (729873); right across sluice (731870); bear right along riverbank to B1112 (724868). Left (grass verge – take care!); in 300m, right into Lakenheath Fen nature reserve (724866). Roadway to Visitor Centre (718863). Follow Main Circular Trail/MCT (white arrows/WA). In 900m fork right (712860, 2 WAs), following MCT. In 50m detour right to New Fen viewpoint and back; in 650m, left (704861) to Mere Hide and back. In 200m take left fork (702861) on gravel, not grassy path; in another 500m, right (697860) past Joist Fen viewpoint. At T-junction with fingerpost (698861), left for 100m; right up river bank, through kissing gate; right along river bank (Hereward Way) for 2 miles back to B1112 (724866). Left (take care!); retrace steps to Hockwold.

Conditions: Paths can be wet and muddy

Lunch: Red Lion, Hockwold-cum-Wilton (01842-829728) – decent village pub

Accommodation: Bridge Hotel, 79 High Street, Brandon, Suffolk IP27 0AX (01842-338228, bridgehotelbrandon.com)

Lakenheath Fen nature reserve, IP27 9AD (01842-863400, rspb.org.uk) – RSPB members park free, others £4. Very helpful staff

visitengland.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

The Times Britain’s Best Walks by Christopher Somerville (£16.99, HarperCollins) is now out in paperback

 Posted by at 01:27
Aug 122017
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A pure blue-sky morning, a dreich drizzly afternoon, and in between whiles, one of the classic walks of coastal Suffolk. Senior citizens perambulated the village green in Orford between mellow red brick cottages whose windows peeped out among rambling roses. Down on the quay, fresh-landed skate had just hit the slab in Brinkley’s shed.

Orford is a pure delight, a self-sufficient coastal village at the end of a long road. Not that Orford faces the bracing tides of the North Sea directly – the monstrous shingle spit of Orford Ness, ten miles long and still growing, cut the village off from the open sea hundreds of years ago.

The strange pagoda shapes of long-abandoned MOD nuclear laboratories straddled the pebbly spine of Orford Ness. We turned downstream along the flood banks of the River Ore, looking back to see the red roofs of Orford bookended by the village church and the octagonal tower of Orford Castle. The garrison of the castle in medieval times, it was said, once hung a captured merman upside down in their dungeon when he refused to speak. He got the better of them in the end, though, slipping away and back to the sea when no-one was looking.

Hares scampered in the meadows under the seawall, and a tern dive-bombed a shoal of fish in the incoming tide of the Ore. We made inland for the dusty road to Gedgrave Hall, where the breeze carried beautiful tarry whiff from Pinney’s fish smokery near Butley Ferry.

‘Smallest ferry in Europe’, said Roy the ferryman, skilfully balancing the forces of wind and tide as he rowed us across the Butley River in his little muddy dinghy. ‘We don’t like to drown too many, though.’

We crossed the back of Burrow Hill, at 50 feet high a mountain hereabouts, and followed broad flowery lanes inland for miles to Chillesford. It was slow, heavenly walking in calm clear air through a seductively beautiful coastal landscape.

In Sudbourne Park on the homeward stretch, cricketers in their whites were preparing for their Sunday match. Bowlers pounded the nets, batsmen practised immaculate strokes they’d never execute, and as the umpires emerged from the pavilion the first spits of rain were felt on the wind, in true traditional style.

Start: Orford Quay car park, Orford, Suffolk IP12 2NU (OS ref TM 425496)

Getting there: B1084 from Woodbridge, B1078 from Wickham Market, both off A12 north of Ipswich.

Walk (10 miles, easy, OS Explorer 212): From quay, right along seawall for 1½ miles, passing Chantry Point. At tide gauge where River Ore bend south-west, bear right off sea wall path, through gate (416485, ‘Suffolk Coast Path, Orford Loop’/SCP/OL). Up grassy lane for ½ a mile to road (409490). Left; 500m past Gedgrave Hall, right (401483, ‘Butley Ferry’) past Pinney’s fish smokery (397485), following SCP to Butley Ferry (393482). Cross Butley River; ahead through gate; in 150m, right through gate (390482, SCP); follow well-marked SCP for 2½ miles via Burrow Hill (389485), Coulton Farm (382498) and South Chapel (380496) to road at Butley Mills (383515). Right to B1084 in Chillesford (386522); right past Froize Restaurant. In another 100m, right (391522, SCP/OL, ‘Orford 2¼’); follow marked SCP back to Orford.

Conditions: NB This is a weekend walk. Butley Ferry runs 11 am-4 pm Sat, Sun, BH, Easter-end October; £2 (07913-672499, butleyferry.org)

Lunch: Picnic

Accommodation: Crown & Castle, Orford, Woodbridge, IP12 2LJ (01394-450205, crownandcastle.co.uk) – wonderfully friendly and classy village inn.

Info: Ipswich TIC (01473-432017);
visitsuffolk.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:56
Jul 232016
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Crooked houses, colour-washed in apricot and cream, pink and burnt orange, line Kersey’s single village street that slopes from the high-perched church to the water-splash in the valley bottom. Suffolk has dozens of beautiful villages, enriched through medieval wool wealth and dignified through age, but none matches Kersey for sheer eye-catching perfection. The rippling water-splash reflected a blue sky as Jane and I set out up the street with our long-term friend Patsie for company.

On the outskirts of Kersey we noticed a gathering of wasps, questing round a hollow in a hedge root. Looking in, we saw their nest – a wall of papery fibre, the colours of white and milk chocolate. A cleanly cut footpath led us away across an enormous prairie field, a mile of hedgeless upland where oak spinneys stood marooned. At first sight the field seemed bereft of all wild flowers, but a closer look showed scarlet pimpernel, speedwell and tiny pink cranesbills in the cracked soil, while stands of great willow-herb grew in strips where the ditches used to be.

A sea-urchin fossil lay half smothered in the mud among flints and pebbles. I dug it out and held it up to admire the tiny rows of sockets where the urchin’s spines had grown. When it lived and died, perhaps 200 million years ago, warm tropical seas had stretched where we now stood – a concept that never fails to strike wonder in the imagination.

A tangle of quiet lanes led us to the chapel of St James. Back in medieval times, the tiny church and its priest lay under the control of the lords of Lindsey Castle. The proud castle is now a tumbled heap in an adjacent field; the humble chapel, built of roughly knapped flints nearly 800 years ago, stands renovated under its wooden Tudor roof. This simple prayer room was restored after centuries of use as a barn.

Our way ran on south over arable country. Down by the stream in Kersey Vale we sheltered in a hazel grove while rain pattered on the leaves and thunder groaned in the distance. The shower hissed away, the insects flew out of hiding to sun themselves, and flights of swallows swooped after them along the homeward path.
Start: Bell Inn, Kersey, Suffolk, IP7 6DY (OS ref TM 000442)

Getting there: Bus 112 from Hadleigh. Road – Kersey is signed off A1141, 2 miles north of Hadleigh

Walk (6¼ miles, easy, OS Explorer 196): From Bell Inn, uphill away from water-splash. At right bend, ahead up path to road (TL999443). Left; at left bend, right (997444) through hedge gap; north along field edge. In 500m, at hedge corner, left/west (995450, yellow arrow/YA) across field, past spinney (991450, arrow) and on to reach trees (985452). Into trees; in 15m, left through thicket into field (984452). Ahead with hedge on right to road (982450). Left; in 400m at T-junction, left (980447, ‘Kersey’) to T-junction (9814444). Right for 350m to St James’s Chapel (978444).

Return to T-junction (981444); ahead for 150m; right (982444, fingerpost) on path through trees. On across fields (yellow arrows) for ¾ mile to road (986433). Right to T-junction in Kersey Tye (985431). Left round left bend and continue (‘Kersey’) for 450m to T-junction. Left (90430, ‘Kersey’); in 100m, in Kersey Upland, right (‘Polstead’). In 200m, fork left off road beside Harts Cottage (992428) down gravel lane. In ¼ mile, where tree tunnel ends, left (995425) along field edge. In 100m, keep ahead with hedge on left, descending to stream (001427). Left (YA). In ¼ mile pass Vale Cottage (003430); in 100m at wood edge, left, then right down drive (fingerpost). Drive becomes tarmac lane; follow it for ½ mile past houses to road with Kersey church seen ahead (002437). Right; in 100m, left (‘Kersey St.’) into Kersey.

Lunch: Bell Inn, Kersey (01473-823229, kerseybell.co.uk)

Accommodation: The Gables, Hadleigh IP7 5EL (01473-828126, thegableshadleigh.co.uk) – everything just right, and very welcoming. Dinner at The Ram, Hadleigh (01473-822880, thehadleighram.co.uk) – upmarket cooking.

Info: Lavenham TIC (01787-248207)

http://visithadleighsuffolk.co.uk/; visitsuffolk.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:25
Nov 282015
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A tangle of trees has almost smothered Dunwich’s famous ‘last grave’. But still the solitary curly-topped headstone of Jacob Forster clings to the cliff edge above the hamlet on the Suffolk coast, the last relic of the church of All Saints that toppled to the beach in 1922. Just inland, the grand flint walls and gateways of Greyfriars priory enclose an empty square of grass.

These remains are all that speak to us today of medieval Dunwich, the great trading port whose churches, hospitals, squares and houses were utterly consumed by the sea. A model of Dunwich in the village’s excellent small museum shows the extent of what was lost, and it made a sobering image to take with us as we set out across the green hinterland of Dingle Marshes.

A brisk wind pushed us along the flinty tracks through copses of old oak and pine trees. The grazing meadows, dotted with black cattle, stretched away east towards a dun brown line of brackish marshes below the long straight bar of the shingle-banked sea wall. There’s a feeling of country walked by many, but known by very few.

Beyond Dingle Stone House stretched the great reedbeds of Westwood Marshes, burnt orange and green, whispering in a million scratchy sibilants. A flock of a hundred pinkfooted geese lined the edge of a fleet of still water. Tiny bearded tits bounced and flitted through the reed heads, trailing their long tails low behind them and emitting pinging noises like overstretched wire fences. Over all floated the kingly black silhouette of a marsh harrier, circling with deliberate flaps of its wings as it scanned the reeds for mice and frogs.

We crossed the Dunwich River and came up on to the shingle bank. An instant switch of view and perspective, out over a slate grey sea and round the curve of the bay to Dunwich under its sloping cliff and the distant white sphere of Sizewell nuclear power station. Sea inundations are increasingly common hereabouts, overtopping the shingle bank and flooding the freshwater marshes behind – part of the ongoing dynamism of this coast and its all-devouring neighbour the sea.

Among the shore pebbles a flat black stone caught my eye. It was a worked flint tool, dark and ribbed, snugly fitting in my palm, its edges scalloped by some ancient maker. Dunwich Museum has it now – one more stage on its journey from hand to hand through the millennia.

Start: Dunwich car park, Suffolk, IP17 3EN (OS ref TM 478706)

Getting there: Dunwich is signed from A12 between Yoxford and Blythburgh

Walk (6¾ miles, easy, OS Explorer 231. Online map, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): At car park entrance, left up footpath (fingerpost, ‘Suffolk Coast Path’/SCP arrow). Just past ‘last grave’ on left (479704), turn right through Greyfriars wall, across monastery site, through archway. Right along road; in 100m, left down footpath (fingerpost) to road with Dunwich Museum on right (477706). Left; fork right at church (‘Blythburgh’). In 150m, right past Bridge Farm (474707) along SCP. In 1½ miles, leaving Sandymount Covert (483728), fork right along marsh path. In ¾ mile, just past windpump ruin (487737), right down steps, over footbridge, along boardwalk. In ⅔ mile, right across footbridge (495742, SCP) to shingle bank; right to Dunwich.

Condition: Final 2½ miles is on shingle.

Lunch/Accommodation: Ship Inn, Dunwich, IP17 3DT (01728-648219, shipatdunwich.co.uk) – cosy, friendly village inn.

Dunwich Museum: Open March-October, varying times; also for parties by arrangement. 01778-648796, dunwichmuseum.org.uk).

Info: Southwold TIC (01502-724729); thesuffolkcoast.co.uk, touchingthetide.org.uk
visitengland.com satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:36
Dec 062014
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Cavendish lies perfectly arranged for a painter’s canvas. Why John Constable never got himself along here to capture the thatched and pink-faced cottages on the village green, and the flint tower of St Mary’s Church peeping over their shoulders, is a mystery. Even on this blowy winter’s morning under a scudding grey sky, the composition seemed flawless.

We passed crooked old Tumbleweed Cottage, half pink and half green, and turned down a path among poplars to cross the slow-flowing River Stour. Out in the fields a green bridleway led through gently rolling country, the meandering of the invisible Stour marked by grey and gold willows. Wide ploughed fields slanted up from the river, their crests bristling with hedge oaks. From this high ground we looked back to see Cavendish church tower poking up above the trees. Then it was down again over the sticky fields to a wandering green lane between banks of iron-rich, burnt orange soil across which burrowing badgers had spread their bedding.

On the outskirts of Clare the grounds and ancient flint buildings of the Priory lay very quiet and still. Opposite rose the castle mound with its tall fragment of Norman masonry. In 1865 local ‘detectorist’ Walter Lorking unearthed a gold cross and chain in the castle grounds. It had been lost there 500 years before by King Edward III, and contained a fragment of the true cross in a tiny compartment. Walter was more than happy to sell it to his Sovereign, Queen Victoria, for the rather appropriate sum of three gold sovereigns.

There was beautiful pargetting – ornate plasterwork – on many of the houses in Clare, and a host of scowling and howling Green Men to guard the doorway of the village church, the ‘cathedral of the Stour Valley’. I left my companions to linger among the antique shops of Clare, and hurried back to Cavendish along the high ground north of the river. The cold wind tousled me all the way, pouring out of a sky ridged with grey billows of cloud, a wintry ceiling for the furrowed ploughland below.

Start: George Inn, Cavendish, Suffolk CO10 8BA (OS ref TL805465)

Getting there: Bus service 236 (Haverhill-Sudbury)
Road – Cavendish is on A1092, between Long Melford (A134) and Haverhill (A143)

Walk (8 miles, easy, OS Explorers 196, 210. NB: Detailed directions, online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): From George Inn, left (east) along main street. Opposite Bull Inn, right on path (fingerpost, yellow arrow/YA) to road (810464). Right across Pentlow Bridge; on along B1064. In 300m, on left bend, right (812461, ‘Bridleway’) along field edges. In ½ mile, through trees (805458) and on to Bower Hall. Just before first barn, left (800455) up field edge. 50m before hedge at top, right (803450, post with YA) across field to hedge end of green lane. Follow it (YA) to road (749449). Right downhill.

Just before reaching river, left by waterworks hut (797453, ‘Bridleway’) along green lane and field edges. In 1 mile, bridleway bends right (782449) to river bank (782451). Left here (‘Bridleway’) to road at Hickford Hill (777447). Right; in 200m, right across field (fingerpost) to cross river (775450). Fork left across meadow to cross weir (774451) and on. In 350m, opposite car park and castle mound, pass metal bridge on right, and in 50m turn left (770451) through stone gateway into Clare Priory grounds.

Returning through gateway, turn right and immediately left across footbridge into Clare village. Right to church (770455). Follow A1092 Cavendish road out of town. In 300m, left up Harp Lane (773454, fingerpost); pass sheds and keep ahead through trees, following ‘Stour Valley Path/SVP’, YAs and ‘Heritage Trail’ purple arrows/HT. Opposite Hermitage Farm (775463) bear right up field edge. At top, left through hedge (778464, HT) and on along field edge, aiming to pass roofs and outbuildings of Houghton Hall (785466). In another 600m, at field bottom, right (791468, SVP, HT, fingerpost). In 150m, left and right over 2 ditches (792466, SVP, HT) and on to road at Mumford Cottages (796468). Right; in 450m, right down field edge (SVP, HT, ‘Cavendish’). At bottom (802465), left through hedge (SVP); diagonally left across field; path beside graveyard into Cavendish.

Lunch: Plenty of cafés and pubs in Clare and Cavendish.

Accommodation: George Inn, Cavendish (01787-280248, thecavendishgeorge.co.uk) – smart, stylish, comfortable

Information: Sudbury TIC (01787-881320)
visitengland.com; www.satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 02:24
Jun 012013
 

Screeching of seagulls over the fishermen’s sheds, faint hiss and suck of the North Sea at the pebbly Suffolk shore, church bells pealing out, and the chirrup of well-bred voices talking over last night’s music at Snape Maltings – where else but Aldeburgh’s seafront on Sunday morning?
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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We’d been to that concert – Benjamin Britten’s ‘Canticles’ – and had been spellbound. So although you couldn’t really say it was whistleable music, we too had Britten on the tip of our tongues as we passed the modest, sea-facing Crag House where the locally-born composer lived with the tenor Peter Pears from 1947-57, and the churchyard hung with cherry blossom where the two musicians and life-long partners now lie side by side.

Out on the old railway line running parallel with the sea up to Thorpeness, an Irish wolfhound the size of a small pony went loping by on springs. The path snaked along the ruler-straight trackbed between banks of stitchwort, yellow archangel and sky-blue flowers of green alkanet. Skylarks sang over the freshwater meadows beside the line. We pulled up at the big reedy inlet of The Fens, struck still by the spectacle of two marsh harriers quartering the reed beds, gliding, swooping and pouncing, their big pale dark-tipped wings manipulating the air with economical power.

Thorpeness is a curiosity. When Stuart Ogilvie determined in 1910 to create a holiday haven on the Suffolk coast in memory of his mother, he didn’t do things by halves. Stuart and his son Sholto magicked the vernacular dream of Thorpeness around a lake they dug and christened The Meare. Half timbered mini-manors and clapboard cottages form the backdrop to The House In The Clouds, a fabulous water tower disguised as a fairy-tale chalet perched atop a 5-storey house.

We sat over a drink beside The Meare, people-watching, and then took the sandy byway across gorse-strewn Thorpeness Common, where the delicate flowers so aptly named ‘spring beauty’ formed china-white drops on round, saucer-like leaves. Down on the crumbly flint-and-clay cliffs of the coast we turned south for Aldeburgh. The town’s church bells were still ringing out over red roofs, lapwing-haunted marshes, and the long grey strand where a million million pebbles made the endless sea music that Benjamin Britten took for his own.

Start: Moot Hall, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, IP15 5DS (OS ref TM 466569).

Getting there: Bus (firstgroup.com/ukbus/suffolk_norfolk) – 64 or 165 (Aldeburgh-Ipswich), 521 (Aldeburgh-Halesworth Station)
Road: A1094 from A12 between Saxmundham and Wickham Market.

Walk (8 miles, easy, OS Explorer 212. NB: online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): From Moot Hall, up Victoria Road and across High Street. In 150m, right through graveyard (464568, fingerpost). Through gate; on up path. In ¼ mile cross roadway (463573); half left through caravan site (yellow arrow) to old railway path (460575, ‘Permissive Path’). Right along railway path for 1½ miles. At Ward Hill, opposite North Warren nature reserve sign, right (462598, fingerpost) past golf course to road in Thorpeness (471598). Right to The Meare (shop, café). Opposite The Meare, left up The Sanctuary (472596) past gatehouse tower to cross road (473599). Half left along gravel road; follow ‘Byway’ and ‘Suffolk Coast Path’ for 1½ miles to coast near the Dower House (476617). Right for 3½ miles to Aldeburgh.

Lunch: The Meare Shop and Tearoom, Thorpeness (01728-452156); The Regatta, Aldeburgh (01728-452011; regattaaldeburgh.com)

Accommodation: Cross Keys Inn, Crabbe Street, Aldeburgh (01728-452637; aldeburgh-crosskeys.co.uk) – pub with rooms

Aldeburgh Festival: 7-23 June (aldeburgh.co.uk)
Britten Centenary: Until November 2013 (brittenaldeburgh.co.uk)
Snape Maltings: snapemaltings.co.uk
Benjamin Britten Trail around Aldeburgh: brittentrail.org
www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk

 Posted by at 05:19
Jan 142012
 

Suffolk is the land of beautiful parish churches, par excellence.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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So much money was poured out by well-to-do medieval wool-masters intent on glorifying the Lord and saving their own souls (and showing the neighbours how well they were doing, a pleasing by-product of piety) that every village possesses a miniature masterpiece. Setting out on a sunny morning from Fressingfield, we stopped to admire the handsome knapped flint of the south porch of St Peter & St Paul’s Church, and the carved bench-ends within – maidens with flowing hair, priests and beasts, their faces hacked off by Puritan zealots, but their intrinsic beauty complete.

We walked out into one of those wide, flat-seeming, entirely agricultural Suffolk landscapes whose subtler curves hide shallow valleys. Farm and barn roofs made red squares against the dark blocks of copses, under a sky of fat silver clouds lumbering their way across the blue. The handsome old houses of Viponds Farm and Willow Farm faced their ploughlands square-on. But neighbouring Church Farm, extant on the map, had vanished under the stiff Suffolk clay as though it had never been.

Weybread’s Church of St Andrew with its cylindrical Saxon tower boasted wonderful carved corbels of angels, lions and a leafy-faced Green Man. South of Weybread the landscape changed abruptly from wide open arable fields to steep, intimate grazing valleys, cut with streams, their oaks full of the sleepy cawing of rooks. Near Syleham Hall we leaned on a gate, munching bread and cheese, speculating on what a land of milk and honey this must have been in medieval times with its castles and halls, moats and farms, priories and abbeys and marvellous new churches.

It was the De La Poles, Earls of Suffolk, kinsfolk and friends of the Plantagenet kings, who built Wingfield’s gorgeous church, a stately ship of flint that today dominates a tiny hamlet – the De La Pole Arms, a couple of cottages, and a 14th-century college for priests that stands beside the church in disguise as a Georgian farmhouse. Inside the church De La Poles and Wingfields lie in effigy, exquisitely carved, their weathered old faces full of character.

From tiny Wingfield we joined the cornfield paths once more, making east for Fressingfield. The sun came out, putting a pale dazzle on the fields and spotlighting the scarlet necklaces of bryony berries strewn with such careless grandeur by nature across the skeletal winter hedges.

Start: Fressingfield village car park, near Harleston, Suffolk IP21 (OS ref TM 263773)

Getting there: Bus – Sat only, but convenient times for the walk. Service 40 Diss – Norwich (01379-647300, www.simonds.co.uk).
Road – A143 to Harleston, B1116 to Fressingfield.

WALK (8½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 230):
Leave car park beside hooped barrier; turn left to bollards, right to road opposite church. Left to T-junction; right (‘Diss, Wingfield’) past shop. In 250 m, right (256773) down hedged path immediately after entrance to Post Mill Lane. Follow field edge (yellow arrows/YAs) with hedge on right into valley bottom, across footbridge (251778) and up following field edge. Near end of field, right through hedge (249781, fingerpost, YA), diagonally left across field to far left corner, then through hedge gap to cross Dale Road (248784). On with hedge on right (fingerpost). In 150 m, ignore YA pointing right; continue, to cross next field and on down track for 1 mile to Weybread Church (241801).

From church return down track for 200 m; right (242799, fingerpost) over stile. Across field, through gate and shank of woodland; across footbridge, on and over stile (238798). Up field edge, with hedge on left) for ⅓ mile to Greengate Farm (236794). Left over stile, right up drive to road (233793). Left; in 100 m, just before Boundary Cottage, right across footbridge and stile, and on (fingerpost). Aim slightly left for electricity pole; bear left here, following poles to hedge and on across 2 fields to cross road (231786). Cross stile and on (‘Waveney Valley Way’). In 2nd field, YA points you right (230781); at field corner, left (229781, YA) and on with hedge right for ½ mile to road at Goulder’s Farm (229772). Down Church Road to Wingfield Church, College and De La Pole Arms PH.

Opposite pub, left (230768) through churchyard, then tunnel of trees; on along field edge. At end of field bear left (232768) and on along embankment. In 300 m go through hedge (234770); right down field edge, left (YA) on fenced path. In 500 m, at next hedge on left (239772), go through it and turn left with hedge on left. Walk clockwise round edge of this big field (YA at top) towards Abbey Farm. Beside gazebo, left (239776, fingerpost) into orchard. Dogleg right and left, through wicket gate and on through 2 paddocks (stiles). In field beyond, aim diagonally left to stile (240778); don’t cross it, but turn right across field to stile (241777, fingerpost) onto road. Left for 100 m, before left bend, right through hedge (fingerpost). On over field, into dip, over footbridge (245776), up hedge, through shank of woodland (247774). On over fields to road (250773); left into Fressingfield.

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LUNCH: Fox & Goose, Fressingfield (01379-586247; www.foxandgoose.net; NB closed Mondays); Swan Inn, Fressingfield (01379-586280; www.fressingfieldswan.co.uk); De La Pole Arms, Wingfield (01379-384545; www.delapolearmswingfield.co.uk) – three cosy, friendly pubs.

Try this website for further walks in Suffolk: https://walksinsuffolk.wordpress.com

INFORMATION: Southwold TIC (01502-724729; www.visitsuffolk.com)
www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk

 Posted by at 01:01
Feb 052011
 

The Shotley Peninsula lies east of Ipswich on the Suffolk Coast, a tongue of low-lying farmland that separates the broad estuaries of Stour and Orwell.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Down at Pin Mill this cold and frosty morning the full tide of the Orwell slapped the wall of the Butt & Oyster, putting me in mind of summer days in its dark, atmospheric bar, idly watching sunlit ripples reflecting on the ceiling. A great pub for being lazy and watching the boaters scooting around in the shallows outside, or strolling down to inspect the tottery old barges, fishing smacks, houseboats and coasters that have found their long home down here, moored deep in Suffolk mud.

Up across the Shotley road we walked the margins of flat winter wheat-fields under a huge mackerel sky. Boats and rain pools were skinned with thin ice, and hoar frost whitened the few dried leaves still trembling on the big field oaks. By Broomfield Covert the headland was crowded with soft prickly sweet chestnut shells, each one neatly eviscerated by squirrels. Every so often a far and faint bleep! bleep! came across the Orwell from the east, where Felixstowe container port lay hidden by the slight roll of the peninsula fields.

A beautiful sight greeted us at the road – the mellow brick arch and pinnacles of Erwarton Hall’s gateway, with the square red face and mullioned windows of the hall itself rising beyond. Anne Boleyn’s uncle Sir Philip Calthorpe lived here, and stories say that King Henry VIII would have himself rowed round here from London to dally with his red-haired temptress while the royal bargeman waited patiently in the River Stour below.

Nobbled and gnomish oaks lined Erwarton Walk, all ancient and weather-blasted like a procession of gnarled old Ents with skinny arms akimbo. We passed half-timbered Shotley Hall hidden behind trees, and came to the cottages and church at Church End on their knoll overlooking the Orwell. Now the port of Felixstowe stood in full view, its cranes hump-backed like skeleton camels, a giant vessel the size of a city block moored alongside.

St Mary’s Church is an extraordinary gem in a very remote setting, a mish-mash of medieval styles with brick, ragstone and knapped flint, its tall and dignified interior covered with a beautiful hammerbeam roof, its chancel a shock of pure 18th century baroque with dark panelling and dramatic altarpiece. Ranks of wartime submariners and seamen lie in its graveyard, German and British side by side.

Down on the seawall we turned upriver. Brent geese and swans, pochard and tufted ducks, lapwings and curlew, turnstones and dunlin – a cornucopia of winter wildfowl.

Start: Pin Mill pay-and-display car park, Chelmondiston,
Suffolk, IP9 1JW (OS ref TM 205379)

Travel: Road – A14, A137 (‘Ipswich Docks’); B1456 (‘Shotley’); Pin Mill signed to left in Chelmondiston.

Bus – Ipswich Buses (0800-919390; www.ipswichbuses.co.uk) Service 202

Walk (8 miles, easy grade, OS Explorer 197): From car park, right up lane; in 30 m right over 2 stiles; diagonally left up field, then lane. Facing church (204373), right to cross B1456. Down right side of former Red Lion PH, now closed (fingerpost); follow field edge for ¼ mile to 3-finger post (204368); right (‘footpath’). At next post, left. In 30 m, ahead past next fingerpost, following line of oaks to corner of Broomfield Covert (209365). Right (‘bridleway’) along wood edge to Crouch House (211361). Left along drive; in 50 m at right bend, ahead through wicket gate; pass New Covert and follow Warren Lane to Erwarton Gateway and Hall (223352). Sharp left up Erwarton Walk (unnamed; fingerpost) to B1456 (225356). Cross (take care!); left up field edge; at top, right, and follow yellow arrows. Dogleg right and left; in another 150 m, ahead at 3-finger post (229359) to path T-junction (232359). Left to road; right to Church End. Pass church (237360); ahead down lane to T-junction (239362); right (‘footpath’) to sea wall (245361), left for 3½ miles to Pin Mill.

More info on Shotley Peninsula Tours: http://www.shotleypeninsulartours.com

Refreshments: Butt & Oyster PH, Pin Mill (01473-780764;
www.debeninns.co.uk/buttandoyster)
– famous, characterful waterside pub

Accommodation: Hill House, Wades Lane, Shotley, Ipswich IP9
1EW (01473-787318; www.wrinchfarmstay.co.uk)
– extremely helpful and welcoming B&B.

Information: Ipswich TIC (01473-258070);
www.visit-suffolk.org.uk
www.ramblers.org.uk;
www.satmap.com

 Posted by at 05:37
Jan 162010
 

Low over the undulating countryside where southernmost Suffolk tips over into northern Essex, rainclouds rolled heavy and grey. At the crossroads in ridge-top Stoke-by-Nayland, the village’s brace of inns, Crown and Angel, faced each other like mutually suspicious cats.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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I had a pint of Adnams in one and a ploughman’s in the other, in the interests of good neighbourliness. Then I set out under dripping ash and hazel along roads glistening from a midday downpour, into a landscape smoky and insubstantial behind the golden sheen of a vaporous, sun-splashed winter afternoon.

The deeply furrowed landscape hereabouts would astonish believers in the old canard about East Anglia being pancake flat. I crossed grazing fields sloping sharply into oakwoods that lifted and swung back up to the ridges. Farms founded before the Reformation stood under acres of red pantiles. This timeless landscape of rural England on the borders of Suffolk and Essex gave expression to the genius of local lad John Constable, and there wasn’t a prospect in sight this afternoon that might not have come from one of his canvases.

Down in the valley of the River Box the stiff clay plough lay dark and flat. How strange it felt to be walking empty-handed through fields where, twenty-five years ago, I never strolled without a child’s mouse-like paw in my fist. The sinuous Box was one of our favourite family walks when we lived in Nayland just up the valley. On one of those expeditions a chance kick at a clod of earth had uncovered a Stone Age scraping tool, its delicately scalloped cutting edge still sharp as a razor.

Time moves on. Wrens, roses and thistles still adorned the pargetted walls of Farthings house at Thorington Street, but I found the Rose Inn closed and turned into a private dwelling. Back in the day, a big treat for the children was lunch in the Rose’s garden, where a straw-stuffed cage marked ‘Silver Water ‘Otter’ fascinated them. A tug on the chain brought forth nothing more exotic than an aluminium kettle – the landlord’s little jest.

In the grounds of Tendring Hall shotguns were popping. A cock pheasant scuttled across the path with head and tail strained high, like a brightly coloured barge scudding before a breeze. Neighbouring churches framed the walk – St James’s at Nayland low in the south near the River Stour, its stumpy spire rising among leafless trees, and on the ridge to the north the great brick tower of St Mary’s. I steered for the latter by way of Poplar Farm, a gorgeous old tall-chimneyed house tucked away in the trees. Looking up from here, the Stoke-by-Nayland ridge stood innocent of buildings, as though village and church had been magically drawn down into the earth. But as I climbed the field path the tower of St Mary’s appeared again, rising in apricot light as the sun went down over the valley.

 

Start & finish: Crown Inn, Stoke-by-Nayland CO6 4SE (OS ref TL 989363)

Getting there: Bus – Chambers Coaches service 84 from Colchester or Sudbury (http://www.carlberry.co.uk/rfnshowr.asp?RN=EX084A). Road: M25, A12 to Colchester; A134 to Nayland; B1087.

Walk (5½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 196): Lane opposite Angel Inn (‘Hadleigh, Shelley’); in 400 yards, right (992365; fingerpost) up path. Through kissing gate, left and follow field edge, then yellow arrows/YA for ½ mile to Valley Farm (001361). Ahead along River Box (YA) for ⅓ mile; then (005358) follow YAs away from river to lane (010356); right to B1068 in Thorington Street. Right for 50 yards, then left (010353; fingerpost) past reservoir to Wick Farm (011349). Right along road; left between barn and Grove Cottage (007351; fingerpost) along farm drive. Skirt right of Tendring Hall Farm (994353); follow drive to B1087. Right (take care!) for ¼ mile; left opposite ‘fishing temple’ (986355) along farm track to Poplar Farm (978359). At 3-finger post, right up track into Stoke-by-Nayland. Through churchyard to crossroads and Crown Inn.

Lunch/accommodation: Crown Inn (01206-262001; www.crowninn.net) or Angel Inn (01206-263245; www.theangelinn.net), Stoke-by-Nayland

More info: Sudbury TIC (01787-881320);

www.visitsuffolk.org.uk; www.visiteastofengland.com; www.ramblers.org.uk

 

 Posted by at 00:00