Walking in Suffolk
There is something very English about Suffolk. Here you will find the quintessential English village. Along the river Stour south of Lavenham is 'Constable Country', home of England's most famous landscape painter and the subject of his glorious paintings which so poignantly captured rural English life. The Stour flows peacefully through a chalky valley with willow and poplar lining lush water-meadows, and walks between Sudbury and Flatford capture the essential 'Englishness' of the scenery. Flatford is, of course, the location for one of Constable's most famous paintings and is now a major tourist attraction. Upstream at Sudbury is the birthplace of another great English painter, Thomas Gainsborough. The long distance route The Stour Valley Path follows the river all the way from Newmarket to Manningtree.
Suffolk is also home to several mediaeval wool towns, Lavenham being perhaps the most impressive example. Here fine timber houses, many now with a picturesque crookedness, demonstrate the wealth that wool brought to Suffolk in the middle ages. Clare, Hadleigh, Lavenham and Long Melford all have important historic buildings and are worth exploring and, combined with a country walk in the local vicinity, can make a great day out. There are also many small attractive villages which make good bases for planning a walk, and many are included in the guides below.
To experience a totally different aspect of Suffolk visit The Brecks, where you can explore the remains of what was once a huge ancient heathland. The landscape is a result of the sandy soil and the winds that have blown across it over the centuries. Twisted trees, open heaths, wide horizons and a variety of habitats make The Brecks a fascinating place for walking. The area of 370 square miles straddles the Suffolk Norfolk border, with perhaps the slightly larger area in Norfolk. Brandon is the best town from which to walk the Suffolk area of The Brecks. Much of the ancient character further east towards Thetford has been lost due to the large scale planting of the pine plantations of Thetford Forest.
The Suffolk coast is well worth considering as a location for walking if you enjoy the seashore, wildlife or bird watching. There is a coastal long distance path from Great Yarmouth to Felixstowe, so excellent coastal access is available. Forty miles of the Suffolk coastline is designated as Heritage Coast and is included in an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty, all the more reason to explore its delights.
Sandlings heaths, also within the AONB, have evolved to support a rare and specialised community of wildlife which includes the nightjar and silver-studded blue butterfly. The coastal forests of Tangham, Tunstall and Dunwich have been planted on the heathlands as a timber crop, but also provide a habitat for wildlife. The forests can be explored on many way-marked trails and bridleways. There are five rivers flowing to the Suffolk coastline, where their estuaries attract many kinds of wildfowl and wading birds.
A village set in beautiful countryside on the banks of the River Stour, Nayland was once a busy cloth town in the late middle-ages, but gradual decline have left it today as a quiet and picturesque little settlement. There are a number of fine period properties in the village including cottages and houses from the Tudor and Stuart periods. The 16th century Bridge crossing the River Stour was built by William Abell who also made significant modifications to the church of St James. The church has an alter-piece painted by John Constable, the famous landscape painter who was born nearby in East Bergholt.
A Walk from Nayland [TL 973340] OS Maps: Explorer™ 196
This absorbing walk takes place on the edge of Constable Country in an area designated as of Outstanding Natural Beauty. After exploring the village and leaving Nayland, the walk gains some height, affording fine views of the local landscape. You won't come across too many ploughed fields. Much of the route includes stretches of pasture, where sheep and cattle can often be seen grazing. A highlight of the walk is undoubtedly towards the finish, where the impressive sight of landscaped rear gardens running down to the riverside catches the eye. About 4 miles.
Best Pub for this walk
Anchor, Court Street, Nayland Tel: 01206 262313 (Good Pub Guide)
The Anchor enjoys a tranquil location situated next to the Stour. You can eat your meals outside on the terrace beside a bank that slopes down to the riverside. Walls inside the sunny bar areas are adorned with pictures and prints of characters and events relating to a bygone age. There is comfortable seating and log fires in winter. Bar meals are of excellent quality and usually include some interesting specials. The pub has its own vineyard and smokehouse, so you can sample their own wines and smoked fish dishes. There is a separate restaurant.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Drive and Stroll in Suffolk' by Cyril Francis
A selection of walks in Suffolk can be downloaded from the following website:
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