3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today click here

A walk among Thornham’s famous hall and oaks

PUBLISHED: 11:12 11 August 2015 | UPDATED: 11:12 11 August 2015

Thornham Walks

Thornham Walks


David Falk, manager of Suffolk County Council’s Brandon Country Park, heads to the heart of Suffolk and the family-friendly Thornham Walks with its miles of footpaths, imaginative fun sculptures, historic hall and ancient oaks

Thornham WalksThornham Walks

There’s something very exotic about the sound of a peacock. It cuts through the air. It transports me to a faraway land. Here in the very heart of Suffolk, in a quintessential pastoral setting, it seems both out of place yet very much part of the landscape.

There used to be quite a few peacocks, plus a small collection of pheasants, at Thornham Estate. I’m not sure where they all are now. The exotic collection of pheasants seems long gone, but a solitary male peacock is certainly still resident and he lets the world know his presence.

He stands atop a small mound, his brilliant blue chest puffed out proud, small crown erect. He stares about, a stranger in a foreign land. Around him lies a field of freshly cut hay. A pair of greater spotted woodpeckers fly from tree to tree. A family of mistle thrushes hop about. Rooks peck at the ground. A lawn mower drones in the background.

I’m standing beside my car, binoculars in hand, in a simple car park overlooked by a grand old oak surrounded by a wooden sculpture-filled playground. It’s full of imagination – giant squirrels, intertwined snakes, insects and a bear rubbing its ear. There’s a sense of humour here.

Thornham WalksThornham Walks

I grab a site map from a simple information board and head along a solid path into the estate. Thornham Walks made the news recently due to the addition of compost loos. These waterless green latrines are very impressive – spotless and smell-free. They’re a clever addition to the site, and helpfully open today when everything else is closed.

The path winds onwards between fields of Limousin cattle, small thickets of oak, rowan and lime, to a platform overlooking Spinney Pond. This is one of 36 farm ponds dotted around the estate, once watering holes for cattle. Today, Spinney Pond is a small wildlife haven, its waters a dark soup of plant life, the air above a blur of midges.

Walking on I enter a line of walnut and cherry trees. Behind, sits a carved throne. Cut from the trunk of an oak tree, it’s another of the many sculptures dotted around the Thornham Estate. Each provides a fun stop – climbing frames for all ages, photo opportunities for families.

Hidden behind 600-year-old ancient oaks, I catch a glimpse of Thornham Hall.

It was re-built in 1956 after a chequered history. The original Tudor Hall was Victorianised, then modernised, then requisitioned by the army and then, in 1954, it burned to the ground. What’s there today is all but concealed by the landscape.

The path leads onto a mown strip of grass that winds through a pinetum – a collection of cypresses, pines, junipers, spruce and firs. Beneath the trees grass has grown tall. It’s full of thistles, buttercups and crowds of common spotted orchids. They stand upright, heads of tiny purple flowers on strong green stems that emerge from pointed, brown speckled leaves. I sit on a bench to soak up the scene, and listen to the “chiff chaff” of a chiffchaff. It sings forever like a pulsating stuck record.

Along a short stretch of boardwalk lies a bird hide. Inside a family are peering onto a woodland scene. Phone cameras in hand, they try to capture a squirrel feeding on bird feeders. Children whisper excitement to grandparents, who whisper frustration on hitting wrong buttons as the squirrel rushes in and out of the scene.

Back on the path, I pass a carved lion. Its mane a bark covered trunk, its body carved from smooth wood with short lengths of logs for its legs. Past ancient yews and giant oaks, I stop at a towering grand fir. A small branch has fallen to the ground and I take the chance to crush its needles to release the scent of tangerine. It’s one of my favourite nature experiences. A Cedar of Lebanon extends its limbs like an early morning stretch and bronze coloured paper birch decorate the path.

The air is full of scent as I walk past a series of raised beds, containing fragrant herbs. Divided by a line of topiary they sit in front of Thornham Estate’s Walled Garden. Back in the 1800s nine gardeners worked here. Today it’s home to Beyond the Wall, a charity providing work experience to young people. I sneak a look through the bars of a locked red gate and see lines of squat fruit trees, clipped box, and a long glasshouse where they once grew melons.

The Walled Garden’s faded red brick wall hides the garden from view, but I pace around the perimeter, past another set of green latrines, to a restored folly. Built from an assortment of reclaimed stones, this was once a gothic summerhouse and a resting place on countryside strolls. Today it stands guard over the Pet Cemetery, the resting place of treasured family pets including Mahuta, who served in the Egyptian Campaign, Toto, killed in Pretoria, and Dracula, a black Alsatian born in Jakarta.

Looping back on myself, I retrace steps past the bird hide, through the pinetum and beyond Spinneys Pond to the play area and car park. I look again across fields of hay and see a pheasant tip toeing through grass, pigeons clapping about and the family of mistle thrushes still hopping.

As I depart I leave behind grandchildren playing with grandparents, toddlers sleeping in pushchairs, mothers piggy backing kids, and summertime laughter blending with the exotic calls of the ever present peacock.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EADT Suffolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EADT Suffolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EADT Suffolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Thu, 11:48

All across Suffolk the National Trust is working to protect some of the county’s most important natural sites and manmade locations – we’ve rounded up 10 that you need to visit

Read more
Thu, 10:34

As the largest district in Suffolk, Mid Suffolk is home to over 100 parishes and towns with what are arguably some of the most beautiful places to live in the county. Here are 10 of our favourites

Read more
Tue, 12:59

Laxfield’s family-friendly, much-loved Mid-Suffolk guildhall is packed with village treasures and colourful characters | Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Read more
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Lindsay Want tracks down Lowestoft’s industrious past on a station to seaside walk

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

It may be Suffolk’s coastal towns and villages that largely get all the attention but our county town has been one Britain’s most important port locations and has an incredibly rich culture and heritage. Here are 24 reasons you should love Ipswich

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty stretches from Kessingland to Shotley Peninsula spanning across a plethora of diverse landscapes from beaches, heath and forest

Read more
Friday, August 3, 2018

When you have a few days spare for a short break in Suffolk you could head to one of these gorgeous 9 properties for a stay on our county’s coast or countryside

Read more
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

When it comes to wildlife Dunwich Heath is the place to find the bright and beautiful as well as the weird and wonderful | Words: Jayne Lindill

Read more
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

With breath-taking beaches, stunning stately homes and picture-perfect places, it’s no wonder so many TV shows choose to film in Suffolk. Here are 20 that set up camp in our county

Read more
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Opened in March by West Stow Pods, Pod Hollow is the latest form of glamping accommodation that Lord of the Rings fans will find absolutely precious

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine regular newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Suffolk's trusted business finder

Search For a Car In Your Area

Find a used Car

Property Search