Follow the leader
PUBLISHED: 12:59 13 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:59 13 May 2014
Spring has sprung and this month's Suffolk Walking Festival is set to be bloomin' marvellous. Lindsay Want catches up with some of the festival's walk leaders to find out more
Food, Drink & Views
From Wherstead/Shore to Shore from Pin Mill
Back in 2006, it was Stowmarket Tourist Information Centre manager and keen walker Annette Ellis who seeded the idea that the Heart of Suffolk could hold a walking festival. Thanks to the fertile minds of colleagues such as Suffolk County Council’s countryside access manager, David Falk, the idea germinated and the vision grew into a popular countywide event.
“I love being involved in every aspect of the festival,” says Annette.
“It’s great to put some of the routes together, share experiences as I take bookings, then get involved with guiding walks too.
This year, I’m even joining the six-day Angles Way challenge walk. I can’t wait. There’s so much to see and it’s a great way to meet people.”
Annette confides that although she has a passion for all of Suffolk, her heart is where her home is – the Shotley Peninsula.
“Freston Woods are just magical at bluebell time and will be on our four-mile route from the Food Hall at Wherstead.
“If you’ve an appetite for wildflowers, it’s a great area to find soldiers’ buttons, wild garlic and pink campion too. The views down the River Orwell are breathtaking, but nothing beats a misty morning down at Pin Mill – it’s all so timeless.”
Annette’s 8.5 mile Shore to Shore walk heads from the banks of the Orwell to the banks of the Stour and back passing Woolverstone Hall, The Royal Hospital School and some fine village churches, not to mention dragonflies and flag irises at Holbrook Bay.
Darren Dordoy Abbots Hall
A Garden Walk & Talk/Stowmarket, a Stroll through the Ages
At Abbot’s Hall, now part of the Museum of East Anglian Life in the heart of Stowmarket, the long-abandoned, Georgian walled garden has been lovingly transformed and planted with flowers, fruit and veg by a vibrant bunch of volunteers.
Local history enthusiast and museum man Darren Dordoy has stories of lavish ice-skating parties and cherry fairs to tell at the once very private hall, but is also leading a fascinating afternoon walk on the same day around Stowmarket town, taking in public green spaces among other things. “It’s an invitation to step back and discover,” explains Darren. “People take the town for granted, but when you stop by the remembrance messages in the recreation ground railings, then hear why they were cast at the local foundry from melted down World War I canons, stories start to unfold. Stowmarket was also the manufacturing home of the famous Suffolk Punch lawnmower and its historic links with gardening and sports grounds goes back to Edwardian times.”
Rolling Fields & Cutting Garden Trucketts Hall near Boxted
Few local walks could be more idyllic than a stroll through historic, rolling West Suffolk farmscapes, alongside tweeting field margins and wildlife-rich woodland to land in a cultivated cutting garden ablaze with British blooms.
“Trucketts Farm is just so full of beautiful colour at this time of year,” enthuses Margaret who, together with her colleague, Alison Morris, established The Suffolk Flower Farm in 2012 and has been delighting customers at farmers’ markets ever since.
“Our arable farm has wheat, barley and oilseed rape and the cutting garden is all a-sway with sweet peas and delphiniums, foxgloves and peonies. With over a hundred David Austin fragrant roses, the scent is sensational too.” Truly an outing for the senses, there’s even a treat in store for the taste buds too – delicious homemade cake and tea in the garden of medieval Trucketts Hall.
A visit to Thornham Walks is always a real hoot for little ones thanks to its fantastic play area and woodland sculptures, but for an extra bit of half-term fun the site’s countryside community officer, Helen Sibley, has put together two festival ‘walks’ including great discovery games for pre-school and young primary school children.
“As well as a gentle trail and relaxed story-time, the children learn about the real lives of Prickles the Hedgehog and Hoot the Owl,” smiles Helen. “Leaves are collected with a brush, just like Prickles does with his spikes. ‘Smelly pots’ help understand his highly-developed sense of smell. It’s great fun gathering material to make a nest like Hoot’s too or using owl callers to sound like him in the woods.”
Helen is also teaming up with a trained volunteer from Stepping Out in Suffolk to lead a 4-4.5 mile health walk through the Thornham Estate as part of the Suffolk Walking Festival.
Suffolk Walking Festival
Information & Bookings:
www.suffolkwalkingfestival.co.uk or at your nearest Tourist Information Centre