A stroll down memory lane

PUBLISHED: 17:50 27 October 2014 | UPDATED: 17:50 27 October 2014

Syleham Walk

Syleham Walk


Lindsay Want looks back to share two special countryside stroll secrets, both revealed thanks to ever-growing portfolio of walking leaflets courtesy of David Falk at Suffolk County Council’s Discover Suffolk project

Wingfield CollegeWingfield College

Have you noticed how no two walks are ever the same?

No matter how many times Rover has raced off in front of you on that regular route march round your Suffolk village, no matter how often you’ve frequented those favourite forest tracks near Rendlesham or Thetford for family outings, each experience is always unique. Put it down to the season, the weather, the company or just what happens to be going on in life. Revisiting our favourite Suffolk countryside haunts and enjoying them at our own pace has an unrivalled way of rekindling memories. But exploring somewhere new, well that’s different, isn’t it?

With Discover Suffolk guiding the way, every path can be just as sure as the ones we’re used to following. Taking the lead through everything from forgotten rural parishes to wild heathlands and suburban backwaters, the countryside access project’s downloadable leaflets combine maps and proper tried-and-tested directions with fascinating snippets of information, positioning places firmly within the much bigger picture.

Venture out of your regular territory and it’s surprising how just a few well-guided steps can soon see you settled into feeling almost at home and starting to make connections. There are memories to be found there too. Part of the wonderful thing about exploring ‘unknown’ places is the discovery that they are remarkably familiar after all.

Gislingham green laneGislingham green lane

The Green Lanes of Gislingham

Gislingham in Mid-Suffolk is hardly the sort of place you just happen upon, but home to a walk which gives you a warm feeling, no matter how misty the morning or crisp the autumn frost.

The rowan berries are bright little beacons beside the rich red-brick tower of St Mary’s. A robin reverently side-steps the wreaths of paper poppies which lean against the war memorial. A quiet country road leads up to time-honoured ‘Green Lane’ where the last blackberries taste as sweet as the childhood memories of making pies with grandma. A herd of fallow deer spotted across the field makes the soul leap, but not quite as high as when that white hart appeared amidst the holly berries in Captain’s Wood at Sudbourne.

Gislingham circular walkGislingham circular walk

There’s no clue to just how ancient the drover’s track of Northland’s Lane really is, but it has given the trees something to whisper about. Perhaps the Knights Templar rode that way when they made their home here at Manor Farm? These days the old house sits pretty in pink on Mill Street, with just a mullion and gentle jetty of timbers betraying its medieval past at the front. Onward then to Back Street to tiptoe around the migrating toads just like that time near Wyken Fen when the Stanton Ride walk was all about leap frogging en route to the mysterious Grundle. And as those unhurried Sunday morning steps steer down past historic Rush Green Farm to the Six Bells, St Mary’s has been singing out to celebrate the day for some time now. Sounds familiar.

The mighty Wingfield and secret Syleham by the Waveney

Is it St Mary’s or St Margaret’s, that little round tower church at Syleham? It sits totally hidden away on a virtual island in the river meadows of the Waveney and no one really seems too sure. Perhaps it has just always been dwarfed by the major pomp and circumstance of the Plantagenet tomb at nearby Wingfield. The Treasured Suffolk walk even starts here at St Andrews, by the pub and medieval college. Wingfield, De la Pole … the names are outside, the fine tombs lie within.

A few steps ahead and, by the massive grazed common, the Earl’s crenelated castle noses out from behind the trees. It’s a matchless, magical Suffolk moment for sure, but then didn’t Mettingham Castle spring out of the undergrowth on the Saints cycle ride near Bungay? Further up the road, more musing turns the black witch’s hat back into the remains of a windmill and recognises the signs of the enclosure act on Syleham’s Great Green.

And so, slowly to Syleham itself, silently guarding stories of monks and mills, like so many sleepy Suffolk villages. The tiny church with an identity crisis by the Waveney seems almost as remote as Iken’s Saxon church by the Alde. Here a Victorian cloth mill became one of England’s largest privately owned clothing manufacturers around the same time that an old Maltings became a famous concert hall at Snape. Everything is worlds apart, yet every step of the way even the most hidden parts of Suffolk are somehow familiar.

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