PUBLISHED: 11:20 05 May 2015 | UPDATED: 11:20 05 May 2015
The annual Suffolk Walking Festival strides out across the county again from May 9-31, led by a band of willing leaders. Karina Coghlin spoke to seven of them to find out what inspired them to choose their particular walks, and what they love about the Suffolk countryside
The Suffolk Walking Festival is not only about the pleasure of walking and the benefits it brings to our health, it is also about discovery and meeting new people.
Walking with a knowledgeable guide highlights the things we might otherwise miss and can turn an ordinary stroll through a pretty landscape, into a much richer experience.
Stephanie Hartick environmental and art consultant
“The Brecks is a diverse landscape which merits exploration. During our sketch book strolls we will be looking at broad scale landscape patterns and turning over leaves and bark and looking at detailed patterns in nature.
I love the excitement of discovering these patterns and they often form the basis of my art.
“These walks are an opportunity to explore the forest and heathland around Brandon Country Park. By being outdoors, people are more uninhibited and free to express their thoughts in a sketchbook, which we give them at the start of the walk.
“Walking in the fresh air combined with drawing in an informal setting is very therapeutic and these walks are about encouragement and social participation, not artistic ability, and they’re suitable for everyone.”
Stephanie will guide: Sketch Book Strolls (May 19) and Artists on Legs (May 27) in Brandon Country Park.
Kate Osborne project officer, Touching the Tide
“I’m involved in education and training for the Touching the Tide project and I organise events exploring the changing Suffolk coast. I love walking along the beach and never tire of the view.
“I chose to guide a walk about Beachcombing for Beginners to offer an alternative for those who might be intimidated by some of the longer walks in the walking festival, as it’s more of a gentle amble!
“Although shingle is common in East Anglia, it’s actually a rare and fragile habitat. How often have you walked on the beach without realizing the wonders that are at your feet? Egg cases, hatchlings that eat their siblings, carnivorous shells, animals that look like seaweed – all these and much more are on our beaches and I encourage people to come and explore with us.”
Kate will guide: Beachcombing for Beginners (May 15/22/28), Felixstowe beach.
Jo Rooks learning officer at the Museum of East Anglian Life
“The museum is set within 75 acres of beautiful countryside which changes every day, with plants reappearing in the spring and the heady scent of wild garlic in the summer.
“There are lots of insects, birds and animals to be seen as well; I have seen fallow deer, otters, kingfishers and the turtle that lives in Abbot’s Hall lake!
“I chose the river as the basis of our walk for this year’s festival because of the possibility of glimpsing an otter or spying an orchid – there is always something to see if you look hard enough; the meadows here are teeming with wildlife.
“I especially love early morning walks with my Welsh collie, Meg. We often walk around the museum at sunrise and seeing the sun coming up, burning the mists over the wet meadows, is really spectacular.”
Jo will guide: Rambling by the River (May 29) at the Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket.
Dee Gerrelli owner of Wild Hare Walking
“I love the variety of scenery the Suffolk landscape offers, from gentle rolling fields and ancient woodlands to the coastal mix of heath, marsh and dunes.
“I chose Newmarket for some of my walks because the town, which is at the very heart of horse racing, is surrounded by flat heathland and open countryside and the racing industry gives a strong sense of identity to the area.
“It has a lot to offer whether you are a fan of racing or not.
“Being active and outdoors is a definite mood booster and walking as part of a group, makes it an enjoyable shared experience. I’ve been leading walks across East Anglia for the past seven years and I count myself lucky to have this area as my home turf!”
Dee will guide: Benjamin Britten’s Aldeburgh (May 14); Sunny Southwold (May 24); Newmarket – Sport of Kings (May 17/23); Horseshoe Trail (May 28) and the National Stud Walk (May 31).
Adrian Walters ranger for Sudbury Common Lands Charity
“There’s a wonderful diversity of wildlife on the Sudbury Common Lands and with extensive views over riverside pastures, there’s plenty to see throughout the year: the call of a kingfisher may betray its fast flight or a hunch of white in one of the muddy ditches may reveal a little egret.
“In high summer there are lots of damsel and dragonflies; you might catch a glimpse of a water vole and the uncommon tubular water-dropwort flowers bloom in profusion. Overhead you can watch flocks of swallows, martins and swifts as they congregate to feed on insects.
“The ancient pastures give an utterly timeless feel to this landscape and in our busy world, this provides a peaceful experience which visitors clearly appreciate and that’s what I want to share during the walking festival.”
Adrian will guide: Gainsborough Trail Meadow Walk (May 23/27) along Sudbury’s Valley Walk and Sudbury Common Lands.
Frances Fleming marketing and PR manager at Elveden Farms Ltd
“As a Suffolk girl, born and bred, I love nothing better than getting out into the local countryside with my husband Duncan and our dog, Ben. The county has an endless array of walks to choose from, each offering distinctive views of beautiful Suffolk landscapes.
“The Elveden Estate covers 23,000 acres and we grow a mixture of cereals and vegetables and we graze the lowland heaths with rare breed cattle and sheep.
“We produce a lot of our own food and visitors on the Food Glorious Food walk will arrive at the Elveden Courtyard and sample some of our chutneys and jams, followed by lunch of locally produced bread, our own home-cured meats and scones and cakes.
“The walk will be a perfect mix of Suffolk countryside and Suffolk food!”
Frances will greet walkers at the end of Food Glorious Food, a walk which meanders through Thetford Forest (May 20).
Monika Koch owner of Wild Adventures under Suffolk’s Skies
“The wide open skies of the Suffolk coast, the rough wilderness which is still present in this windswept landscape, and the variety of wildlife inspires me every day.
“If you open your senses to its incredible beauty, you can smell the wild gorse, literally taste the salty air and spot different wildlife throughout the year.
“Benjamin Britten must have felt very similar while walking his daily round at Snape. All this will be part of the experience which we want to give people who walk with us in Britten’s footsteps, along his ‘Curlew River’.
“I thoroughly enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for this breathtaking part of the Suffolk coast, its incredible wildlife and its cultural significance.”
Monika will guide: Fantasy Village and WWII Trenches (May 24); Curlew River – In Britten’s Footsteps (May 9/30); A Scottish Visionary and his Fairytale Village (May 17/26) and Nightjars over the Heath (May 25/29).