CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

A dog-friendly rambling route around Clare Castle Country Park

PUBLISHED: 13:54 12 June 2018

Clare Country Park

Clare Country Park

Archant

Walkers and dogs are welcome to ramble a range of routes around Clare Castle Country Park – by Mike Trippitt

“The wood burner is burning beautifully. Come on in.”

I am sure that if Farley, our Clumber spaniel, could read he would have been enticed into the café by the blackboard’s message outside, just as I was. On this chilly but bright morning our walk around Suffolk’s smallest town starts with a cup of coffee at Platform One Café, on the former railway station at the heart of the Clare Castle Country Park.

My wife, also called Clare, found a table outside with room for us all. Dogs are not allowed in the station’s former ticket hall, where drinks, meals and snacks are now served, but they are not left out. A water bowl sits outside the front door next to a pile of logs for the burner. There are even hooks in the walls, so owners can tether their four-legged companions with their leads if the need arises.

Clare Country ParkClare Country Park

Great Eastern Railway’s Clare Station did not survive the Beeching Report, though its buildings remain as an almost complete ‘1865 style’ example. The track has gone, but the platforms guide us on our way.

Farley ferrets around in the cut grass and fallen leaves, while I listen to the breeze through the trees and contemplate this monument to a bygone age. I could imagine Arnold Ridley’s Ghost Train rumbling through here on a dark winter’s night. The legacy left by the railway continues east.

The route of the old line known as The Railway Walk makes for flat, easy walking through a shallow valley lined with hedges, bushes and, for the most part, fencing. The nearest road is 200 metres away, so the one and three-quarter-mile stroll through this extension of the country park to the River Stour and back is perfect for dogs to be off lead.

Clare Country ParkClare Country Park

Clare rewards visitors to its town centre and walkers to its surrounds in equal measure. Much is written about the varied architecture, attractive streets, independent shops and tearooms, and its historical interest. But Clare Castle Country Park will please walkers and dog walkers most.

Derek Blake, a trustee of Clare Castle Park Trust, which manages the park, and a former town councillor says that dogs and their owners are very welcome. “They are a really important group of people who come to the park. They are a big part of our core audience and will remain so,” says Derek.

“There is a regular set of people who drive to the park to walk their dogs. Others who live in the town walk their dogs there too. The park is really important to them, and so they are really important to us.”

Clare Country ParkClare Country Park

We spend some time walking about the park - along the riverbank and around the remains of the 12th century motte and bailey castle. Although the smell of rabbits and squirrels is more interesting to Farley, the views and contrasts within the park are a fascination to us. The combination of man-made and natural heritage is unique.

Leaving the park behind Farley shows barely a sign of protest at being on his lead, while we cross Cavendish Road and the river underneath. From here the Clare Loop – a walk of between two and four-and-a-half miles - will take us around the north of the town, through Hermitage Farm, back down Snow Hill and around Clare Camp and Clare Common, before leading past Clare Priory, back along The Stour into the country park to finish.

This circular walk is one of six walks focused on the country park, devised and created by the Clare Walkers Group. Under the chairmanship of Derek Blake, the group has produced a website and leaflets giving details of each walk, its level of difficulty and points of interest. Clare is designated a Walkers Are Welcome town, having received accreditation on October 3 last year. “We are the first town in west Suffolk to get this and the second in the county,” says Derek.

Clare Country ParkClare Country Park

Walking, with or without dogs, here in Clare could not be easier. Routes are well marked, safe and vary in length. An information board in the park provides details of all six walks and even has QR codes, so maps can be downloaded onto smartphones there and then.

Farley is in his element on the east and northern part of the loop. Woodlands, animal trails and scents, and the crunch of leaves underfoot fill his senses. His twitching nose, floppy ears and wide, brown eyes take it all in. His legs cover many more miles than ours, and his metronomic tail wags without pause. Like all spaniels, he is a happy, busy dog.

He goes back on his lead, panting, head up, tongue flapping, while we walk through the farmyard. Signs here direct that dogs be kept on leads. Fortunately, we keep him tethered and to heal all through the willow-lined avenue of Hermitage Farm drive. A meadow full of sheep further down would have been far too exciting for him to remain under control.

Clare Country ParkClare Country Park

Although Clare and I have visited the town before, we had not ventured near Clare Common previously. Following the Clare Loop, and bringing Farley with us, really adds another dimension to this most pleasing of destinations.

On the public footpaths and farm tracks skirting the common, rolling landscapes and wide vistas surround us. Occasionally we pass walkers, some with dogs, some without, but this well thought out route takes us far from the madding crowd. Save for the church tower, the town lies hidden in the slightest of dips. Isolation and openness combine to bring peace.

Before we get to the Stoke by Clare road Farley goes on his lead once more. Ahead we spot three burly rams grazing in a small paddock, heads down, rhythmically chewing. Farley smells them long before they sense us.

Clare Country ParkClare Country Park

The Clare Loop wends its way back to Clare Castle joining the New Cut of the River Stour. Farley jumps straight in, drinks the cold, clear water and looks at us expectantly for a ball or stick to be tossed in. Once he’s back on dry land, we open an old, heavy wooden gate in the nearby wall and step into the silent, timeless world of Clare Priory.

Among the ruins and grounds of the priory, where Augustinian friars live and offer a retreat, the spirituality, even for the non-religious, is undeniable. Our visit to Clare is enriched by just a few moments within these walls.

Clare Country ParkClare Country Park

Once back in the relative bustle of the country park, we contemplate our options. Our six and a quarter miles have given us huge variety, and Farley great fun. We could head home, or walk up Clare’s streets to continue our day’s pleasure. It requires little thought.

Ten minutes later with Farley ready for a snooze, we slide into easy chairs at the dog-friendly Bell public house. A pint of the landlord’s finest is a welcome end to a splendid walk.

________________

Follow Suffolk Mag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

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

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

Tue, 13:42

Matt Gaw reconnects with a project to restore one of the UK’s rarest habitats at Knettishall Heath | Photos: Paul Ham

Read more
Friday, December 7, 2018

A typical part of the Suffolk village scene is the village sign, standing tall in a prominent part of the area and succinctly giving you an insight into the area’s history. Here are 15 Suffolk town or village signs and what they mean

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for someone to enjoy a few days in Suffolk this festive period then look no further than these 6 gorgeous locations

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with loved ones and there’s no better place to do that than Suffolk, with its outstanding natural beauty, charming villages and festive foodie delights

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

From Waveney and the Suffolk coast to Dedham Vale, these 19 pictures are guaranteed to get you exploring the beautiful towns and countryside of Suffolk this winter

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Suffolk in winter time is a magical place to be. There are Christmas markets, chilly walks, and days by the blustery seaside to be had. These 17 nostalgic pictures will definitely bring out that unique festive feeling.

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Invitation to View tours reveal the surprising wartime roles of East Anglia’s historic town and country properties | Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Are you searching for places to go this winter? Suffolk has some truly magical places simply perfect for a day out with the family that are sure to get you feeling festive. Here are 9 locations you have to visit over the Christmas holiday

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

As the season of parties approaches, hotel and restaurateur Milsoms is itself celebrating a milestone for one of its popular venues | Words: Ross Bentley

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lindsay Want wanders the pilgrims’ paths and concrete runways around Horham, Denham and Redlingfield

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

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

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search