Suffolk’s best walks: The East Suffolk Line from Saxmundham to Yoxford
PUBLISHED: 10:40 28 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:11 28 February 2020
Lindsay Want alights at Saxmundham and walks the East Suffolk Line north to Yoxford
Ever thought how our picture of Suffolk is often based on what we see through the window? Busy lives find us rushing from A to B along roads or rail links.
We see the village signs, but the real community is off our beaten track. Perhaps, when scrub-clearing alongside the A12 near Yoxford recently revealed beautiful Cockfield Hall to passers-by, some just may have realised what they've been missing.
Suffolk is full of fab surprises once you see things from a different perspective, or from a footpath even, and let your curiosity take the lead. Why not take the train and alight at Saxmundham station, then let East Suffolk Line railway walk way-markers guide you through the town and literally up the junction?
Up on the open fields beyond, there's a major mystery afoot - why does the area labelled locally as 'The Garden of Suffolk' seem to have hardly a flower to its name? With its arable fields rolling down the valley side to the River Fromus, this is more like a big allotment.
Confirmation comes in the form of Clayhill Road and later, to the east, a proliferation of organic farms edging Honeypot Lane gives gentle rise to the comforting thought that these High Suffolk claylands have been highly prized fertile fields for centuries.
In days gone by, Saxmundham's corn exchange was but a cart-trundle away and, graced with a charter dating right back to 1272, markets were very frequent affairs.
Between the wars, the then itinerant Suffolk Show was even held opposite Neo-Elizabethan Hurts Hall on Saxmundham's 'Layers', the place where stockmen would traditionally 'lay up' their animals before 'driving' them down the High Street to market.
The livestock markets had a long history, only ceasing in the late 1970s and the town had an admirable crop of ancient annual gatherings, including a lamb fair in August.
Great fields stretch out to the horizon where Carlton-cum-Kelsale's pale beacon of a mill tower stands sentry over Carlton's redbrick church tower, now on Kelsale's fine flint edifice above the Fromus, close to secret stew ponds where once fish were 'grown' for Framlingham's Castle Mere.
The mill has doubtlessly seen great industry, not to mention that fateful wartime day when fire destroyed Carlton Hall, the then requisitioned home of local pioneering legends, the Garrett family.
The Leiston branch line saw most of the Garrett's famous Long Shop engineering goods travel through Saxmundham en route to the wider world.
Back along the field margin paths, there's a certain clay-upland earthiness about Redhouse and Rubblestone farms, yet Yoxford Wood seems way before its time as you head for the mullioned delights of Grade II listed Fordley Hall.
Across the plateau, Yankee Lodge surely remembers those wartime days when The Yoxford Boys, aka the servicemen of the US 8th Air Force stationed at RAF Leiston, were familiar faces billeted in the area's pubs, homes and great houses.
As you turn to head north-westwards, ducking and diving through hedge gaps, winging it over stiles, the pockets of woodland, new plantations and vintage oaks seem to soar in number and steal away the horizons.
Beyond the mainline track bound for next-stop Darsham, to the background 'co-cough-ony' of pheasant cries from the coverts, Rookery Park reveals itself in all its 19th century glory, a carpet of green rolling down the hillside towards the River Yox, dotted with Lebanon cedars, sequoias and Scots pine amid mighty oaks and yew.
Here, the horizon returns, layering up in the direction of Sibton Park and the ancient priory, pierced by the sharp spire of St Peter's Yoxford. Swathed in green, the 'settlement by the ford where oxen can cross', gave the river its name.
Across the London to Yarmouth road (or A12 for short), the Old High Road snakes past Grove Park to Yoxford's High Street where one of the county's most famous historic signposts gave coaches the option of Framlingham, Yarmouth or London. Resting up in an inn or going about one's business was an option too.
The busy turnpike town once offered everything from banks to blacksmiths. These days it's worth a wander down the High Street just to admire the Dutch gables and modern murals, the crooked cottage windows, old chapel conversions and Milestone House with its rich Bath stone façade and posh porticos.
Yoxford is still a very fine place and since 1859, only a short walk along the Yarmouth road to Darsham railway station. But follow the footpath between the crumbling redbrick gatehouses by the village shop and it has one final secret in store.
The driveway to Cockfield Hall is a wooded tunnel of a path. Its bridge, complete with rusty, yet distinctly refined railings, leads over the River Yox and seemingly back in time. At its end, the redbrick symmetry of the ornate hall with awesome vistas towards the Tudor gatehouse and octagonal dovecote.
Enjoy the panorama, not just for a second or two as you whizz past, but for as long as you want your leisurely stroll to take you.
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This station to station walk is fully waymarked through the East Suffolk Line Walks initiative and was originally devised by Suffolk rambler guru Roger Wolfe. Built in 1859, the Ipswich to Lowestoft mainline celebrates its 160th anniversary this year. Check out eastsuffolklinewalks.co.uk for latest information, including free forthcoming guided walks.
Ordnance Survey maps are available from all good booksellers and outdoor stores or visit our online shop www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/al
1) From Saxmundham Railway Station turn right, down Station Approach, then left, through Market Place and straight on down to High Street. Turn left, passing Saxmundham Museum. Go under railway bridge and cross road.
2) Take waymarked footpath directly after railway bridge. Path leads alongside embankment with wide views back towards the town.
3) Go over stile to cross railway track. Between a fork in the railway tracks, cross another stile to follow footpath left between the main line and the Leiston branch line.
Keep straight on as path hugs the field edge. Take well-marked cross-field path left to reach Clayhill Road. Turn right. Walk with care along road to footpath (left). Follow field-margin path past Hill Farm and the White House to another road.
4) Turn right along the road. After a few metres, take field-edge footpath (left). At T-junction in paths, go sharp right towards East Green - not left to railway line - and continue to the road at Redhouse Farm.
Turn left. When road bears left, take driveway (right) marked Boundary Farm.
5) Before reaching the farm, pick up waymarked footpath on left. This leads diagonally across field to hedge gap, where field-margin path heads left, past Yoxford Wood to reach a road. Turn right. Walk along road to T-junction at Fordley Hall.
6) Turn left, going gently uphill.
7) When road bears right take footpath (left) by small wood (Littlemoor Spring). After a straight stretch, path snakes towards railway track. Be sure to keep to marked field-edge paths - do not follow tracks into wooded area / coverts.
8) Cross railway track (stile either side). Follow path right, then left in front of a pair of cottages and continue on track through gate straight ahead to reach kissing gate at edge of Rookery Park.
Walk across park, following line of ancient oaks. Path goes through two kissing gates - at second one, turn right to reach a painted marker-post between the telegraph poles.
9) Marker-post leads the way to another kissing gate out of the park and footpath to main road (A12). Turn right.
10) At Yoxford village sign/ war memorial, cross road with care. Leave A12 here, following Old High Road to pass village hall (right), Grove Park cricket field (left).
Road bears right to meet Yoxford High Street (A1120) by St Peter's Church (right). Mulberry Park green space is opposite. Detour briefly left to see balconied Milestone House, then retrace steps to cross road by the village shop.
11) Just beyond shop, footpath leads through gate adjacent to redbrick gatehouses and on, over picturesque bridge to gate into a field. Through gate, keep to path with impressive views of Cockfield Hall (left). Path bends right to join driveway to thatched lodge and main road (A12).
12) Turn left for roadside pavement to Darsham Station (13).
Distance: 6.25 miles / 10 kms
Time: 3-4 hours
Start: Saxmundham train station
Getting there / back: By rail nationalrail.co.uk; bus suffolkonboard.com.
Parking: Saxmundham train station IP17 1BW; Market Place IP17 1AH.
Access: Field-edge, cross-field footpaths; pavements. Steps, gates, stiles. Waymarked.
Big Map to hand: OS Explorer 231 and212
Ts & Ps: Saxmundham, Yoxford, Darsham.