Suffolk's 12 ways of Christmas
PUBLISHED: 16:31 21 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:18 20 February 2013
Filled with dread at the thought of feeling as stuffed as the proverbial turkey? David Falk, Countryside Manager at Suffolk County Council's Discover Suffolk, has come up with a dozen seasonal dawdles to clear the head and exercise the leg muscles
Filled with dread at the thought of feeling as stuffed as the proverbial turkey? Sore afraid about how to amuse a house full of family? David Falk, Countryside Manager at Suffolk County Councils Discover Suffolk, has come up with a dozen seasonal dawdles to clear the head and exercise the leg muscles. He starts off with a walk around lovely Long Melford
1. BERRY NICE INDEED
Even if theres not a sprig of holly in sight, December hedgerows seem brightened by big dull-red and orange rose hips, the last drooping hawthorn berries, even the silvery black sloe or seedy clusters on shiny-leaved ivy. Whats more, theres something distinctly seasonal about wisps of Old Mans Beard.
Ironically, the Melford section of the old Bury to Sudbury line, once clear of trees and vegetation for the good of passing engines, now excels in exuberant hedgerows, a precious winter food store for birds, insects and mammals.
Back on Melfords main street, purveyors of fine foods vie with stores of other kinds: booksellers, galleries, antique warehouses, clothes and gift shops. Bright with coloured lights, bedecked with boughs and seasonal spruce, they make for great grazing grounds, especially around Christmas time.
Start at the half-timbered Bull Hotel and head out of the village down Bull Lane. Go past the new houses and, take a right into Kings Lane opposite the Alpaca paddocks. Turn right again to join the former railway track bed, now known as The Melford Walk.
The deepest hedgerows screen the wildlife world from urban reality on one side and from the windy ridges of open arable lands on the other. As the narrow path ducks down under the redbrick arches of the first bridge, the hedge tunnel broadens into a cutting, making the thicket seemingly thicker and the Oaks and Elders stretch even higher. The route threads through the eye of a second brick bridge a little further on, to finish along an embankment stretch enclosed with hawthorn and wild rose bushes, before dropping back down to join the hubbub of Southgate Street.
Cross here and turn right down the main road into the village. The terraced houses soon give way to Melfords hallmark Georgian faades and the temptation to cross back over the broadening street to lose yourself in some antique emporium labyrinth of unusual Christmas gift opportunities.
Though the 1 mile railway path may only take the tiniest or most ambling of feet a short hour, theres simply no telling how long the retail-rich return journey up the Melford main street may last. Good job theres a tearoom or two along the way, or the promise of a roaring log fire and cosy drink in that time-honoured inn at the end trail.
THE FINER DETAIL
Top tip: Head out after a late lunch to complete the track bed section of the walk before dusk and arrive on Long Melfords main stretch as dark sets in. The Christmas shop window displays will look at their most inviting and those cosy tearooms will be simply irresistible!
For more information: Download a colour copy of the Melford Railway Walk leaflet, visit Suffolk County Councils official countryside website, www.discoversuffolk.org.uk
GET READY TO RAMBLE
How to get there: From Bury St Edmunds take the A143 south and turn right for Long Melford onto the A1092 signed for Clare. Just past Kentwell Hall, at the Green go straight on down the hill towards the centre of the village.
Park up and go: There is street parking most of the length of the main street and near the Bull Hotel.
Distance: 2.75 - 3 miles
Refreshments: A choice of pubs, hotels and tearooms in Long Melford
Terrain: Some grassy paths; old railway track bed may be muddy in places. Roads/pavements otherwise. Generally buggy friendly.
Useful additional map: OS Explorer No 196
Convenient conveniences: Cordell Road just off the junction of Bull Lane, behind the Bull Hotel
Public transport: Call 0871 1200 2233 or visit www.suffolkonboard.com for details
More wintry wanderlands
The rest of our December selection box makes for a festive line up of gentle countryside walks with something for everyone. Some routes have real purpose (or a good excuse, if you like), others make for a great alternative aperitif or sure way to get those digestive juices flowing. All are just right for spending time with family, friends or even just the dog.
Information on all walks is at www.discoversuffolk.org
2. Christmas folklore and carols too
Make room for a mince pie or two at any time with a wander to the walled garden at Thornham Walks near Eye. Roll up for a Sunday afternoon stroll on December 19 and, for a small charge, the pies will be provided, as well as a short guided walk exploring Christmas folklore and carols at St Marys.
The estate boasts 12 miles of waymarked footpaths through ancient parkland, woodland, farmland and water meadows, but the mile route past the folly to the Victorian walled garden, suitable for buggies and wheelchairs, has to be a firm favourite.
3. Festive feathered friends
Heres a real Christmas tweet. Theres sure to be many a robin in the Waveney Valley hedgerows, but head with your binoculars for Carlton Colvilles mini Broads near Lowestoft to discover Suffolk marshlands speckled with special seasonal colours.
The 3 mile Carlton Marshes Walk, managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, skirts lush grazing marshes, fens, wet woodland and the reed-fringed River Waveney. Visitors can park up at the Suffolk Broads Wildlife Centre, whereas others just may fly in. Look out for Red Breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye ducks or maybe even small flurries of tiny Snow Buntings.
4. Tree-mendous excuse for some exercise
Combine a walk with great Christmas shopping. Nip up to Elveden Estate for your Suffolk born-and-bred Norway Spruce! The amazing farm shop and tea rooms will surely tempt, so why not enjoy one winter treat to deserve another? Nearby open access land, Berners Heath (Icklingham) a unique oasis of heather, wood sage, lichens and mosses, flanked by the Icknield Way path and home to roaming deer and grazing sheep can be visited from November to February. Take a short walk from the A11 war memorial lay-by or follow time-honoured tracks from Icklingham, Elveden or West Stow Country Park.
5. All wrapped up and somewhere to go
Put on that extra jumper and woolly hat and head for the coast. Thanks to Suffolk Coasts & Heaths teaming up with Adnams, theres a new set of short walks available, destined to be ale and hearty and get you into the spirit of things. The 3 mile stroll from Aldeburgh combines a frisson of excitement at seeing the magical House-in-the-Clouds and beached Scallop from the old railway line path, with an invigorating blast of sea air on the return seaside straight and some child-friendly pubs. A 1- mile alternative drops southerly from Slaughdens Fort Green past the Martello tower to views or Orford Castle and the River Alde.
6. A Suffolk star of winter walks
Heaven is a straightforward stroll from Lavenham to Paradise (Wood). Part of the old dismantled Bury St Edmunds to Sudbury railway line leads straight out of the medieval labyrinth to the edge of Melford Hall Estate. It offers refreshing alternative town and country views to the usual tourist track, and whether you choose to weave your way back to the wool town via St Edmunds Way and farmland tracks or simply shunt back along the line, it makes festive sense to pop into The Angel after this one, doesnt it?
7. Yule love this
If the kids are happy, then life is good. And at Rendlesham Forest between Orford and Woodbridge they can really run off energy on walks with purpose from play place to play place.
There are buggy friendly trails, spiders webs and nightjars to climb on, dens to make, woodland sculptures and even carved crocodiles to discover. If the Phoenix trail doesnt light the advent candle for older offspring, then resort to alien life-forms with the UFO trail, or alternatively use dirtier track-tics and put the bikes on the back of the car.
8. A little husky?
Succumbed to the seasonal snivels or perhaps just feeling the excesses of the night before? Get some air and exercise and, if you set out early enough down the wintery tracks of Thetford Forest from High Lodge or Brandon Country Park, you might even see some real racing huskies.
With its free-draining, sandy soil and grassy tracks, says local husky team owner, Caroline Kisko, who races her dogs around the UK, "there are few areas of the country as perfect as Thetford Forest. We count ourselves lucky to have such wonderful Breckland trails on which to run our dogs.
9. A peaceful potter
Down by the River Dove, there is simply more history than meets the Eye. Even Dr Who-styled time travellers will enjoy glimpses of priories, ponds and pest houses or the chance of clambering up towards the castle ruins for amazing views of the great church of St Peter & St Paul. The 3 mile walk starts from the free car park behind the clock tower, but quickly includes copse, moor and meadow, ancient causeways, massive wooden sculptures, crinkle-crankle walls and great views. All this and convenient conveniences too. Perfect.
10. Reining in the excitement
Suffolks farm shops have so much to inspire and so many opportunities to enjoy at any time of year, especially Christmas. Some promise real reindeer, even Santa himself perhaps; then there are farmyard trails, crafts and cafs, and all those delicious delicacies and freshest produce... Combining a visit to Needham Markets Alder Carr Farm with a walk around the adjacent Needham Lake is a great way to let the little ones help with the last bits of Christmas food shopping and expend some energy enjoying the local wildlife.
11 Working UP an appetite
Walk up the Kersey hills and youve every reason to deserve a festive lunch. Its a heady hike in Suffolk terms up from the picturesque water-splash towards Lindsey past glimpses of historic priories.
Rumbling tums are totally excusable of course, as you admire the views towards the seasonally named St Marys from the old Shoulder of Mutton Lane. Youd certainly be forgiven too, if you think you hear that up-and-coming Hadleigh restaurant, The Donkey, calling in the distance as you trek back on your own Christmas journey round one of the circular routes over the hills, past rich hedgerows and hugging the occasional stream.
12 Great Table Manors
Suffolk is one great table laden with hidden treasures. Take a walk around Bayeaux Bishop Odos ancient manors at Coddenham and Capel St Mary and harvest your very own delicious titbits to share at any festive supper.
The 2 mile circular walk from Coddenham leads down grassy tracks to the redbrick hall at Hemingstone, then back to St Marys with its Norman origins and stunning angel roof. From Capel, a 4 mile route winds through lush woodlands past a part-moated castellated manor farm to forgotten All Saints Little Wenham, before making its way back to mighty medieval St Marys .
Check out www.discoversuffolk.org for route/site details plus other must-know information from how to get there to car parks and conveniences. Many of the walks featured have dedicated download-print-and-go leaflets.
Put the boots in
Even on the firmest tracks and most buggy-friendly walks, stout footwear is advisable for winter forays. Walking boots or wellies are even better especially where meadows are mentioned or for those who might find the temptation of jumping in puddles or having a good squelch just too great!