Welcome to the VIRTUAL
Suffolk Walking Festival 2021!
Saturday 22 May – Monday 31 May
The Suffolk Walking Festival is one of the country’s largest and longest running walking events. In May we normally have over 100 walks and events for you to enjoy over a 3-week period. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we have cancelled this year’s guided event, but are delighted to launch the very first VIRTUAL Suffolk Walking Festival!
The new 10-day virtual festival will have a changing daily programme and sees the launch of a brand new Suffolk Walking Festival podcast.
COMPETITION NOW CLOSED – Complete our survey to enter the draw to win 4 tickets to next year’s festival, a year’s subscription to the Suffolk Magazine and £30 of vouchers for the East of England Co-op!
I hope you enjoy the first Virtual Suffolk Walking Festival and we look forward to greeting and leading you again in 2022.
A message from our patron
Although the Suffolk Walking Festival can’t happen as a group activity this year I`m thrilled it’s going ahead online. Walking is something most of us have been able to do through the lockdowns and so hopefully more of you than ever will have a look and head out on some of the walks that are featured.
I know many people have discovered places near to their homes that they had never enjoyed before – and this is an opportunity to get out and discover bits of our lovely county that you’ve not visited before. It’s also a chance for you to tell us about your favourite bits of Suffolk. Getting into our countryside and enjoying the birds, flowers and wildlife is so good for the soul as we have learnt. Thank you David Falk and team for making this happen.
Producer/Presenter BBC Radio Suffolk
Monday 31st May
The Heritage Coast
Welcome to the final day of the Virtual Suffolk Walking Festival!
Today is a wonderful exploration of the coast with a wander along the historic Sailors Path, a stroll on the sublime Dunwich Heath, and visits to the heritage coast towns of Aldeburgh and Southwold.
Suffolk Walking Festival Podcast
If you love walking and Suffolk, then this is the podcast for you! In our brand new Suffolk Walking Festival Podcast, David Falk (Festival Director) walks and talks with all sorts of people including authors, broadcasters, wildlife experts, and academics to discover why walking in Suffolk is so special.
It’s the last day of the 2021 Virtual Festival, and for our fifth episode David went to Thornham Walks for a chat with Jon Tyler. Jon is a very experienced forager and bush-craft practitioner, and in the podcast you can hear he and David talk about about the transition between day and night and how that altered perception creates a very different walking experience. You can find out more about what Jon does on his Wild for Woods website, after you’ve listened to the podcast of course!
walk of the day
Every day we will introduce you to a different fabulous place to walk in Suffolk. We will tell you a bit about it (including the approximate distance of the walk and roughly how long it might take) and you will be able to download the full Discover Suffolk walks leaflet for a map and other suggested routes in the area. You can find all of the Discover Suffolk walks, plus loads more information about getting outdoors in Suffolk, on the Discover Suffolk website.
Day 10 – Middleton Cum Fordley (3) – Eastbridge via Theberton
Distance = Approx. 4.5 miles (7.2km)
Time = Approx. 2 hours
Middleton cum Fordley is a village over a thousand years old, alongside the Minsmere River. The soil varies from sands, river valley silts, through to heavy clay. It is surprisingly hilly with extensive views. There is a wide range of historical buildings with good examples of thatch, flint and timber frames. The village is located about 3 miles inland from the North Sea coast and is part of the highly acclaimed Suffolk Heritage Coastal area.
The parish comprises three distinct areas, the main village straddling the 5 metre contour near the river and marshes; Middleton Moor on higher ground to the north-west and Fordley, further west again. Five miles to the south west is the traditional market town of Saxmundham. Leiston, famed for its Garrett agricultural engineering history is 3 miles to the south, with its former traction engine works now a museum.
Local attractions include the renowned RSPB Minsmere Bird Reserve and the internationally recognised Snape Maltings concert hall. The ancient Roman port of Dunwich, now mainly lost to the sea, is near-by, as are the popular resorts of Aldeburgh to the south and Southwold and Walberswick to the north.
In our leaflets we aim to provide a variety of walks all starting and finishing in the village, which show off our varied terrain, flora and fauna. The Parish is blessed with a wide variety of wildlife including many interesting birds such as kingfisher, heron, barn owl and marsh harrier.
easy going trail of the day
Discover Suffolk has developed 18 easy to follow trails to help everyone get close to nature in Suffolk’s countryside. Each trail is designed to be straightforward to follow and on generally level ground. You can find information about all of the Easy Going Trails on the Discover Suffolk website.
Each day throughout the festival we will pick one of our favourite easy going trails and will tell you a bit about it and give you a link to download the full leaflet. We will also tell you what facilities are available to make your trip easier.
Day 10 – Dunwich Heath – A stunning blend of coast, heathland and woods
Distance = 1.5 miles (2.5km)
Wheelchair Accessible with assistance
Dunwich Heath is one of the most dramatic settings in all of Suffolk, where heathland reaches the coast with stunning views towards historic Southwold to the north and famous RSPB Minsmere to the south.
This is a wonderful place to visit any time of year, but really comes into its own in late August when the heather blooms and the landscape is a sea of purple. If you can catch this scene in the early morning light or late setting sun then you will be in for a treat.
The heath is crossed by many paths with a number of benches to take in the view. There is also an accessible sea watching centre equipped with telescopes. The National Trust has an excellent café and very helpful information hut with a fun children’s play area by the picnic tables.
The trails at National Trust Dunwich Heath are natural surface, firm paths with an accessible trail clearly signed around the heath. For wheelchair users, a mobility vehicle is available (this must be booked in advance). There are other trails to explore. Each offers a very different experience of the heath and the woodland with some fine views out to sea and across the landscape.
- Parking – free for National Trust members
- Accessible toilets
- Picnic area
- Play area
- Visitor Centre
did you know……..
The 9 greens in Southwold were created as a fire break after a devastating fire destroyed a large part of the town in 1659.
You can find lots of information about things to do in Southwold and all along the Suffolk coast on The Suffolk Coast website.
Hear about why Dunwich Heath and Beach, one of the National Trust’s most precious landscapes, is so special to the people who work there. Join Dan Payne and his colleagues who manage the site, as they talk about the stunning landscape and amazing wildlife that can be found there.
Find out lots more about National Trust Dunwich Heath at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunwich-heath-and-beach
View stunning aerial footage of Southwold’s Town Trail. Fly over the iconic pier, inland over Buss Creek and the river Blyth, and back to Sole Bay.
Produced by Southwold Town Council with Joshua Paul Gardner (www.joshuapaulgardner.com)
Join Glen Pearce on Orford Ness to explore the wildlife, history and management of this internationally important coastal nature reserve.
Find out lots more about National rust Orford Ness at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/orford-ness-national-nature-reserve
where am I?
Every day throughout the festival we will be asking you to guess ‘where am I?’ We will give you facts about our mystery location and you can find out the answer the following day.
BIG CLUE: all the destinations have Discover Suffolk walk leaflets…….
As today is the last day of the festival, come back this evening to find out where we are finishing our trip around Suffolk’s fascinating towns and villages.
- The Maltings are home to a world class concert hall.
- Thames barges once plied their trade on the river between here and London.
- The marshes are home to Marsh Harriers, Bitterns and Otters.
- The Sailors’ Path, once a commuting route for sailors, starts here.
You can download your free FAB40 guide (opens a PDF document in a new window) and tick off your activities as you go.
The guide may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Contact us to ask for help and request an accessible format.
ACTIVITY 10 – Go fishing for crabs
Have a crabbing competition down on the quayside at Walberswick, or other spots along our Suffolk coast. There’s lots of information about the best Suffolk crabbing spots on The Suffolk Coast website!
my Suffolk your Suffolk
Every day throughout the festival we’ve asked people to tell us about their favourite Suffolk walk. Here, we will bring you their personal stories about what makes it special and why they love it.
For our final day we have two accounts of walking around Aldeburgh. The first is Aldeburgh’s Swift Nest Box Trail, from Alan Collett (a Festival Walk Leader); and the second is A Stroll Around Hidden Aldeburgh, from Fiona Lewington (from Aldeburgh Museum)
Aldeburgh’s Swift Nest Box Trail with Alan Collett
Enjoy this walk around the historic seaside town of Aldeburgh and alongside the River Alde.
From the Moot Hall, walk up the hill to the Parish Church, then left along to the Town Steps from where there are panoramic views over the rooftops to the sea. Watch the Swifts from here as they scream around the rooftops – evenings can be the best time for this spectacle. Then head down to the beach and south along Cragg Path to Fort Green. To extend the walk follow the path towards the Martello Tower before turning right along the river wall. Take in some stunning views of the river and the wide open skies. Across the marsh look out for Marsh Harrier scanning the reedbeds for food or the Swifts and Swallows feeding above the water. You may even catch a flash of turquoise as a Kingfisher flies down the dyke or hear the chatter of the Cetti’s Warbler in the reeds! Follow the river wall to the steps on your right and then after a few hundred yards, take the grass path on your right leading back into town.
There’s lots more information about Aldeburgh’s swifts on the Aldeburgh’s Amazing Swifts website.
A Stroll Around Hidden Aldeburgh with Fiona Lewington
Leaving behind Aldeburgh’s popular and busy high street, we climb Church Hill to the parish church and its wonderfully peaceful churchyard. Many Aldeburgh figures have been laid to rest here and it is a fascinating insight into Aldeburgh’s rich and vibrant heritage. Uplands House, opposite the church, is a worthy introduction to the locally celebrated Newson Garrett and his extraordinary family who lived here in the Victorian era, a period of Aldeburgh history which brought both progress and optimism to the town. A blue plaque can be seen slightly further down the road which celebrates Newson’s younger daughter, Millicent Fawcett, one of the greatest suffragists in English history.
For a visitor who arrives for the first time in Aldeburgh, the view to the left across the King’s Fields to the marshes and the river, is a real pleasure – a view that is little changed from the earlier days of the town when the river Alde was a busy trading route to Snape. Leaving the main road out of town and heading left past Triangle Wood, we approach ‘Aldeburgh Park’, Newson Garrett’s vision for an improved and cleaner Aldeburgh – an area of large Victorian villas complete with water tower, a sewage system and a ‘stinkpipe’ – a fascinating piece of Victorian engineering.
Heading back towards the town, we get a quick glimpse of Alde House, hidden behind hedging, the Garrett families’ next larger and grander home, complete with ice house and Turkish baths. Our walk would not be complete without the majestic view from the top of the town steps over the tops of the roofs to the beach and the sea beyond.
A complete version of the ‘Hidden Aldeburgh’ walk along with three further walks will soon be published by Aldeburgh Museum and will be available from the museum shop and other local outlets as well as online through the Aldeburgh Museum website.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) advice
If you’re using Suffolk’s public rights of way or open access network please stay local, stick to areas you are familiar with, and make sure that you comply with government social distancing guidelines at all times. Please stick to the public rights of way and avoid trespassing.