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.

David Falk

Festival Director

Image of Leslie Dolphin in a blue and white floral top. She is smiling and standing in front of a large white rose bush and a blue sign

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.

Happy Walking!

Lesley Dolphin

Producer/Presenter BBC Radio Suffolk

Follow us on facebook, twitter, and Instagram and come back to the website to see brand new exciting stuff everyday for 10 days from Saturday 22 May until Monday 31 May.

You can also find everything from the previous days too, so there’s no need to miss out on any of the fun!


Monday 24th May



Welcome to day 3 of the Virtual Suffolk Walking Festival!

Today is a day of contrasts as we venture to borderlands. Enjoy Clare Country Park on the border with Essex, and then Santon Downham on the border with Norfolk. Our walk of today is a classic in Suffolk, following the Stour Valley Path between the picture postcard villages of Clare and Cavendish.

Sutton Hoo Mask

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.

For our second episode David went to the fascinating Anglo-Saxon royal burial site at Sutton Hoo, for a chat with novelist and nature writer Melissa Harrison.

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 3 – Suffolk Threads Trails – Clare and Cavendish

Walk distance

Distance = Approx. 7 miles (11km)

Estimated time

Time = Approx. 4 – 5 hours

Clare, a wool town that lies on the north bank of the River Stour between Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds, is infused with history and traditional charm. Clare Castle Country Park, the 13th century priory, and Great Gothic Wool Church provide a fascinating background for visitors to the village, who will be spoilt for choice in terms of the excellent accommodation, restaurants and cafes on offer.

During the centuries prosperous for the cloth trade, nearly every important building in Clare had associations with the cloth industry, from the selling of raw wool to the weaving of broadcloth and later bays, says and linen, to the houses of wealthy clothiers and mercers. The wealth of the town is reflected in the impressive size of the 14th and 15th century parish church of St Peter and St Paul.

Cavendish, with its three village pubs, iconic Suffolk Pink cottages and village green, is the perfect place to stop for a picnic. It’s time to take a deep breath and be transported back to another age when life moved at a different pace.

This walk links the historic locations of Clare and Cavendish, both picture postcard place. The walk to Cavendish is gentle, undulating ramble following a section of the long-distance Stour Valley Path. There are delightful views of the countryside along the route, refreshments are available at the half way point at Houghton Hall, and Cavendish is truly beautiful – don’t forget your camera! You return on the same route which in the ever changing Suffolk light offers a different experience every time.

Click to download the full leaflet

Clare and Cavendish walk
Santon Downham leaflet

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 3 – Santon Downham – A hidden gem full of surprises!

Walk distance

Distance = 2 miles (3km)

Wheelchair accessible

Wheelchair Accessible

Pushchair accessible

Pushchair Accessible

St Helen’s Picnic Site is the start of a series of adventurous trails that lead through the forests of Santon Downham, an off-the-beaten-track destination that is surprisingly well known – you may find yourself completely alone mid week or completely surrounded at weekends!

This walk takes you to the tiny All Saints Church, one of Britain’s smallest churches (and an absolute gem), and to the site of St Helen’s Church.

The River Little Ouse runs through the forest and there is a good chance of seeing deer, kingfishers, crossbills and woodpeckers during your visit.


  • Parking – charges apply
  • Accessible toilets – available seasonally
  • Picnic area

Click to download the full leaflet

did you know……..

In the 1700s and 1800s the Sizewell gap was known for tea smuggling; the old Suffolk dialect ‘dollop’ was a parcel of smuggled tea.

You can find out fascinating information about Suffolk’s smuggling past on the Smugglers’ Britain website

Blue and white wooden dinghy on the beach

The Gainsborough Trail is a lovely 4-mile route around the Water Meadows in Sudbury. The route was inspired by the legendary painter Thomas Gainsborough, who grew up in the town.

This video is shared courtesy of Sudbury Town Council

Sudbury Town Council logo

Listen to Derek Blake (Walk Leader) talk about the inspiring Stour Valley and the magic of Clare Castle Country Park

Find out more about walking in and around Clare on the Clare Walkers website

Postbox and coffee sign

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…….

  • The castle here began life as an 11th century earth and timber construction.

  • Today there is the ruin of a 13th century keep, and in the 19th century a railway station was built within its inner bailey.

  • The common pastures were leased out by Catherine of Aragon for the benefit of the poor.

yesterday we were in…………. WHEPSTEAD!

Why not download the full Discover Suffolk leaflet and go exploring!

At Discover Suffolk we have come up with 40 FUN and FABULOUS seasonal activities to inspire your family to leave the living room behind and get exploring Suffolk’s great outdoors.

We have chosen one activity for each day of the Festival, but you can find all 40 over on the Discover Suffolk website!

cartoon boy laying on his back in a meadow
Suffolk's Fab40 logo

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 3 – Find your perfect picnic spot

cartoon person having a picnic

What makes your spot picnic perfect is up to you! The Made for Mums website has their top 10 picnic foods for you to choose from

stop and listen……….

Take a mindful minute to relax and immerse yourself in a beautiful sound bath every day

Today we have an episode of Walking on Air – a podcast all about Nordic Walking, presented by Mary Tweed, a British Nordic Walking Instructor with Nordic Walking East Anglia.

In this episode, Mary talks to Katherine Green from Nordic walking East Anglia. They discuss posture and what someone new to Nordic Walking can expect.

Walking on Air logo
Derek Blake

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.

Today Derek Blake from Clare Castle Country Park tells us about his favourite walk between Clare and Cavendish

Pentlow Church

This is my favourite walk, a walk of contrasts and infinite variety, along the valley floor of the River Stour and back on the valley shoulder, through arable farmland, beautiful villages, woods and private gardens. There are gorgeous views, two mills, fine churches and houses with wonderful names like Rats Castle, Bower Hall, Larks in the Wood and Houghton Hall. All this and walking the Stour Valley Path as well! We have adopted this walk as a circular walk downloadable from www.clarewalks.co.uk and it has featured in The Times and The Guardian.

The walk starts in Clare Castle Country Park and my favourite direction is to walk east on the valley floor and return on the valley shoulder. After leaving the Park there is a field that takes you to the main river. In summer there is often a big old bull in the field. He is always surrounded by his ladies and generally seems to lack both the energy and the inclination to chase anyone. After the Stour the walk enters Essex and zig-zags, following the river but infrequently next to it. The footpath takes you on three sides of a rectangle past Larks in the Wood, but I usually go on the road past Bower Hall to see the horses and the river. In Pentlow, a short detour to see the Norman round-towered Pentlow Church repays the investment of time. Cavendish Mill, where the walk crosses back into Suffolk, is beautifully situated.

I love the next bit: the route goes labyrinthine behind some houses, passing through at least one back garden before emerging near the centre of Cavendish. The Green is a wonderful place to have a break before returning to Clare. The Five Bells next to the Green is worth a visit, as is the teashop immediately to the south. The return journey offers lovely views to the south and west, including a beautiful view of Clare that emerges just before the descent into some woods, with fishing lakes to the right, that takes you back to the Country Park for a well-earned cuppa!

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.

Our Partners

The Suffolk Walking Festival could never happen without the generosity of so many throughout the county, and this year is no exception. Thank you to all our contributors, supporters and partners – we couldn’t do it without you!

Suffolk Secrets logo
BBC Radio Suffolk logo
EADT Suffolk logo
East of England Co-op logo
Clare Castle Country Park logo
Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB logo
Dedham Vale AONB logo
Churches Conservation Trust logo
Natural England logo
National Trust logo
East Suffolk Lines Logo
Southwold Town Council logo
Landguard Partnership logo
Norfolk and Suffolk Long Distance Walkers Association
Walkers Are Welcome logo
Thornham Walks logo
Suffolk Archives logo
RSPB logo
Walking on Air logo
Nordic Walking East Anglia logo
Big Sky Mind Mindfulness logo
Sudbury Town Council logo
Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers logo
Broads Authority logo
Babergh Mid-Suffolk Councils logo
West Suffolk Council logo
Visit Suffolk logo
Ipswich Borough Council logo
East Suffolk Council logo
The Ramblers logo
OneLife Suffolk logo
Screen Suffolk logo
Discover Suffolk logo
Blue and white logo for Suffolk County Council
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