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.
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 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.
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
Distance = Approx. 7 miles (11km)
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.
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!
Distance = 2 miles (3km)
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.