Walking back to happiness - 18 great trails to follow and a festival

Thornham Walks is a great place for family rambles

Thornham Walks is a great place for family rambles - Credit: Sonya Duncan/Archant

Here are  18 suggestions for great walks to explore in Suffolk, but there are also bound to be wonderful areas to explore near your doorstep. 

Walking has become more important than ever over the past year, as for long periods it was the only exercise available to many people.

The easing of lockdown means there is now more choice of exercise available - but for many of us walking is still the best way to get fit and enjoy the open air, together with family, friends and pet dogs.

Family walks

Alton Water: The water park has plenty of well-laid out trails, including a full circular walk around the reservoir.

You can choose from an eight-mile ramble or shorter walks. All the trails are dog-friendly, but owners are asked to keep pets on their leads and out of the water. 

There are parking charges. Cafes are offering takeaway food and drink and toilets are open.

Alton Water near Ipswich is a great place for a walk

Alton Water near Ipswich is a great place for a walk - Credit: Amy Peckham-Driver

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Rendlesham Forest: There are several different walking trails around the forest, including the UFO trail, site of the famous incident in 1980, and two circular walks, one of which is easy-access and suitable for all abilities.

There are many trails to follow in Rendlesham Forest

There are many trails to follow in Rendlesham Forest - Credit: Amy Peckham-Driver

Walking trails do cross over cycle trails at times, so you will need to keep a close eye on children and dogs. You can download walk maps from the Rendlesham Forest website.

The forest site charges for parking. There are play areas and picnic areas available, and a mobile cafe offering takeaway food. Toilets are open. 

Some of the impressive trees in Rendlesham Forest

Some of the impressive trees in Rendlesham Forest - Credit: Amy Peckham-Driver

Thornham Walks: One of Suffolk's most popular places to take children for a walk is the Thornham Estate, in rural Suffolk near Eye, which has more than 12 miles of waymarked paths.

There are charges for parking. The Forge tearooms are open for takeaways and there is also a picnic area, and toilets are available.

Coastal walks

Dunwich Heath and Beach: This nature reserve, with its vast expanse of heathland, is great to explore.

You can download nature trails and ideas for family activities from the National Trust website. Dogs are allowed, but must be kept on a lead and stick to footpaths until August 31 to protect ground-nesting birds.

The tearoom is open for takeaways and toilets are available on a one in, one out basis. You don't currently need to book in advance for the car park, which is open from 9am to 6pm daily, but there are charges for non-National Trust members. The NT is also asking visitors to check its website for any updates before visiting.

Southwold to Walberswick: The walk from Southwold to Walberswick is around three miles, covering a section of the long-distance Suffolk Coast Path.

It's a lovely walk for children and if you take some buckets and lines with you, you could combine it with a crabbing trip. 

You can also go on many other walks in the area. There are various places to eat nearby including various takeaway options from Southwold Pier, and public toilets in the pier car park. 

Covehithe: One of Britain's most unspoilt beaches, Covehithe is popular with  birdwatchers, fossil hunters and dog walkers alike, with plenty of space to wander along the sands. 

The beach is accessible only by foot or bike, with the nearest available parking being at St Andrew’s Church. Walk across the fields and path to reach the beach.

Walk along Covehithe beach

A walk along Covehithe beach - Credit: Jane George/iWitness

You can also walk to Benacre and then back to the car along the cliff path if you would like a circular walk. This remote beach does not have facilities such as refreshments and toilets.

Nature walks

Gainsborough Trail Meadow Walk:  The Meadow Walk runs through Sudbury's ancient water meadows, and is the first section of the Gainsborough Trail, named after the famous artist.

The meadows are a great place to see a wide range of wild flowers, birds, insects and mammals, as well as some stunning views. Wellies are recommended.

The car park at Kingfisher Leisure Centre is close to the main entrance. If you download a walk leaflet and map from the Gainsborough Trail website, there are details of the public toilets in Sudbury. Shops and cafes in the town are nearby.

Bradfield Woods nature reserve: This Suffolk Wildlife Trust site near Bury St Edmunds is one of Britain’s finest ancient woodlands and a great haven for wildlife.  

It is home to many different types of butterfly and you may also see a wide variety of birds and some small mammals. It can be muddy, so remember your wellies!

There are five miles of trails, with three coloured trails of different lengths. The car park is free, and there are toilets and a picnic area.

Fungi spotted during a walk in Bradfield Woods

Fungi spotted during a walk in Bradfield Woods - Credit: Paul Templeton/iWitness

RSPB Minsmere: Right next to the National Trust's Dunwich Heath site, this famous bird reserve is one of the best places in the country to see an amazing range of wildlife.

You can download a trail guide leaflet from the RSPB website with a choice of circular walks to follow, including a two-mile coast trail, the 1.5-mile island mere trail and the one-mile woodland trail.

Birds to see here include the avocet, bittern and many more, depending on the season. The cafe is offering food to eat outside, and there are also picnic tables and toilets.

Dog on the top of a big hill on a walk at Tuddenham near Ipswich

Kingsley on the top of a big hill on a walk at Tuddenham near Ipswich - Credit: Amy Peckham-Driver

History walks

Clare Castle Country Park: This 36-acre park is not only a popular spot for walks along its own footpaths, but also the starting point for six different circular walks, taking in stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Known as Suffolk's smallest town, Clare is steeped in history,  including the castle ruins and Grade II listed station buildings within the park itself. 

Walk leaflets can be downloaded from the country park website. Refreshments are available from the Platform One cafe, open for takeaways, and toilets are available.

Clare is a "Walkers are welcome" town, and an independent organisation, Clare Walkers, has a whole range of walks on its website. It also offers regular guided walks and health walks, which need to be booked in advance.

Sutton Hoo: This unique, ancient site is more famous than ever following the release of the Netflix film The Dig, starring Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan.

The National Trust suggests various short walks, including an accessible route to the Royal Burial Ground and several walks through the woodland.

You can also go on the three-mile Sutton Hoo Ferry Cliff walk, which takes in woodland, fields and river bank and will take around two hours.

The National Trust site offers parking, refreshments and toilets. You are advised to book your visit in advance, and there are charges for non-NT members.

Hadleigh Railway Walk: If you are interested in railway history, this walk will take you along the path of the disused Hadleigh line through to Raydon Wood.

The tracks have long since gone, but the trackbed is popular with cyclists and horse riders as well as walkers. It is also a great place to walk dogs.

There are also many other attractive walks around Hadleigh, where you can admire its historic buildings and landscapes. Hadleigh Town Council has produced a booklet with six walk routes, including maps.

Dog walks

Orwell Country Park and Nacton Shores, Ipswich: This wild area next to the Orwell estuary includes Bridge Wood and Braziers Wood as well the Piper's Vale nature reserve. There are several trails to follow, including one down to the Nacton shores where dogs can paddle.

A walk on Nacton Shores

A walk on Nacton Shores - Credit: Amy Peckham-Driver

If you are walking through the Pond Hall Farm area, you need to stick to the footpaths and keep your dog on a lead.

There are no toilets or refreshments available.

 Fynn Valley walk, near Ipswich: The whole Fynn Valley walk is around nine miles, but you don't need to do it all at once.

Shorter walks along the route are popular with many dog owners, particularly the circular walk from Tuddenham to Playford. Dogs will enjoy climbing the hill at Tuddenham, and will also keep their owners fit!

Refreshments are available outdoors at Tuddenham Fountain but tables need to be booked in advance.

The section of the trail around Little Bealings is also a favourite for dog walks.

Hardwick Heath, Bury St Edmunds: Your dog can run off its lead in this 55-acre park, which is a mix of fields and wooded paths.

There are parking charges, and facilities include a picnic area and toilets.

A walk at Little Bealings

A walk at Little Bealings - Credit: Amy Peckham-Driver

River walks

Sailor's Path from Snape Maltings to Aldeburgh: This six-mile walk along the River Alde will take you through woodland and wetland, with some stunning landscapes along the way.

There is a section beside busy roads, so it is advisable to wear hi-vis clothing and take care. Of course, you could also choose to go on a shorter walk around Snape.

There are many places to buy refreshments in both Snape and Aldeburgh.

Melton to Woodbridge: Walking from Wilford Bridge in Melton to Woodbridge Tide Mill, along the banks of the Deben, will take around an hour. 

The popular walk offers the chance to see wildlife, boats and beautiful countryside.

Walkers enjoying the scenery at Flatford Mill

Walkers enjoying the scenery at Flatford Mill - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown/Archant

Flatford Mill: In the heart of Constable Country, you can take a stroll along the River Stour and admire the landscapes which inspired the artist's most famous paintings.

The best place to park is in the Flatford Mill car park, and you can then walk to Willy Lott's Cottage and past a lake to the River Stour, then back along the Stour Valley path.

Walking from Flatford to Dedham is another very popular route. 

Suffolk Walking Festival goes virtual

One of the UK's biggest walking festivals, this event is normally held in Suffolk each May.

Last year's event was cancelled due to Covid-19, and this year's again can't go ahead in its normal form, but organisers have decided to hold a virtual festival, running from May 22 to 31.

There will be a different walk of the day featured on the event website daily, as well as fun facts about the county, family activity sheets, videos and audios from around the county and more.

The event will also include a competition where you could win four tickets to next year’s festival, a year’s subscription to Suffolk Magazine, and £30 of vouchers for East of England Co-op.

For more details, visit the festival website or search for @suffolkwalkingfestival on Facebook.

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