Week 2 – What are those carvings?

The first full week back at work in 2018 and I have had to think a little more carefully about my daily walking goals.

As a full time teacher I get plenty of steps in around school, but I am trying to complete my mileage ‘boots on’. During the week this means walking around the street-lit pavements of our local estates and town centre each evening, usually with my husband, but sometimes with a podcast to keep me company. (1.78, 0.9, 3.19, 3.06 and 2.2 miles)

On Saturday I went out for a quarterly lunch with a group of ladies. We spent so much time talking we only left at 4.30pm realising that if we did’t leave soon, we would get caught up in football traffic leaving the Ipswich Town vs Leeds United match! In the dark that left walking a loop into town to achieve the day’s mileage. (4.09 miles)

So that left Sunday to reach this week’s target and we used another walk from our Suffolk book of walks – this time around Hawkeden and Thurston End to the South West of Bury St Edmunds.

Despite this village only being a few miles away, and passing the road sign to it almost weekly a few years ago, I had never been there. It is a pretty village with the church in the centre of the village green – apparently this is unique in England.

We crossed a ford, walked down the edges of fields and eventually into the valley of the River Glem.

As we climbed up to the other side of the valley, we realised why this part of the county is called the ‘Suffolk Heights’. I know that it is nothing compared with other counties in England, but picking our way along the muddy track certainly raised our heartbeats!

As we reached a road junction we decided to leave out the final footpath loops due to the muddy terrain and the late afternoon. What a surprise the walk along the road to Thurston End produced!

A series of sometimes fairly rudimentary wooden carvings or sculptures fixed onto the trunks of larger trees, invisible probably amongst summer foliage. We spent the next mile or so looking at all the larger trees, several of which had wooden clothes pegs attached to them. Many of these carvings had evidently been in the trees for some time, judging by the lichen growing on them, but one appeared to be much more recent.

An internet search and our questioning of people who have lived in Suffolk much longer than we have, has so far not revealed any further details about these carvings. Can anyone help us?

We walked past Thurston End Hall and back into Hawkeden where we looked inside the church.

Although we didn’t stop in the pub in Hawkeden at the end of our walk, we have been told that the food there is excellent (and judging by the number of cars outside it must be worth driving to), so I am sure that we will return to this part of our fascinating county later on in the year to sample the menu and other refreshements there. (5.79 miles)

Total week 2 = 21.01 miles

Running total = 41.79 miles

To reach 1000 miles target = 958.21 miles

Week 1 – A great start!

First week of a new year.

First week (or part of a week at least!) back in school.

First week to walk some miles towards the #walk1000miles challenge.

First year I plan to do the 1000 miles ‘boots on’.

After my first walk of the year in Essex on Monday (4.02 miles), on Tuesday I managed a walk around Ickworth garden and woodland. It is our local National Trust property and a favourite place for quickly ‘blowing off the cobwebs’.

I had made an early morning trip to Heathrow to drop off our son and when I met my friend for our walk it was raining heavily. So we did what any sensible person would do – went and had tea in the cafe first. It was a fairly quiet day so we were able to spend much longer over our conversation in the warmth of the tea room. By the time we left, the rain had slowed to a few light spots and we enjoyed Lady Albana’s Walk through the trees. (3.05 miles)

On Wednesday I was back at school and so for the next three evenings I went back to walking around the pavements of our estate with my husband in what we call our ‘midnight rambles’. Although it can be a bit cold and windy in places, the fresh air on my face definitely helps me to sleep better and stops me from being a couch potato – after all I have to reach my 10,000 steps per day! (1.9, 0.97 & 2.2 miles)

On Saturday we decided to use our Christmas present – Suffolk: 40 Coast and Country Walks by Darren Flint & Donald Greig. This is a lovely pocket-sized book which took us on a 5-mile circuit around Pin Mill on the banks of the River Orwell near Ipswich.

The Orwell Bridge near Ipswich

We have avoided Pin Mill in the summer because it get so busy, but by using the free parking in Chelmondiston we were able to join the circuit part way around it. Unfortunately we were unable to find an indoor seat at the Butt and Oyster pub in Pin Mill

Butt and Oyster pub at Pin Mill

and as it started to rain we decided to avoid the tables outside.

The beauty of this walk was the wide variety of terrain – village, farmland and parkland,

Woolverstone Church


and woodland

and we eventually managed a drink in the Red Lion pub at Chelmondiston,

A refreshing end to the walk!

so all was not lost! We will definitely go back again later in the year. (5.22 miles)

Sunday was another walk around Ickworth Park. It was rather muddy underfoot in places alongside the river, but on a cold and sunny winter afternoon, it was the perfect place to be. (3.42 miles)

I’m happy with my new year start and I am determined to get fitter, walk with more friends and see new places, both in Suffolk and in other counties. Will you join me?

Total week 1 = 20.78 miles

To reach 1000 miles target = 979.22 miles

2018 – A New Challenge

So it seems that 2017 was a year of not posting (oh dear!) about any of my walks. However, I not only did lots of walking, but I set myself a new target, which I have mostly kept to since 1st June 2017.

I have been following the #walk1000miles challenge for the past three years and when I totalled up the complete mileage for 2017 I found that I completed 1774.35 miles, so I had more than completed the 1000 miles. However much of this was during my normal daily activities, especially in the classroom, so this year I have decided to complete the challenge ‘boots on’ and will only track the exercise miles towards the total.

2018 Pledge

This will include the nightly walks with my husband on our ‘midnight rambles’ around the local pavements as well as walks like the one I completed today with my roommate from university

Along the Essex Way near Fordham

We have been friends for a very long time, so who better to start the year with after completing last year with a walk around Rougham airfield with my husband?

Rougham Airfield

And the target? Completing my 10,000 steps every day. There were only three days I didn’t manage in the 7 months from the beginning of June to the end of December and I plan to make sure that I keep up this target throughout 2018.

So do you fancy joining me? 1000 miles in a year is only an average 2.74 miles per day. Or, like The Proclaimers, you can walk 500 miles (then walk 500 more if you feel like it!).

I would love your company this year and do let me know in the comments if you will be joining me!

Walks around Nowton Park


Pond in Nowton Park

Nowton Park is owned by St Edmundsbury Council and covers almost 200 acres which was landscaped over 100 years ago. The park was once part of the Oakes family estate and is now a wonderful place for leisure and recreation.

It is a place we have visited many times. When the children were small they loved to run around amongst the trees and to use up their energy in the play area. As they got older our son would take part in football training on the all weather pitches. Now it is a place that I enjoy walking around with both my husband and my friends.

I have already taken a couple of rather muddy walks around the perimeter of the park, a distance of about 2 miles, but I have also walked into the park from outside, so my mileage has been increased.

The beauty of the park lies in its variety. Last week, volunteers were busy planting young trees

Planting Saplings

Planting Saplings in Nowton Park

and the sun shone beautifully on the snowdrops and some of the 100,000 daffodils which are beginning to turn the The Lime Avenue bright yellow.


Snowdrops in Nowton Park


Daffodils in The Lime Avenue at Nowton Park

It is a place for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy. I have pushed my elderly aunt around in her wheelchair before we visited the cafe for a light lunch. On Saturday mornings there is a regular park run and I have run around the park whilst competing in the Race for Life. Although there is a small parking charge it is a great place to visit in all seasons and one that I shall continue to enjoy, with its wildlife ponds, arboretum and a maze in the summer.

Often some of the best walks are on our doorstep.

Walk: 3.42 miles

Walk total this year: 28.29 miles

Overall total daily mileage: 205.8 miles

2015 Update and a new start in 2016

BSE tower

St Edmundsbury Cathedral Tower from the East

Ok I admit it – I rather fell off the posting side of this blog after the first three months last year 🙁

However, on the brighter side I did keep on walking. Perhaps not as much as I would like to have done, but better than in previous years, so I am giving myself a pat on the back and am moving onwards and upwards in 2016.

For those who are interested:

Walk total in 2015: 1366.69 miles

Overall total exercise mileage: 192.78 miles
(though I think my Fitbit may have missed some out in July)

So overall I beat the #walk1000miles challenge by 366.69 miles.

On the exercise front I managed almost 200 miles so only 1/5 of the total, but it was a good start and I am determined to do better this year.

On that note I took my first walk of the year this afternoon. A straightforward walk around Bury St Edmunds. It was a bit of a grey day, but I spent most of the walk listening to a podcast and I even walked down a road I had never been along before. That’s what I love about getting out on foot.

I was also able to wish fellow walkers a Happy New Year and smile at many of those I met. However it saddens me to see so many people walking around with a frown on their faces, refusing to look at those they pass. I realise that some people have other things on their mind, but my additional challenge this year is to smile at and say hello to as many of the people I meet or pass on my walks as possible. A smile will always make a difference and a new year is as good a place to start as any.

Abbey Ruins

Ruins of the Benedictine St Edmunds Abbey

Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2016!

Today’s walk: 4.40 miles

Caution: This path may be slippy in wet conditions.

Lavenham Church in beautiful Suffolk Countryside.

Lavenham Church in beautiful Suffolk Countryside.

St David’s Day and a bright, sunny but windy morning. We were finally able to take a walk, suggested by a friend, along the former railway line at Lavenham.

We had hoped to take this walk last weekend, but we were unable to get out on Saturday and so had done a shorter local walk around Nowton Park. We thought that we might do the walk yesterday, but the forecast was not particularly good and the weather became wetter and more miserable as the afternoon progressed.

I’m glad that we waited until today – when I saw the state of the path after yesterday’s rain, we would have been wading through a river if we had come yesterday!

Rather muddy Lavenham Walk footpath.

Rather muddy Lavenham Walk footpath.

Lavenham is one of the best preserved medieval villages in the UK with 320 listed timber-framed buildings. Lavenham’s wealth was built on the wool trade and by 1524 it was the 14th richest town in the country. The size of its church and timber-framed buildings still bear witness to this and it is a popular tourist destination.

We parked on the side of the road

Lavenham, Suffolk.

Lavenham, Suffolk.

and walked to the bridge where there was an entrance to the old railway line.

Entrance to the Lavenham Walk.

Entrance to the Lavenham Walk.

The Great Eastern Railway line came to Lavenham in 1863 as part of the Long Melford to Bury St Edmunds branch line; it was closed to passsengers in 1961 and goods traffic in 1965.

The site of the the old Lavenham Station is now being redeveloped for housing.

Redevelopment of the old Lavenham Station site.

Redevelopment of the old Lavenham Station site.

We were very glad of waterproof boots this week (there is a story there from last week!) and the sign (even with its spelling mistake!) made me smile as someone had crossed out ‘may’ and replaced it with ‘will’.

The path WILL be slippery when wet!

The path WILL be slippery when wet!

As we were to find out, it was not just wet, but a running stream in places.

Running stream down the footpath.

Running stream down the footpath.

Running stream down the footpath.

Running stream down the footpath.

However, despite the slippery and muddy conditions, it was an enjoyable walk, sheltered from the wind by the trees and there were several benches alongside the path.

As we came to a bridge which carried a minor road over the railway we were faced with something of a dilemma – did we continue on or go up onto the road?

Approaching the bridge.

Approaching the bridge.

Water under the bridge!

Water under the bridge!

Being intrepid adventurers, we pushed on, although it required careful manoevering around the watery fence. The path became more overgrown, but was still very muddy and we considered turning back to the bridge.

Avoiding the mud and water.

Avoiding the mud and water.

I’m glad that we didn’t though, as we soon came across another pill box, also on the same Eastern Command Line of defensive structures that we had seen two weeks earlier further north at Cavenham Heath.

Pill box on the Eastern Command Line.

Pill box on the Eastern Command Line.

We also found that we were now on the St Edmund Way, an 80-mile long distance path travelling from South to North across Suffolk (this will be one to follow more of later in the year, I think).

St Edmund Way marker.

St Edmund Way marker.

This time we had to take a higher path as the main one really was more like a river and we emerged alongside a field with a broad edge used as a path. We were then able to take a harder surfaced track (thankfully with the strengthening wind at our backs) up to a farm and on to the minor road which led into Lavenham.

Track to the farm.

Track to the farm.

We had some stunning views across to the church of St Peter and St Paul.

View to Lavenham Church.

View to Lavenham Church.

The village was much busier (we had only encountered six people and two dogs during our walk), but was a pretty end to our 4.5 mile walk.

Lavenham village signpost.

Lavenham village signpost.

Church of St Peter and St Paul, Lavenham.

Church of St Peter and St Paul, Lavenham.

With several tea shops, the Swan Hotel

Swan Hotel, Lavenham.

Swan Hotel, Lavenham.

and the lovely National Trust Guildhall, Lavenham is a beautiful place to visit.

The old railway walk is beautiful too and I look forward to returning in the summer, when hopefully the conditions underfoot will be less wet and muddy!

Today’s walk: 4.5 miles

Walk total this year: 42.11 miles

Overall total daily mileage: 210.44 miles

Walking with Friends

Panoramic view

Suffolk Panorama near Ixworth

This blog is deliberately named 1000 Miles with Friends as I decided that I wanted this challenge to not only be about walking the 1000 miles, but also about the enjoyment of being with friends as I walk.

So far I have walked with my husband and by myself (listening to a new ‘friend’ in Clare Balding’s “Ramblings” podcasts on BBC Radio 4).

As this is half term week I decided to take advantage of the holiday to go out for a walk with a fellow teacher. We have done a few short evening walks previously and I asked my friend where she wanted to go. She has a copy of an AA book of walks and suggested a route from that book which went from the village of Ixworth past two different types of mill, one is noticeable from the A143 which passes it.

Ixworth Walk Details.

Ixworth Walk Details.

So armed with OS Explorer maps 229 and 211 (guess what – we were on the edge of the two maps again!) and the route guide, we set off on a beautiful morning from the village hall carpark in Ixworth (932703).

Due to the heavy rain we had experienced earlier in the week, the footpath alongside the fields was incredibly muddy and it feel like we were walking on soft sand. We met a few dog walkers, but as we moved further from the village there were just the two of us in a rural landscape.

Ixworth walk.

Ixworth walk.

After we turned south to cross the A143 the first of two mills, Pakenham windmill is perched on the opposite hill. This mill was built in 1831 and is Grade II listed. Restored in 2000, it is in working order and although we did not go inside on this occasion, it is somewhere to go back and visit, along with Pakenham Water Mill, which is only a short distance away.

Pakenham Windmill.

Pakenham Windmill.

Pakenham Water Mill.

Pakenham Water Mill.

The parish of Pakenham is unique in Britain in having both a working watermill and a working windmill. The 18th century watermill, the last working watermill in Suffolk and now owned by the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust, is on a Domesday site.

One sight to make us smile was the collection of topiary, a giant spider, the Pied Piper and crocodiles and rhinoceros beside the mill pond.

Topiary Spider.

Topiary Spider.

African Waterhole Topiary!

African Waterhole Topiary!

A little further on from the mill we found the hide at Micklemere a small wetland reserve run by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Mickelmere Wetlands.

Mickelmere Wetlands.

We spent ashort while here enjoying the sight of the birds feeding at the edge of the water and then swooping in flocks as they were disturbed.

Waterfowl at Mickelmere.

Waterfowl at Mickelmere.

Mickelsmere from the Hide.

Mickelsmere from the Hide.

I think I need to ask for a small set of binoculars for my birthday next month so that I can go back to this wonderfully tranquil spot to watch and identify the birds.

We walked back into the village of Ixworth and after removing our boots, went for a spot of lunch at the Coffee House, the second shop opened last summer by the owners of my local Coffee House. I would definitely recommend both of their establishments having tested them both!

Today’s walk: 5.26 miles

Walk total this year: 33.47 miles

Overall total daily mileage: 169.32 miles

On My Doorstep

St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

After yesterday’s rain, today’s sunshine revived my spirits and as I had to take a trip into town, I decided to walk rather than taking the car and paying for parking (though parking is free after 3pm on a Tuesday!).

Bury St Edmunds is a beautiful market town with its medieval grid of houses, a new shopping complex but also streets of independent shops, the Abbey and is named in the Telegraph as the 13th best place in the country to bring up a family. No wonder I love living here.

Safe footpaths and cycle paths lead into town and a walk through the spacious Abbey Gardens always lifts my spirirts.

Safe footpath / cyclepath into town.

Safe footpath / cyclepath into town.

Abbey Gardens - Dovecote

Abbey Gardens – The Dovecote in the Abbot’s Garden.

Walking through the varied shopping streets and up to Moyse’s Hall Museum, the oldest building in town, a former gaol and police station which has been on the market place since 1180.

Angel Hill

Angel Hill

Moyse's Hall Museum.

Moyse’s Hall Museum.

Back through the historic grid to the Norman Tower which houses the cathedral bells and down to the River Lark through No Man’s Meadows.

The Norman Tower

The Norman Tower housing the cathedral bells.

No Man's Meadows

No Man’s Meadows Local Nature Reserve.

Past the Rugby Club and alongside The Leg of Mutton field, which had been one of the vineyards for the Abbey in the 13th Century and has recently been the heated subject of possible development.

Bury Rugby Club.

Bury Rugby Club.

The Leg of Mutton field.

The Leg of Mutton field.

Almost 4 and a half miles on a bright, sunny afternoon. What better way to spend some time recharging my batteries during half term?

Today’s walk: 4.44 miles

Walk total this year: 28.21 miles

Overall total daily mileage: 161.97 miles

Finding New Places

Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve

Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve

I have been rather quiet here for a few weeks for two reasons. First we had some appalling weather and despite good intentions to go out for a short walk, the snow and strong winds finally put us off. Second I was off work ill, wrapped up in a blanket with a box of tissues beside me. Even now I have not fully recovered; but I didn’t let that stop me from getting out and about again!

I have been itching to get out walking and discovering the delights of Suffolk. This week is the Half Term holiday and I have some catching up to do. Yesterday morning was my lazy catching-up morning when I finished reading Clare Balding’s book Walking Home: My Family and Other Rambles. This book (and her previous one My Animals and Other Family) is an enjoyable read, which has really whetted my appetite for getting out and not only doing short walks, but also walking greater distances as the weather improves and the days get longer.

In an attempt to find local walks I consulted my Ordnance Survey Explorer maps (226 and 229). Why is it that I always seem to be in the corner of a map and need more than one map to cover the whole area?! I also looked at a leaflet by Suffolk County Council of Easy Going Trails.

From this I discovered Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve – which I didn’t even know existed, yet is only 10 miles from home.

On a grey afternoon we drove up a minor no through road from Tuddenham and parked by Tuddenham Woods (grid reference 745721).

Cavenham Heath NNR Sign

Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve.

There were a few other vehicles around and as we walked up the road towards the heath we were passed by a van marked Search and Rescue on the front and Search and Rescue Dogs on the back. Once we were on the heathland with its low scrubby heather we could see what a good area this would be for training the dogs – in fact we passed one owner who was doing just that with her spaniel.

Natural England describes the site:

Much of Cavenham Heath NNR is typical Breck heathland with dry, acidic sandy soil supporting acid grassheath, heather heath with patches of bracken and sand sedge. In addition there are riverside meadows, woodland, wet woodland scrub and small areas of fen.

Yet it was more than this, even in the middle of February. The silver birch trees filling the sky with their handsome winter shapes – their bright trunks shining against the background;

Silver Birch trees at Cavenham Heath

Silver Birch trees at Cavenham Heath

Silver birch trees at Cavenham Heath

Silver birch trees at Cavenham Heath.

fungi and lichen on natural and man-made structures alike;

Fungi and lichen on post.

Fungi and lichen on post.

Fungi and lichen

Lichen on pillbox walls.

and yellow flowers on gorse bushes contrasting with the browns and greys of last season’s heather.

Yellow gorse flowers

Yellow gorse flowers.

We noted on the different soil colours,

Light sandy soil.

Light sandy soil.

Darker peaty soil.

Darker peaty soil.

the sheep grazing amongst the heather and the rabbits and mole hills. A notice told us that volunteers were trapping the rabbits to check on their numbers, their health and whether they were pregnant before being released.

We were following part of the Icknield Way Trail with an axe logo on its signs,

Icknield Way direction sign

Icknield Way direction sign.

a long distance footpath from the Ridgeway Path in Buckinghamshire to the Peddars Way in Norfolk and I now feel the urge to walk longer sections of this route. It took us to the River Lark and the remains of Temple Bridge, which was originally of medieval origin before later bridges were built there. The name comes from the community (preceptory) of the Knights Templars, who were thought to be there in the early 14th century, before their order was dissolved.

Pipeline over the remains of the Temple Bridge

Pipeline over the remains of the Temple Bridge.

Along with this older history were much more recent remains – those of WW2 concrete pillboxes.

WW2 Concrete Pillbox.

WW2 Concrete Pillbox.

WW2 Concrete Pillboxes

WW2 Concrete Pillboxes – part of the Eastern Command Stop Line.

I did some investigation about why there were so many in a small area and found that they formed part of the Eastern Command Line, one of a series of barriers or stop-lines formed by concrete pillboxes, gun emplacements, anti-tank obstacles, trench systems, minefields and barbed wire entanglements which utilised natural as well as man-made features such as rivers, canals and railway embankments. They were designed to ensnare and delay the German forces and were built in the summer of 1940 by local contractors. This section ran from Mildenhall to Sudbury via Bury St Edmunds.

This was a gentle three-mile walk – we still need to sort out my husband’s footwear to stop him getting blisters, but it opened my eyes to another fascinating part of our local landscape and historical past, which I would never have known anything about otherwise.

Sometimes we are so busy gazing into the distance that we fail to see what is on our own doorsteps. This is one resolution for this year that I am really enjoying keeping.

Today’s walk: 3.01 miles

Walk total this year: 23.77 miles

Overall total daily mileage: 151.62 miles