Walk 23 – Stanstead Walk
Walk by Roger Medley
This walk has the distinction of going through the area of the highest point in Suffolk. This is supposed to be in Stanstead Great Wood but this does not agree with the contours on the Explorer 196 Sudbury, Hadleigh and Dedham Vale Ordnance Survey map which show a higher point to the west. The circuit also takes you down part of the drive and through the grounds of Kentwell Hall. The distance is almost 7 miles. Don’t be put off by the mention of crossfield paths. All are short and should be obvious and cleared during the growing season. There are several possible wrong turnings so it is advisable to take a copy of the above map for reassurance.
This is a longer walk than usual which visits several parishes and includes a section in the grounds of Kentwell Hall. The distance is almost 7 miles. Don’t be put off by the mention of crossfield paths. All are short and should be obvious. There are several possible wrong turnings so it is advisable to take a copy of the Explorer 196 Sudbury, Hadleigh and Dedham Vale Ordnance Survey map for reassurance.
Park in the car park beside Stanstead church to be found up the hill from the Boxted to Long Melford road. There are benches on the little green and in the churchyard. The church is usually open, through a side door, and framed cases on the walls show pages from the Book of the Mass written in the 13th Century. Start your walk at the lych-gate and follow the circular walk waymarks through the churchyard and head down the hill between post and rail fences. Ignore a path to the left and soon reach a field. Within 20 paces the right of way veers left through a growing crop cutting off the field corner. There are good views across the valley to the left. On reaching the far side continue ahead downhill along the field edge with a wood on your right – a bluebell haven in April/May. Ignore options to the left and right. You will eventually go down the grandest set of steps you will ever see on a public right of way to reach the road.
Cross with great care, turn right and take the left fork road towards Glemsford. Go up the road until the first corner. A fingerpost, just past a concrete pad and hidden behind a beech tree encourages you to turn sharp left across the field to reach the valley bottom. You follow the valley to the right and soon drop down a bank and join a ditch on your left. You should stay with this for some way ignoring all turning options. You will eventually reach a wooden footbridge on the left and a Stour Valley Way sign indicating a path across low lying meadows. DO NOT take this option but take the uphill cross field path to the right (circular walk waymark) On reaching the far side continue ahead with a hedge on your right. Follow waymarks through the hedge and continue downhill now with the hedge on your left. At the end of the hedge, and field, turn left (waymark) After 50 paces turn right to head across another short crossfield path aiming for the right hand end of the bungalow in the distance. Join a vehicle track at a corner and continue in the same direction. The track skirts and then enters (left turn) the rambling grounds of a bungalow. Ignore a restricted byway to the right and follow the circular walk waymarks to cross the River Glem. Walk through an uncultivated area with a hedge on the left. Reach a minor road where you turn left and almost immediately right (opposite Parsonage Farm) on another footpath. Follow this sheltered path through a marshy area into a field on the left and keep the hedge on your right as you trudge uphill. As you approach the top you need to cross a footbridge so that the hedge is now on the left. At the hedge corner continue ahead (waymark) along another short crossfield path to reach the road. (If the path is not indicated continue to follow the headland and emerge in the far corner) In either case turn left for 80 paces and then take a green tunnel footpath on the right. This leads across a field end and you are then faced with a large arable field. The path should be marked in some way (bamboo canes and a waymark when we were there) Head out into centre of the field for 120 paces where you meet a track at right angles. Turn left and you will be led to a vehicle track behind the hedge at the far side. (This is probably a throw-back to the days of smaller fields and the subsequent removal of hedges to make room for the larger farm machinery, but the right of way remains. It is possible to turn right at this point – the middle of the field – and head into Long Melford for refreshments, then re-join the route on the drive to Kentwell Hall but this will add another two miles to the total distance). Turn right and follow the track until it turns sharp right. At this point continue ahead through a squeeze stile (waymark) next to an oak. Further squeeze stiles lead you through a series of small paddocks in the grounds of Kentwell Hall. Long Melford church is obvious on the right. The first and last paddock may contain Longhorn cattle or Suffolk sheep both of which are docile. Climb a stile to exit the last paddock and reach the main drive to Kentwell Hall.
Turn left. Just before the entrance gate go left through a 5-bar gate and divert (official path diversion waymark) around the actual gardens. There are good views of the hall. Go through a second gate. There could be more livestock in this paddock. Follow the vehicle track but turn right before going through a third gate and walk beside a hedge to a squeeze stile in the far corner. Rejoin the vehicle track and continue ahead. You now have a longish stretch of track walking, almost a mile, ignoring waymarks on either side and you will eventually reach the neglected buildings of Kiln Farm. Ignore a possible right turn just before the first and stay with the track to pass a pond on the right. The track becomes more grass covered as it veers left, right, left to find and accompany a ditch on the left. This continues as a headland track for some while passing into a second field still with the ditch on your left. You will soon find the trees of Stanstead Great wood barring your way. Do not enter the wood but follow the perimeter turning right and then left and left again (waymarks) all the while continuing downhill until you reach a vehicle track. Use this veering slightly right to reach a minor road. Turn right and towards the top of the hill climb the steps on the left-hand bank and cross 2 small fields to return to Stanstead. The church and car park will be facing you on the left.
Originally walked 22.3.2009
If these notes are confusing or inaccurate or the information is wrong, please let me know. If they are helpful, or if you have any other comments, likewise.
The Wickhambrook W.I. Walking Group meets every Wednesday morning at 10am starting from the MSC car park for walks in the village or slightly further afield. We walk for about two hours and cover about five miles, depending on how much chatting is taking place. There are usually six of us, although we have had a dozen occasionally, dogs are welcome too.