Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Lark Valley paths around Flempton, Suffolk

Walks Summary
The plan for this trip was to walk the Bury to Clare Path with Gina. Partly in preparation for my forthcoming trip to walk the Cuillin Ridge albeit over "slightly" easier terrain, but primarily for us to do our first multi-day walk together since walking The Great Glen Way last October. 

In terms of achieving said objective the trip was a bit of a failure. Trying to cram a 3 night stay to do a two day walk so soon after Easter and the week before I go to Scotland, combined with both of us increasing our Cross-fit Training at Grange fitness was ambitious to say the least. The writing was on the wall as we arrived on the campsite at 10:30pm, but sleeping in until after 9am really put paid to the plan. The idea of getting to the walk start point in Bury by bus and at the walk end point before 5pm to catch the last bus back to Bury along with the subsequent connection back to the campsite was a non-starter.

So what should we do instead?  What normal people do when they go away for a few days break. Nothing. 

Nothing included a 4 mile circular walk from the campsite to explore the area heading for Culford along the Lark Valley Path. Almost straight away, I discovered I had left the SD card for my camera at home making that the third and last thing to go wrong on this trip. 
Second oldest Ironbridge in England. Built in 1805
over the River Cul for the first Marquis of Cornwallis
From now on it could only get better, and it did, firstly we came across the 2nd oldest iron bridge in England, built over the River Cul for the 1st Marquis of Cornwallis in 1805, landowner and owner of what is now Culford School. We also met a couple, the only two we saw all walk, who told us how beautiful Abbey Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds were with all the spring flowers and bulbs.
We saw lots of wild life and scenery we could only photograph with our phones, finishing up at The Greyhound in Flempton for a couple of pints of Aspells more than made up for lack of a decent camera. 

Back at the campsite that night we found a leaflet for a local nature reserve at Lackford Lakes, as it was only a couple of miles down the road we decided that would be where we would head for the next day.
Canada Goose
Again I was left wishing I had my camera with us seeing the likes of Heron, Canada Geese, Great Crested Grebe, Lapwing and Shelduck. Someone else even photographed a Kingfisher. We also managed to record birdsong of a Wren, Blackcap and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Not that we are expert orni..., ornoth..., orn.., th...,ththth.. bird watchers, but the staff/volunteers were only too willing to listen to our recordings and plaques in all the hides helped us with identification. Again we managed to walk over 4 miles around the various lakes and viewing the birds from several of the 
strategically placed hides to view the various bird species and wildlife in there natural habitat without interference from visitors.
Church of St Lawrence,
Finishing up in Lackford we thought about walking back to Flempton, but decided to catch the bus to Bury, have a look at Abbey Gardens recommended the previous day, then walk back to Flempton along The Lark Valley Path, reckon it will only be about 5 miles.

After coffee and tiffin in the aptly named "Really Rather Good" cafe we crossed the road passing through Abbey Gate to the Gardens which were every bit as good as had been promised, especially with the cathedral as a backdrop, where unbeknown to us was held the Lincoln copy of the Magna Carta on temporary display to commemorate next years 800th anniversary of its signing. More importantly to Bury this year is the 800th anniversary of the meeting in the abbey between King John and the barons which led to the Magna Carta.
Abbey Gardens, Bury St. Edmunds

We then set off for the station and Lark Valley Path start. After a further 30 minutes we reached the River Lark and the stunning beauty of the Suffolk countryside. We followed the River Lark for nearly 2½ miles to Hengrave reminding us both how much we enjoy river walking. A brief bit of country road walking then a cut across the fields at Little Farm brought us out on the main road through Culford. The final 2 miles was the reverse of yesterdays walk, through the grounds of Culford School along the River Cul to West Stowe. At this point the Lark Valley Path rejoins the River Lark, but we left the path to return to our van about 5 minutes away.
Bridge over River Lark where we leave
Lark Valley Path in West Stow to return to van in Flempton

It was just over 7 miles from Bury (not the estimated 5) taking about 3½ hours. The campsite is therefore an excellent half way point providing a lunch stop if you want to walk the nearly 14 miles in 1 day or an overnight stop if you want to do it in 2 days. The bus currently runs every 30 minutes during the day between Mildenhall and Bury making Lark Valley Caravan Park an excellent mid way base for the walk without the need to provide you own transport at either the start or finish of the walk.

Overall we walked 17 miles as opposed to the intended 19 miles from Bury to Clare, we also walked part of the Lark Valley Path preparing a later visit to do the entire walk end to end, discovered a bit of local history in the form of the Iron Bridge, along with an insight into the use of Culford Hall. Finally we found Lackford Lakes, somewhere else close to home just teaming with nature. Trip objectives not achieved? Doesn't sound like it to us.

Will definitely be returning to Flempton to not only complete the Lark Valley Path from end to end but also revisit Lackford Lakes equipped with camera this time to personally record sightings of birds we see.

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 20 April 2014
Walkers - Steve Smith, Gina Smith
Accommodation - Lark Valley Caravan Park
Start Point - Abbey Gardens, Bury St. Edmunds (TL 85634 64295)
Start Time - 16:21
Finish Point - Lark Valley Caravan Park (TL 81653 70188)
Finish Time - 18:52
Duration - 2hrs 31mins
Average pace - 2.84mph
Distance Walked - 7.14miles
Height Ascended - 106.83metres

Peaks visited


More Photographs
Limited photos in terms of quality as forgot SD card for Canon and had to rely on camera on our phones.
Limited in terms of quantity as had to preserve battery to produce gps tracklog.
Solid yellow arrow on red background, marker sign for Lark Valley Path.
Follow part of St Edmunds Way from Bury Station to Lackford at the same time.
Click on photograph to view slide-show