Exploring dragon country
- Credit: Archant
Bill Baldry enjoys the hills and woods on the Suffolk side of the Stour valley.
The River Stour divides Bures St Mary from Bures Hamlet in Essex, and the rising valley side up to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust owned Arger Fen Nature Reserve provides some of the steeper walking hills in Suffolk.
From the community centre turn right and at the edge of the village turn left towards Claypits Avenue. The road becomes a cart track as it passes Bures Community Orchard and Wood, a recently created area for locals and passers-by to enjoy. After a steady climb, pause at the top to take in the view and read the memorial plaque to Tim Sloane.
Go left, then right at the road and right again by Fysh House Farm, then straight ahead to Chapel Barn. This is claimed to be the site of King Edmund’s coronation in 855 AD and was also used as a hospital during the plague in 1739. Use the permissive path to the right of the chapel to see the dragon carved into hill opposite. Return to the main path and turn right into open countryside with the path to follow visibly arcing its way across the next hillside. There is a thoughtfully provided bench seat to enjoy the view, especially as the sun goes down.
Cross Assington Brook, via two awkward stiles, then climb following the St Edmund Way sign. Go right, then left and left again at the road and continue to reach the entrance to Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Arger Fen and Spouse’s Vale. This wonderful woodland nature reserve is one of contrasts from dry wooded slopes to wet valley floors. It has interest throughout the year but the best time to visit is in the spring for carpets of bluebells. There is the choice of three trails to enjoy - 0.3 mile (blue arrows), 1 mile (green arrows) and 2.5 mile (black arrows). Make time to take in the beauty and tranquillity, disturbed only by the occasional aircraft flying overhead en-route to Stansted.
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If you choose to do the 2.5 mile trail, on the boardwalk section ignore the footpath sign to the right and go left to complete the loop of Spouse’s Grove.
Having enjoyed Arger Fen continue down the road and turn left after crossing the ford. Follow Assington Brook, occasionally switching sides. Through a metal kissing gate go right along the field edge. Soon switch sides of the brook again then pass a small reservoir and continue until you reach a Restricted Byway at Moat Farm. Another climb, sticking with the driveway, brings you to the main road. Turn right for 250 yards then left into St Edmund’s Lane, known locally as Dead Man’s Lane as it is thought a gibbet stood here.
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Back in Bures go left and right looking at the period cottages especially the lovely painted carvings on the beams of W.A.Church Ltd. Walk through the churchyard of the 14th century Bures church which is noted for its fine porches, north and south. Emerge on Church Square and head towards the Three Horseshoes then follow Nayland Road back to the start.