Cyril Francis gets away from it all in mid-Suffolk
Much of this week’s walk, which takes you from Barking to Willisham and back again, is way off the beaten track and well away from the madding crowd. There is plenty of rolling countryside to enjoy, together with attractive woodland edges and superb views across the valleys. However, with excessive rainfall during recent months, expect plenty of mud and squelch.
From the car park, find a descending path to pass the church on the right. Note the Cedars of Lebanon trees said to have been planted as seeds by a former vicar in the early 18th century. Turn right when meeting the B1078 and continue along a footway.
Soon pass the entrance to a nursing home and afterwards pass beside a water channel and some railings. Make your way just past a traffic restriction sign in front, cross the road and enter a cultivated field over a concreted bridge as signposted.
Continue along a gradually-rising field edge and later pass a fragment of ancient woodland known as Swingen’s Wood. Keep forward to reach a hedge in front, go down and up some steps in a bank and afterwards turn right.
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Carry on ahead and shortly cross a shallow ditch. Turn quickly left and follow the field-edge path running beside a hedge. Cross a sleeper bridge at the boundary, turn left and ignore the next path going left.
The grassy field-edge path gradually takes you towards a crossways path in front. Turn right when you reach the path and follow it to arrive beside a strip of concrete at Tarston Farm.
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Turn left and follow the concreted area past some farm buildings and a strip of beech hedge. Curve left ahead, draw level with a bungalow building and turn right as indicated.
Continue ahead on a grassy headland path that later bears left and becomes partially enclosed by hedgerows. When you reach a track going right to Brakefield Farm, carry straight on along a now-firm access track.
Pass Chaffinch Wood and emerge beside paths going left and right at Winneygreen Farm. Quickly turn right and pass a house and barn sited beside the path. Continue ahead to join a descending path that later brings you to Crow Hall.
Pass a pond on the left and make your way uphill on a hard surface. Go past the entrance to Strawberry Hall and quickly reach the Offton road, with Willisham church appearing opposite.
Turn right here and continue along the road for about another 300 yards. Turn right through a gate as signposted and continue on a wide path accompanied by a ditch on the left. Head towards Ditch Wood in front and afterwards turn left when reaching the woodland edge.
With woodland on the right, proceed to the boundary, enter the field in front and turn right. Keep going ahead beside the field edge and woodland opposite, to approach a corner at right angles. Stay on the path for another 300 yards or so to eventually arrive at a footpath T-junction.
Take the right turn here to join a broad track, still running beside the woodland edge. At the next corner, bear left down a sloping bank and turn right at the bottom. Continue with a hedge on the right to reach the field boundary. Go down some steps in the bank, cross a cart track and maintain direction with a ditch on the right.
Stay on the path; later go right and left over a footbridge, continuing with a hedge on the left. As you near some rear gardens further ahead, look left for a small gate enclosed in a wooden fence.
Pass through the gate, go down a grassy slope and afterwards pass between buildings to emerge onto a driveway that leads to the Barking Forge. Cross over the road, continue on a footway and retrace former steps back to your starting point at Barking church.