Woodland wonders

Mud, mud, glorious mud – it’s likely you’ll encounter plenty of it on this week’s seasonal walk. At the time of walking some rain-soaked field paths were cut up badly, necessitating the wearing of stout footwear.

The walk itself takes you from the urban fringe of Stowmarket to the neighbouring village of Onehouse. A highlight of the walk is a visit to Northfield Wood where you are welcomed to look round the wood by the Woodland Trust. In view of problems surrounding the spread of the current ash tree disease, the trust advises walkers to clean their boots before leaving the woodland.

With a playing field in front, turn right and cross the access road you just came in on. Pass a play school building on the left and continue straight ahead along a narrow path that runs between hedgerows. Carry on beside the rear of houses with a raised green bank on the left. Pass more sports fields on the left to meet a narrow thicket and cross a shallow ditch to enter a cultivated field.

Continue ahead and walk towards a detached cottage in front. You may incur quite a lot of mud here just before reaching Shepherds Farm. At the time of walking, machinery harvesting a sugar beet crop had churned up the mud across the public right of way, briefly making the going something of a challenge.

With the cottage on the right, continue along the field edge beside a high hedge. Keep following the path as it curves along the headland and afterwards goes down the other side of the field. Turn left at the bottom and continue beside the field edge, accompanied by a hedge and ditch on the right.

Turn right further ahead when you reach a two-way footpath sign. Follow the path running beside a bramble thicket to pass through a gap in a rail fence. Afterwards continue ahead to emerge beside an access road at Chilton Leys. Turn right here and afterwards bear quickly left to shortly pass an open cart shed and enter a cultivated field. Stay on the left edge and make your way gradually towards Northfield Wood in front.

When you reach the woodland edge, bear right and go left further ahead. The path now straightens up and shortly curves right again. In about another 75 yards turn left as signposted to enter Northfield Wood. According to the trust’s website, there are ongoing plans to restore the wood to its original broadleaf cover. The wood is starting to open up and wide rides re-established.

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Continue straight ahead into the wood and afterwards veer left ahead. Generally keep bearing in a left-ish direction, especially where minor paths are coming from the right. Eventually a wide ride takes you towards the far edge of the wood, where caravans are seen parked on the other side. Turn left here to join another ride, pass some stacks of cut timber and quickly bear right to exit the woodland by a kissing gate. You may find a bowl hereabouts containing disinfectant in which to dip your footwear.

An access driveway now takes you to Woodland Close where you turn left to join Forest Road. Pass the community hall on the left and shortly turn right as signposted over a stile to continue on a field edge path with a hedge on the left. Further ahead is the outline of the tall spire of Gt Finborough church with the round tower of St John the Baptist at Onehouse partially seen away to the right.

Turn left at the boundary to join a broad grassy path. Continue ahead and shortly ignore a path going right. Carry on along a break field path to reach the field boundary. Turn right and walk beside a hedge on the left, soon passing a path going left through an enclosure of trees. Continue for a short distance to the field corner and turn right. With a hedge on the left, follow the shortly descending path to eventually emerge beside the Shepherd & Dog pub, with the entrance to the Lakeside seasonal tearoom in front.

Turn left into Lower Road, cross straight over at the road junction ahead and continue on a footway. Cross a minor road and head up Finborough Road where the footway now swaps sides. Continue ahead for about another 400 yards and crossover the road where it bends left, just before reaching a property named The Brambles.

Climb up a bank, enter a cultivated field, cross it and repeat the same in the adjoining field. Finally emerge into Union Road and turn right to shortly pass the former Stow Lodge hospital. In a few more paces turn left beside a red mail box and follow a path running between hedgerows back to your point of departure.