Derek, 84, sets the pace with a scenic Suffolk walk

Walking enthusiast Derek Magnall who has created the Magnall Round

Derek Magnall who has compiled a number of high profile walks has created one for Needham Market - Credit: Steve Magnall

A keen walker now in his 80s has created a scenic 21-mile circular walk around Needham Market in a bid to attract more visitors to Mid Suffolk.

Derek Magnall, has had a passion for walking since the late 1970s when he joined his local Ramblers group in Bury in Lancashire.

He went on to write and publish eight walks in his native Lancashire and in Yorkshire. The Two Crosses Circuit, Ramsbottom Round and Spanner’s Round continue to be used by walkers today.

Now aged 84 and living in Suffolk, Derek – whose son, Steve, is co-owner of the Two Magpies Bakery business in Suffolk – still walks six to 10 miles a day during winter or up to 30 miles a week – and 50 miles a week in summer.

He moved to Needham Market 18 years ago and says he hopes the Magnall Round will become as popular as his previous walks and give “much pleasure” to future walkers.

His walk around the historic market town – named the Magnall Round — starts and finishes at Needham Market railway station.

River view on the Magnall Round in Suffolk

A scenic view of the river on Derek Magnall's walk around Needham Market - Credit: Steve Magnell

It uses public rights of way, tracks and riverside paths and passes through the parishes of Barking, Darmsden, Baylham and Great Blakenham, joining the riverside path of the River Gipping. 

Derek is a member of the Long Distance Walkers Association, having served on its national executive as national group secretary for four years and national publicity officer for five years.

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He also represented The Long Distance Walkers – the governing body for walkers – on the North West Sports Council. During that time, he would regularly walk distances of between 20 and 100 miles. 

“He entered events all over the North of England and got well known as a fast and experienced walker after a number of years. In January 1983, he set up his own Long Distance Walkers Group in East Lancashire which is still a thriving group today,” explained son Steve.

In 1985 Derek was asked to join the national executive of the Long Distance Walkers Association and went on to set up 12 more Long Distance Walkers Groups across the UK. Two were in Scotland and he also set up a Norfolk and Suffolk group in 1988.

In the 1990s, he was asked by the Co-operative Wholesale and Retail Society to write a circular walk of around 20 miles from Toad Lane, Rochdale, the birthplace of the co-operative movement which would be named the Pioneers’ Round. It was first walked in 1994 to celebrate 150 years of the co-operative movement. 

In total, Derek has written 10 long distance walks and some of his books are still available online or via the Long Distance Walkers Association.

He has tackled all types of walking over the years including reaching the summits of more than 100 munros – or mountains of 3000-plus feet. He enjoys club walking as well as solo and some of his best memories are trips with friends on the West Highland Way, the Cotswold Way, the Dales Way and many others.

During lockdown he decided to write the Magnall Round – which can be completed in one go or by splitting the walk into four circular ones using public transport if needed – “to show the beauty of the countryside in Mid Suffolk and draw more visitors to the area”.

The Magnus Round walk passes through the rolling countryside of Mid Suffolk – a place rarely visited by outsiders and “a hidden gem”, says Derek.

A view of Badley Hall Farm, Needham Market

The Magnall Round walk takes in a view of Badley Hall Farm - Credit: Steve Magnall

Construction of the Stowmarket Navigation in 1793 enabled the transport of goods between Ipswich and Stowmarket of loads up to 40 tons on lighters, or shallow draft barges, pulled by horses. 

The 18-mile journey took eight hours to complete. The Navigation closed at the beginning of the 20th century but in 1970, the Gipping Trust was formed with a mission to restore it to its former glory, with work continuing today. 

Passing Needham Lake – popular for picnics and watching birdlife – the walk carries on to Creeting St Mary and Creeting St Peter before reaching Badley and Battisford with a number of churches en route. The smallest church can be found in Darmsden, a little hamlet with no more than 17 houses and the second smallest district in Suffolk. 

For a route description email walkingmansuffolk@gmail.com

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