Long Melford to Lavenham railway walk

Long Melford, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 9AA

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A train in full steam leaving Long Melford Station in July 1957 © National Trust

A train in full steam leaving Long Melford Station in July 1957

Fallow deer grazing at Hatfield Forest © Richard Daniel

Fallow deer grazing at Hatfield Forest

Lavenham to Long Melford railway line.accident in 1891 © Suffolk Free Press

Lavenham to Long Melford railway line.accident in 1891

Site of Special Scientific Interest on Melford to Lavenham railway walk. © Michael Graham

Site of Special Scientific Interest on Melford to Lavenham railway walk.

Bridge Street railway bridge near Lavenham on the railway walk © Michael Graham

Bridge Street railway bridge near Lavenham on the railway walk

Beautiful Goldcrest perching on a branch © Peter Brash

Beautiful Goldcrest perching on a branch

Lavenham Guildhall a magnificent timber-framed building example © John Millar

Lavenham Guildhall a magnificent timber-framed building example

Route overview

This walk from Long Melford to Lavenham, through woods and open fields, largely follows the route of the old Great Eastern Long Melford to Lavenham railway line, providing the opportunity to see wild flowers, birds and animal wildlife in their natural habitat. Starting and finishing in these two well-preserved mediaeval 'wool' towns you can return to Long Melford by bus.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Map covering the route of Melford to Lavenham railway walk
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Melford Hall car park, grid ref: TL867462

  1. Before you start, if you have the time, visit magnificent Melford Hall - home of the Hyde-Parker family, or have a coffee in the tea room . Then starting from the Melford Hall car park, turn right out of the gate, and keeping to the same side of the road, walk 600 metres until reaching until reaching the Cherry Lane Garden Centre. Entering the garden centre walk just past the building entrance and look for the public footpath sign in front of you. This is known as Hare Drift.

    Show/HideRailway line

    The line (single track with passing places) from Melford to Bury St Edmunds, via Lavenham, opened in 1865 and closed to passenger traffic in 1961. Long Melford Railway station building still exists, (now a private house) and is at the far end of Long Melford High Street on the right hand side. For those of you who appreciate old steam railways and their history, here is a 1957 picture of a train leaving Melford Station in full steam.

    A train in full steam leaving Long Melford Station in July 1957 © National Trust
  2. Hare Drift continues along a concrete path until joining the main A134 Sudbury to Bury St Edmunds road. The traffic on this road can be very fast, so crossing the road with great care go through the gate on the opposite side of the road, and walking straight ahead, follow the footpath, which after a 100 yards or so, continues downhill.

  3. At the bottom of the hill turn left and follow the tree line ignoring a footpath sign to the left (St Edmund's Way). You will find an exit through the trees on the right hand side after about another 100-200 yards or so.

  4. Going through the trees continue across a small bridge over the River Chad, heading slightly uphill until exiting into a plain with scrub to the right. You can see 'signs' now covered with scrub, showing where the path was/should be.

    Show/HideDeer

    Point No. 4 is the most likely spot to see deer. None were to be seen when researching this walk, so the deer in this shot are fallow deer at Hatfield Forest (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatfield-forest/). Well worth a visit.

    Fallow deer grazing at Hatfield Forest © Richard Daniel
  5. Head up the plain for about 200 yards keeping the scrub to your right, until the path runs along-side some woodland to the left.

  6. Follow the path for about 400 yards until reaching a path 'crossroad'. The section after this is a 'permissive' footpath and dogs should be kept on leads.

  7. Keep on for about another 200 yards or so until the path enters 'Lineage Wood' to your left and 'Paradise Wood' to your right. This is the site of an 1891 railway derailment.

    Show/HideRailway accident

    On 17 October 1891 a train, 'tank engine' no.169 heading towards Long Melford, left the rails, overturned the engine and at least one carriage. The Suffolk Free Press report on the accident at the time, described the train as being 'thrown' down the embankment. Fortunately there were no fatalities but some severe injuries.

    Lavenham to Long Melford railway line.accident in 1891 © Suffolk Free Press
  8. When exiting the woodland you are now entering a section of railway cutting designated as a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

    Show/HideSpecial Scientific Interest

    This cutting is an area of heavy undergrowth and will invariably be found to be muddy and/or waterlogged. Selected areas of the banks of this cutting are being returned to grass, and others left as semi-natural woodland. The grassland is mown annually in late autumn and provides a valuable habitat for insects and wildlife

    Site of Special Scientific Interest on Melford to Lavenham railway walk. © Michael Graham
  9. You will have reached the end of the 'SSSI' section when reaching the Bridge Street railway bridge. The next section is now known as the 'Lavenham Walk'.

    Show/HideBridge Street railway bridge

    According to local legend, the ghost of one Mary Clarke has been seen at this point – she allegedly committed suicide here in 1892 after her lover refused to marry her when she became pregnant. She was not there on the day this picture was taken!

    Bridge Street railway bridge near Lavenham on the railway walk © Michael Graham
  10. Continue on the 'Lavenham Walk' which is now owned and maintained by Lavenham Parish Council after divestment from Suffolk County Council in 2012, until reaching some metal gates.

    Show/HideWildlife

    Many species have been recorded along this dis-used railway line including common and lesser whitethroat, blackcap, goldcrest, treecreeper, bullfinch, garden warbler and marsh tit, along with records of the unusual, such as pied flycatcher, redstart, whinchat, firecrest, red warbler, waxwing, little egret and red kite. Here is a goldcrest

    Beautiful Goldcrest perching on a branch © Peter Brash
  11. When reaching the metal gates you have reached the Park Road crossing. Crossing the road, go through the gates, and continue on for approximately 400 yards, until reaching Lavenham High Street to the right of the Bury road railway bridge.

  12. Now cross the road, and continue right up High Street, for approximately 300 yds, and turning left into Market Lane walk up to the Market Square. Lavenham Guildhall is across the Market Square, and you have now reached the end of your walk.

    Show/HideLavenham Guildhall

    Lavenham is famed for it's timber-framed buildings, and the Guildhall of Corpus Christi is not surprisingly, one of its finest examples. Browse the new exhibits on local Lavenham history and agriculture, and don't forget to make time for the tea-room and a jacket potato or a scone or two. A favourite is their speciality sausage roll.

    Lavenham Guildhall a magnificent timber-framed building example © John Millar

End: Lavenham Guildhall, grid ref: TL916493

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 4.5 miles (7.24 kms)
  • Time: 2 hours
  • OS Map: Landranger 155 TL867462
  • Terrain:

    Woodland, tree roots, field paths, public footpaths, permissive paths. Can be quite muddy and waterlogged through SSSI area. Adequate and waterproof footwear may be necessary. Dogs welcome under close control - on leads where signed. Take care crossing busy main A134 Sudbury-Bury St.Edmund's road.

  • How to get here:

    By bike : National Route 13 passes through Long Melford, see the Sustrans website for more information

    By bus : Chambers Coaches route 753 Bury. St Edmunds/Sudbury - Sudbury/Bury St Edmunds. See  Chambers Coaches

    By train: Station Road, Sudbury, CO10 6SU, 4 miles

    By road : Entrance to car park and grounds opposite village green, A1092 off the A134 - 14 miles from Bury St Edmunds, 4 miles from Sudbury

  • Facilities:

    • Food and drink : Melford Hall tea room (during opening times). Lavenham Guildhall tea room (during opening times). Other outlets available in both villages.
    • WC's : Melford Hall gatehouse (during opening times), Lavenham Guildhall and various other outlets.
    • Parking : Melford Hall car park (during opening times). Street parking (free) where available.
    • Gift Shops : Melford Hall and Lavenham Guildhall (during opening times)

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