Ickworth South Pleasure Grounds walk, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk
The South Pleasure Grounds perhaps have the most to offer for a great walk. With gently rising ground, it offers some magnificent views of the Rotunda and the rest of the parkland. It's a wonderful mixture of open parkland and woodland glades taking along its route the church, Walled Garden and obelisk monument to the 4th Earl of Bristol.
This walk can be enjoyed in all seasons offering the perfect opportunity to discover the changing landscape. Perfect for adventurous families, and also for your four-legged friends whom, away from the main visitor areas surrounding the house, can explore to their hearts content, but on leads please.
Porter's Lodge visitor reception grid ref: TL815616
Starting at the Porter's Lodge visitor reception take the path to the right of the Rotunda, through the 5-bar gate, and continue down the hill towards the church and Walled Garden
St. Mary's church
St Mary's Church now restored and opened by the Ickworth Church Conservation Trust. It's not actually owned by the National Trust but remains still with the Hervey family, the original estate family dating back many generations. The earliest part of the church dates from the middle of the 13th century and therefore to the very beginnings of Ickworth estate. The church has been beautifully restored with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund and is well worth a peek inside.
Just past the church, go straight ahead, turning off the hard road onto the grass path that leads to the left of the Walled Garden. Go through the five- bar gate and immediately bear left on the grass path veering away from the brick wall. Within a couple of minutes you'll see our bird hide on your right.
The Cambridge volunteering group built this bird hide, and it's a real treat to sit there and watch the wide variety of birds enjoying a few tasty treats courtesy of our rangers. How many different birds will you spot whilst relaxing in this idyllic location?
Continuing along this path past the bird hide, cross over the wooden foot bridge and taking the right hand fork in the path, climbing a short slope bringing you to the Fairy Lake.
The Fairy Lake would have been used in the 1800s as a secondary source of water for the family home in the East Wing of our Rotunda. The old pumping station that is still there today is now a great habitat for toads. The Fairy Lake itself was known to have been very deep, but is now extremely overgrown and has become a wonderful haven for wildlife. No one knows why it was called the Fairy Lake, but given its idyllic and enchanted setting, it seems a likely spot for the family's children to have called it such, and the name has stuck.
Turn right at the Fairy Lake and continue along the footpath and take the second right turn marked Katharine's Wood.
The Round House
The Round House on your right was originally used as a shooting lodge by the family and shooting parties could last up to three to four days. The Round House in its idyllic setting is used today as a holiday cottage.
In Katharine's Wood continue to the end of the path until you reach a cottage called Ivy Cottage. Turn right at the cottage and follow the path until reaching the beginning of Lownde Wood.
At Ivy Cottage there's a break in the woods, offering some magnificent views across the parkland. On a good day you should be able to see the Rotunda in the distance.
Enter Lownde Wood on the patch between the Lownde Wood and red footpath way marker.
Lownde Wood is one of the oldest woods in the park and is described as ancient woodland. Due to its relatively remote location in the park, it's a good place to spot deer and other wildlife.
In Lownde Wood follow the path, firstly bearing right and then bearing left. On your left you will pass an observation post before coming to a clearing. Cross over the clearing and enter the wood again. On your right hand side you will come to a metal fence, continue on the path to a Y junction and take the right grassy footpath.
At the crossroads turn left and you will cross a small wooden bridge. Follow the dirt track which will lead you to a small brick bridge at the corner of the field. Keep following the path, passing a rusty, corrugated and ruined metal cabin on your right.
At the next junction turn right and follow the path until you reach a T junction where you'll see an observation post. Turn right and go through the gate into the field.
When through the gate turn right, and follow the wood-line for a short time keeping it to your right, until you can see the Rotunda in the distance ahead of you.
Leave the wood-line and head across the field towards the Rotunda, passing laid-down tree trunks and through a gate on your way. You're heading for a kissing gate, which is lined up with the centre of the Walled Garden just beyond it.
Go through the kissing gate and turn left. Walk by the side of the Canal Lake and cross over the decorative foot bridge at the end of the lake.
Walled Garden and Canal Lake
The centre of the Walled Garden overlooking the lake contains the First Earl's summer-house and was used as a social picnicking area. The remainder of the Walled Garden was used as a kitchen garden providing the family, staff and guests with produce.
Having crossed the foot bridge, keep the Walled Garden to your right and continue up the slope to the hardened footpath. Turn right and retrace your steps past the Church and back towards your start point at the Porter's Lodge, having a look at the Italianate Garden on your right just past the 5-bar gate.
Passing through the five bar gate, just past Parson's Pond, and immediately turning right, will bring you to the Italianate Garden. Enter the back of the West Wing, into the Orangery leading you to the café, a well deserved cuppa and a slice of home- made cake.
Porter's Lodge visitor reception grid ref: TL815616
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