Lavenham to Long Melford railway walk, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk
A self-guided walk from Lavenham to Long Melford - through woods and open fields - largely following the route of the old GER Lavenham to Long Melford railway line, with the opportunity to visit Melford House.
Wildflowers, wildlife and wool
The walk provides the opportunity to see wild flowers alongside birds and animal wildlife in their natural habitat. You start and finish in these two well-preserved medieval 'wool' villages.
Lavenham Guildhall, grid ref TL916493
Starting from the Guildhall, walk to your left across Market Square, head down Market Lane to the High Street. Turn right at the bottom and cross the road. Continue along High Street for about 300 yards (274m) until reaching a sign for the 'Lavenham Walk' to your left.
No visit to Lavenham is complete without going to the Guildhall of Corpus Christi. Before starting your walk, step inside and learn about the changing fortunes of Lavenham - from the boom times of the cloth industry to the poverty of the 19th-century. Don't forget to enjoy some of the treats in our tea-room.
To the left of the old railway bridge, follow the FP signs for the Lavenham Walk.
Lavenham was on the Long Melford-Bury St Edmunds branch line running between Long Melford on the Stour Valley Railway and Bury St Edmunds on the Ipswich to Ely Line. The line opened on 9 August 1865 and closed to passengers on 10 April 1961; goods trains continued for a little longer. The station buildings at Lavenham are gone.
Follow the Lavenham walk until you reach a pair of metal gates, which is the road crossing at Park Road. Continue on until reaching Bridge Street railway bridge.
Wildlife and plants
Many species have been recorded along this disused 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. During May and June, this Common Spotted Orchid may be seen in the Sites of Special Scientific Interest section.
Shortly after going under the railway bridge at Bridge Street Road, you'll reach a fence, signifying the end of the 'Lavenham Walk' section, leading to an old railway cutting which has now been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Special Scientific Interest
This cutting is an area of heavy undergrowth and is invariably 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 in late autumn and provides a valuable habitat for insects and wildlife. A rare giant snail is known to live along the end of this section, so watch where you step.
At the end of the cutting the path enters an area of woodland (for 400m or so), passing through Lineage Wood to the right and Paradise Wood to the left. When exiting the woodland, you have reached the site of an 1891 railway accident.
This is the site of a railway derailment on 17 October 1891. The train was tank engine No.169. From this grainy image, you can see that at least one carriage together with the engine was derailed. A local press report of the time reported of a train being 'thrown' down the embankment. Fortunately there were no fatalities but some severe injuries. The guard was reported as 'having severe injuries to his head and leg...and being unable to sleep at night'.
Keeping the treeline to the right, continue for approximately 0.7 miles (1.2km) until eventually reaching another small area of woodland to the left. After a further 200m, the path turns right and crosses through the wood for about 100m.
Second World War Pillbox
Before reaching St Edmund Way, look very carefully to your left and you should see a Second World War pillbox hidden in the scrub to your left.
Exit the wood and turn immediately left, keeping the treeline to the left and ignoring the marker post to the right (St Edmund Way). Continue on for about 500m until reaching the end of the field.
When reaching the end of the field, the path heads immediately right - climbing uphill - and eventually reaches the main A134 Sudbury to Bury St Edmunds road.
This road is very busy with fast-moving traffic, so carefully cross the road and go through the gate on the opposite side.
After approximately 0.7 miles (1.1km) this lane - known locally as Hare Drift - exits opposite Kentwell Hall, through the Cherry Lane Garden Centre and car park. On the early maps, Hare Drift ran from the rail accident site right through to Long Melford. This section is all that remains.
Now turn left along the A1092 and follow the footpath for about 600m. The entrance to magnificent Melford Hall will be found on the left. After visiting Melford Hall, head into town to pick up your return bus (Chambers 753) to Lavenham.
Home of the Hyde Parker family, the turrets of Melford Hall have long dominated Long Melford's village green. Visit the hall and discover the stories of visits from their relation Beatrix Potter, with her menagerie of animals. Visit the tea-room while you're here.
Melford Hall car park TL867462
You made it
Following this trail on mobile or tablet? Share your experience.