Melford Hall to Sudbury Three Mills walk, Long Melford, Suffolk
A pleasant walk from magnificent Melford Hall to Gainsborough's House and statue in Sudbury Market place.
Walk along part of the old Great Eastern Long Melford to Sudbury railway line, visiting three old water mills and Sudbury Water Meadows en route. Return by bus.
Melford Hall car park, grid ref: TL867462
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 660yd (600m) 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.
Hare Drift continues along a concrete path until joining the main A134 Sudbury to Bury St Edmund's road. The traffic on this road can be very fast, so cross the road with great care. Go through the gate on the opposite side of the road, and turn immediately right, following the signposted path, known as Roydon Drift.
Roydon Drift is an old green lane, now a bridleway leading to Acton Place.
After 220yd (200m), Roydon Drift heads away from the road across fields on a slightly diagonal route along a delightful tree-lined path until reaching a small copse. Walk through this copse, cross an old stone bridge and then turn immediately left. Now continue past a small sewage works (on your right) until reaching the road at Acton Place. Acton Place was a large country house dating from the 16th century, mostly demolished in 1825. Turn right and follow the road until reaching the main A134 trunk road.
Now cross the busy A134 road (again) with great care, and heading down the road opposite, after a few yards on the left you will find the entrance to the section of old railway track now known as the 'Melford Walk'.
The Melford Walk is part of the old Great Eastern to Sudbury railway line This section skirts the eastern edge of Long Melford, with the mood of the walk varying along its length, and is an escape into a secretive, hidden world. It is maintained by the Long Melford Open Spaces Group, a new group set up in 2012 to look after the open spaces around Long Melford, after divestment by Suffolk County Council.
After about a mile or so (without turning off anywhere), the track exits onto the Long Melford to Sudbury road (B1064). Cross the road and continue left for about 660yd (600m), passing the old Long Melford railway station and maltings. Look out for a public footpath sign on the right by the postbox. Turn along this path for about 100yd (90m) and the path then bears left along another part of the old railway line. After a short while you will arrive at the old railway bridge across the River Stour at Rodbridge. Opposite you is the Melford Country Park.
Melford Country Park
Melford Country Park, on the site of old gravel pit workings, is well worth exploring and again is currently being maintained and restored by the Long Melford Open Spaces Group, in conjunction with Long Melford Parish Council. Much work to improve the park (mostly by volunteers) has taken place in 2015.
Exiting Melford Country Park, turn immediately left and cross the road bridge until reaching a signed fingerpost on the left, which is another section of the old Long Melford to Sudbury railway line. Enter this section and continue until reaching the Borley road. Cross the road continuing on the old railway track, now known as the 'Valley Walk'. After 100yd (90m) or so look out for a fingerpost, on the left, and some steps up to a kissing gate. Go through this kissing gate and after a few yards through another kissing gate and turn right.
Ahead of you is Borley Mill. Keeping to the right of the mill, follow the signed path (with wall on your right), passing through two small gates, until exiting onto water meadows running alongside the River Stour.
There was a mill here in the 14th century, a lease dated 1483 suggesting that there was a corn and fulling mill on the same site, and it is shown on the Chapman Andre 1777 map as a corn mill. Milling continued until 1969 when all production ceased. The current building is of mid-18th-century weather-boarded construction; is Grade II Listed, and is now a private residence.
Turn left through the gate and head along the row of telegraph poles until reaching a footbridge. Cross the footbridge and wander along the river bank to the left, following the path round to the right until reaching another bridge leading up to the main Sudbury road.
Leaving Borley Mill
A terrific piece of countryside alongside a river bank.
Turn right following the pavement for 220yd (200m) or so until reaching a fingerpost to your right just past a pedestrian crossing. Turn right and follow this path (which is also a small road so look out for traffic), until reaching Brundon Mill pond. Be ready to be amazed by the sight of many swans.
Brundon Mill pond
The Mill pond now appears to be a breeding ground for swans, and as many as 20 or 30 can often be seen here. A glorious sight at any time of the year.
Now cross the bridge, and admire the mill to your right.
The watermill existed as far back as 1086 DB; is shown as a mill on the Chapman Andre map of 1777, and was originally used as a fulling mill in the medieval period. From the medieval period, the fulling of cloth was usually undertaken in a water mill. Fulling was a process of beating and cleansing cloth in water, making it a denser fabric. A steam engine was installed in 1857 but cereal milling finished in 1923, The current building is 18th century; Grade II listed, and is now a private residence.
Leaving the mill, follow the path round to the left until reaching a kissing gate. After the gate a small length of fenced footpath will take you to another kissing gate which in turn will take you onto the ancient Sudbury Water Meadows and Common Lands.
Sudbury Common Lands
The Sudbury Common Lands are managed by sixteen Trustees, and was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 1990 and a County Wildlife Site in 2007. The land is managed within environmentally sympathetic agricultural schemes without the use of chemicals, and summer grazing continues to hold the key to its maintenance and management. The leap was built in the 1960s as part of a programme to introduce salmon and sea trout to the Stour. Despite some initial success, the idea was largely unsuccessful and abandoned.
Now keeping to the right of the Second World War Pillbox in the distance, head towards a kissing gate by the salmon leap and a small bridge. Crossing the bridge head slightly left towards the old Sudbury Mill (Clover's Mill) now the Legacy Mill Hotel, in the distance, with a further bridge to cross on the way.
Sudbury Mill (Clover's Mill)
A watermill was recorded here in 1086, and it was likely that there were two or more mills throughout the medieval period, at least one cereal, and one fulling. The present mill dates from about 1890, but was purchased by the Clover family in 1850 and owned by them until 1964 by which time it was just producing animal feed. The mill closed around 1967 and became a hotel in the 1970's. The water wheel (from 1889) can still be seen in the restaurant of the now renamed Legacy Mill Hotel. The wheel has recently been restored.
Now head up to the main road; turn left onto Stour Street, and follow the road until reaching the road junction with Gregory Street (to the left) and Gainsborough Street ahead. Cross the road into Gainsborough Street and continue along the pavement until reaching Weavers Lane on the left. You have now reached Gainsborough House.
Gainsborough House is the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough and is the only museum in Britain dedicated to the works of a single artist in the house where they were born. The building is owned by the Gainsborough House Society, an independent charity with educational aims. The museum has an interesting garden and a newly refurbished gift shop.
After leaving Gainsborough's House continue along Gainsborough Street until reaching Market Hill and the Market Place. Cross the market place to the right of the statue of Gainsborough and head down until reaching the small shopping precinct on the right. The bus station will be found at the far end of the precinct and your return bus journey to Long Melford.
Thomas Gainsborough's statue in Sudbury market place, was originally unveiled on 10 June 1913. To commemorate the 100th year anniversary, a re-enactment of the unveiling took place on 10th June 2013, with people in costume, attended by about 300 people to watch the ceremony. The statue is in front of the now redundant St Peter's church. The building is mostly used for indoor markets, concerts and so on.
Melford Hall car park, grid ref: TL867462
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