What better way to enjoy a summer evening than a country stroll to a Victorian pub?
Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 98ft (30m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Field-edge paths and country lanes
Landscape Farmland and village
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 231 Southwold & Bungay
Start/finish TM 295723
Dog friendliness On lead across farmland
Parking Church Plain, Laxfield
Public toilets None on route
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1 Start on Church Plain with the Royal Oak behind you and walk along the High Street. After passing a Baptist chapel on your right, look for a footpath on the same side of the street which runs between a hedge and a cemetery. Stay on this path as it passes beneath a green canopy and crosses a footbridge over the River Blyth. The river rises just outside Laxfield and is little more than a stream at this point.
2 Keep straight ahead to reach open countryside and take the field-edge path with a hedge to the right. Ignore all paths leading off and stay on this path to climb around the field towards a distant farmhouse. Eventually the path turns left beside a ditch and then right along the outer wall of the farmhouse to reach a road.
3 Turn right and stay on this road for 1 mile (1.6km), keeping to the right when the road divides. This is a lovely quiet country lane and there are good views towards Laxfield across the huge fields to your right.
4 Turn left at Corner Farm and fork right along the lane, signposted 'Ubbeston'. After passing a stud farm, the road bends right, then narrows and starts to descend into the valley. When you see a cream-coloured cottage ahead, turn right on to a footpath. As you pass through the hedge you will once again see the tower of All Saints Church up ahead. Keep straight ahead towards a line of willow trees and continue along the edge of the field. Turn right then left to join a farm track that leads to a tarmac lane, where you should keep straight ahead.
5 When you reach a road, turn left to return to Laxfield. Take the first right to arrive at the Low House (King's Head pub) and that well-earned pint. When you are ready, turn right outside the pub and left along Church Walk, or walk through the churchyard to return to Church Plain.
This walk is really just an excuse to work up a good thirst before a visit to one of Suffolk's most charming pubs. The King's Head at Laxfield is usually known as the Low House because of its situation below the church and the village centre. This thatched pub, which actually dates from Tudor times, has changed little since the Victorian era when Arthur Fellgate, the village blacksmith, was landlord for 61 years before handing over the pub to two of his 14 children. A grainy black-and-white photo of Arthur and his long-suffering wife Anna hangs in the front parlour.
An open fire burns in the parlour on winter evenings, and drinkers warm themselves while seated on a three-sided Victorian settle or high-backed wooden bench. To either side of the parlour are more cosy little rooms, filled with wooden tables, cushions and pews. There is no bar - the beer is served from a tap room out the back, where landlord George Coleman pours pints of Adnams bitter straight from the barrel. In summer, you can sit out of doors around a historic bowling green or take a seat inside the summer house.
Even the pub sign on the street is eccentric, featuring the head of Charles I on one side and Henry VIII on the other. This much-loved old local was threatened with closure in the 1990s but the villagers formed a consortium to buy it and it is thriving once again. Musicians play here on Tuesday afternoons and on summer evenings the gardens are the setting for Shakespearean plays. This really is the perfect place to end a walk.
Laxfield is a historic village whose former market square is edged on three sides by All Saints Church, the Guildhall and the 15th-century Royal Oak pub. The church is unusual in being some 36ft (11m) wide yet having a single nave and no aisles. The most impressive building is the timber-framed Guildhall, which dates from the 16th century and has since seen service as a schoolroom, a wholesale shop, a poorhouse, a reading room, a billiard room and a working men's club. These days it houses the parish office, a doctor's surgery and a museum on the upper floor.
The walk takes you out into the countryside around Laxfield, with views of All Saints Church across the fields. Although much of the walk is on tarmac lanes rather than footpaths, there is little traffic and in this part of Suffolk this is often preferable to fighting your way along the edge of a large arable field, beating back long ears of overgrown barley, rape and wheat.
Where else? The King's Head, despite its Victorian image, actually has quite a modern menu that features old favourites like sausages and mash as well as Cajun chicken and baked banana and Stilton cream. There is always a good selection of Adnams ales from the barrel. The Royal Oak, at the start of the walk, is another good village pub with parasols out on the square in summer.
As you walk past the Baptist chapel, notice the plaque to John Noyes, who was burned at the stake on this spot in 1557. A firm Protestant, he was charged with heresy after he refused to accept the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which states that the bread and wine at the Eucharist become Christ's actual body and blood.
The Laxfield and District Museum, in the Guildhall, is open on weekend afternoons from May to September and features rural and domestic bygones, a restored Victorian kitchen and village shop, and displays of local history and archaeology. A popular outing in summer is a horse-drawn carriage ride from nearby Tannington Hall, an Elizabethan manor house and hotel. Details are available at the King's Head.