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Chocolate-box Cavendish

Fine views and the story of a great humanitarian in the Stour Valley.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 311ft (95m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field paths, bridleways, short stretches of road, 3 stiles

Landscape Rolling farmland of Stour Valley

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorers 196 Sudbury, Hadleigh & Dedham Vale; 210 Newmarket & Haverhil

Start/finish TL 805464 (on Explorer 196)

Dog friendliness Farmland - dogs on leads

Parking Cavendish High Street, opposite Sue Ryder Museum

Public toilets At Clare Castle Country Park

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 Start at Cavendish village green. Take the path on the far side of the green past the Five Bells pub and the school, then cross the stile by the cemetery to join the Stour Valley Path. Follow this around a meadow and through a hedge, then turn left along a field-edge path that crosses a plank bridge and swings round to the right between fields and hedgerows to meet a road.

2 Turn left on to the road and walk uphill for about ¼ mile (400m). After passing a solitary house, turn left on to a path along the edge of a field path with sweeping views. The path descends, then bends right and crosses a wooden bridge to emerge by a huge field. Turn right beside a hedge, then left between fields, following the Stour Valley Path waymarks to Houghton Hall. Keep straight ahead and stay on this path as it turns left and then half right to drop to Hermitage Farm.

3 Keep to the Stour Valley Path as it bends left, entering a belt of trees before reaching a lane and passing a playing field on its way to the Clare to Cavendish road.

4 Cross the road carefully, walk across the bridge and turn left on a narrow path beside a small graveyard, signposted 'Clare Castle Country Park'. Enter the park and keep left, walking beside a stream to reach an old railway bridge. Cross the bridge and immediately take a climbing path to your left to reach a housing estate. Turn right and cross the old bridge over the railway to Mill House and a footbridge by the old mill.

5 Cross the bridge and walk diagonally left across a field, taking another footbridge over the River Stour to enter the county of Essex. Keep straight ahead across the field. Reaching a road, go left for 200yds (183m) before turning left on a wide bridleway leading back down to the river. At a T-junction of paths, turn right across the field. The track swings left, passes a poplar grove and enters a muddy section of woodland as it meets the river once again.

6 When you reach a lane, turn left walking past the half-timbered Bower Hall. Keep on the public bridleway for about 1 mile (1.6km) as it crosses farmland towards Pentlow Hall.

7 Turn left on to a road and cross the bridge to return to Suffolk. On the far side of the bridge, cross a stile on the left-hand side to walk beside the river. Climb the bank on the right, cross another stile and walk through the gardens to reach the main road by the side of the Sue Ryder Museum.

The village green at Cavendish, with its pink thatched cottages in the shadow of a medieval church, is one of those scenes that perfectly sum up the appeal of this corner of West Suffolk. Just around the corner, in a 16th-century rectory by the duck pond, is the former home of a remarkable 20th-century figure. Sue Ryder, Baroness Ryder of Warsaw (1923-2000) was born into a large landowning family from Yorkshire and spent much of her childhood in Suffolk at their summer estate at Great Thurlow Hall. Her mother Mabel was a tireless campaigner for the rights of the poor and used to take young Sue around the slums of Leeds to teach her about the realities of poverty in Britain.

As a young woman, Sue Ryder joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and later served in Poland during World War Two with the top-secret Special Operations Executive, set up by Winston Churchill to organise resistance behind enemy lines. Her experience profoundly affected her and after the war she began visiting Polish prisoners and survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. In 1952 she established the Sue Ryder Foundation. A year later, using £1,000 of her own savings, she opened the first Sue Ryder home for victims of war in her mother's former house in Cavendish.

In 1959 she married Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, VC (1917-92), a World War Two bomber pilot whose experience of the devastation caused by the atomic bomb at Nagasaki led him to establish his own group of homes for disabled ex-servicemen. They lived together in two simple rooms above the Cavendish home. Sue Ryder was famous for her frugal lifestyle - she never drew a salary and she dressed in clothes acquired from her own charity shops. By the time she died in October 2000, the Sue Ryder Foundation had a network of more than 60 homes for severely ill and disabled people in Britain and around the world.

This walk follows the Stour Valley Path from Cavendish to Clare, briefly entering Clare Castle Country Park and returning through Essex along the south bank of the river. For a complete look at Clare and its country park, take the longer Walk 44.

What to look for

The handle on the church door at Cavendish is the same one that Sir John Cavendish clung on to in 1381 while pleading for sanctuary from his pursuers. Sir John was lord of the manor at Cavendish and Lord Chief Justice of England, whose son, John Cavendish, had murdered Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasants' Revolt. Sir John escaped from Cavendish but the peasants eventually caught up with him, chopping off his head in the market place at Bury St Edmunds.

While you're there

The Sue Ryder Museum features memorabilia from her childhood, including her christening robe and a dress worn at the Thurlow Pageant, along with army uniforms, displays on the World War Two concentration camps and gifts from disabled residents in Sue Ryder homes in Poland and elsewhere. It is open daily from 10am to 5:30pm.

Where to eat and drink

The Sue Ryder tea rooms are open throughout the day, offering good-value hot meals, sandwiches and cakes. The George Inn, across the road, has a varied pub menu specialising in fresh fish dishes.

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