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Debenham Waddle

Exploring the green lanes and pathways around a historic county town.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 197ft (60m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field-edge and cross-field paths, country lanes

Landscape Arable farmland and new millennium wood

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 211 Bury St Edmunds & Stowmarket

Start/finish TM 174631

Dog friendliness On leads across farmland

Parking Cross Green free car park, High Street, Debenham

Public toilets Off Debenham High Street

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1 Walk away from the High Street past the butcher and fork right at Priory Lane to cross the River Deben. Turn right at the road and, after 100yds (91m), turn left on a sloping cross-field path. Pass through a hedge and continue around the edge of a field before turning left along a country lane.

2 At a junction of bridleways, ignore the 'Circular Walk' signs and keep straight ahead on the oak-lined drive to Crows Hall, which takes its name from the Debenham family crest. Follow the waymarks around to the right of the farm, pass a bungalow and turn left beside a hedge on to a field-edge path. Go left again at the end of the field and stay on this path as it turns to the right around the Great Wood. After another 250yds (229m), turn left across the fields to come to a wide track. Turn right here and turn right along a lane to pass the large farm buildings of Crowborough Farm.

3 At the start of a line of telegraph poles, turn left alongside the hedge on to a grassy path. Stay on this path for ½ mile (800m), passing a wind pump and a pair of water towers before descending to a cottage with wooden barns.

4 Turn left along Waddlegoose Lane. You now stay on this green lane for about 1¾ miles (2.8km). When a track joins from the left, keep straight ahead to return to the circular walk. The path is now enclosed by tall hedges, obscuring your view of the fields.

5 At the next junction, turn right along a farm track and stay on this track past a converted barn and a brick farmhouse. Turn left along the road for about 400yds (366m) then turn right on to a bridle path signposted 'Circular Walk'. After passing through a gate, the path goes around Hoggs Kiss Wood, one of 200 community woodlands created for the millennium. You have a choice between staying on the path or walking down through the woods and meadows.

6 When you reach the end of Hoggs Kiss Wood, turn right around a group of allotments and fork right along Water Lane to reach the High Street. Turn left along the High Street to return to the start of the walk.

In 1778 a young man left Suffolk to seek his fortune, but he never forgot the place where he grew up. When William Franks opened his first small haberdashery shop in Wigmore Street in London, he named it Debenhams after his home town. Before long he had established a chain of upmarket stores specialising in fine silks and cottons and in 1905 the first Debenhams department store opened in London. The company now has more than 100 stores across Britain but few of their customers are aware of the origins of the name.

Debenham, near the source of the River Deben, is one of those places whose past has largely been forgotten. In Saxon times, this was where the East Anglian kings held court, and there are accounts of a great battle against the marauding Danes at Blood Field to the north of the town. In the 14th century, Debenham was one of the finest of the wool towns, and the evidence is there to see in the handsome timber-framed merchants' houses that line the High Street. Yet these days, stuck out in the middle of Suffolk, away from the coast, the main roads and the busy towns, Debenham is little more than a village. The fledgling river trickles along the streets and occasional tourists pass through to visit the teapot pottery (PWhile You're There) on their way to Framlingham Castle and the coast.

This walk takes you into the green lanes around Debenham, through rich agricultural country where barley and wheat are grown. Part of the walk is along an old packhorse route that delights in the name of Waddlegoose Lane. The other local name for this path is Waddledickie Lane, 'dickie' being the Suffolk dialect for donkey.

The longer walk takes you to Earl Soham, a charming village hidden away in a valley along the old Roman road. Many people stop here just to visit the pub, which sells beer from the village brewery. The brewery is housed in new premises alongside the village shop, which offers a fine range of local produce including organic cider and apple juice from Aspall Hall near Debenham. Aspall is one of the oldest family firms in England, founded by Clement Chevallier in 1728 and still run by the eighth generation of the Chevallier family. The business has remained on the same site throughout its history and the original apple press and stone trough are still at Aspall Hall.

Go easy on the beer and cider, though, or you really will be waddling back along Waddlegoose Lane?

While you're there

Tony Carter makes wacky hand-painted teapots at his pottery in Low Road, Debenham, which is signposted from the High Street. Among his designs are teapots in the shape of windmills, lighthouses, beach huts, toilets and teddy bears. You can watch them being made from a viewing area and there is also a tea room where cream teas are served in original Carter pots.

What to look for

Look at the tower of St Mary Magdalene's Church in Debenham High Street. The lower part of the tower is Saxon, dating from the 11th century, while the upper part has a 14th-century flint covering over a 12th-century frame.

Where to eat and drink

Clio's Coffee Shop, on Debenham High Street, has delicious salads, soups, sandwiches, snacks and ice creams. Other options along the High Street are the Woolpack pub and a fish and chip shop. Alternatively, pick up a pork pie and other picnic food from F E Neave and Son, an old-style butcher that now incorporates a delicatessen.

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