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January, 2015

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No such thing as bad weather: the less promising it is the more you have the place to yourself. I met four people, two of them Jane from the village shop and her husband. Whenever I go out for a weekend walk they seem to be coming back from the direction I’m aiming for.

We met on the drive from Coddenham House, once the eighteenth century vicarage. At that point a raised route shows the medieval road from the old blacksmith’s and Valley Farm. Below the ground at 1.7 metre depth a local archaeologist identified signs of a Roman road; the road became a footpath in the nineteenth century when the vicar of that time decided the road was too near his house.

Recently the house and land was bought by someone who plans to restore everything (apart from the road) to its former condition, so we will have Suffolk red polls on the meadows as for many years before. The old fish pond is already much improved; so are the banks of the stream that feeds the River Gipping on its way to Ipswich.

Stout boots – in my case Wellingtons – keep the feet dry as long as you don’t slip, as I found when giving way to a car by standing on the bank of the stream. The saving grace there was the snowdrops. The village recreation field has a useful board with a time line, stone age to the present. Apart from archaeology there was once a martyr of Queen Mary Tudor’s reign and the Puritan William Dowsing lived here for a time and had crosses taken down from the church tower and screen. To bring matters up to date we have bungalows for older residents with almost the ultimate in mod cons.

Taking the climb through Mill wood, now managed by the Day Foundation, which is also responsible for the bungalows and a residential home, there are the snowdrops noticed last year and views across the Georgian former chapel to Valley Farm, and from a bench (not occupied in this weather) towards the village centre.

Most of the buildings in the central area are Grade II listed, with the pargetting of the Old Post Office Grade II*. The Duke’s Head pub is, unfortunately, closed and in need of a purchaser. Just past the pub is a footpath to our other community area, Broom Hill, bought by the village with assistance from Natural England in 1988. Once our work party has cleared undergrowth in the annual clean up it will produce its array of bluebells to replace the hazel catkins and be followed by the broom. Until then the view over Willow Farm towards the Italianate gatehouse of Shrubland Park suffices.

Back in the churchyard there are aconites to partner the snowdrops and a memorial to Matthias Gillet or Candler, who was vicar throughout the reign of Charles I and the Protectorate, to die just after the Restoration of Charles II. He left a record of his time now in the Tanner MSS at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

In less than an hour several millennia and a range of natural pleasures can be encountered. There is parking at the Community Centre or a bus service from Ipswich and Debenham. Apart from Sunday Jane and Julia at the shop will serve coffee, tea and snacks to fortify or restore depending on whether you visit before or after your walk. Come and enjoy it.


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