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The best local walks – with a coffee pit-stop!

With one-to-one socialising, including coffee on benches, officially allowed from Monday (hooray!) here's our pick of the best ambles across Suffolk & Cambs, with a caffeine fix en route.

Cambridgeshire

The Backs

The Backs in Cambridge are a pretty spectacular sight at any time of the year and not far from the city centre. The majestic view of King’s College Chapel is breath-taking enough, but add in the carpet of crocuses that have sprung up along this walk and you have a picture-perfect setting.  Head to Queen’s Road, Silver Street end, to start your walk. You can take a short detour up Grange Road if you fancy a look at the Cambridge University Library, a tower you can see for miles around and the closest this old city gets to a skyscraper. Return to the backs and enjoy the view of the colleges, and their beautifully kept lawns and meadows. You will find the best array of crocuses behind Trinity College then make the loop into town by carrying on along the road to the roundabout, left towards Bridge Street and the river to find a cluster of fab cafés.

Walk the route

Coffee Stop

Fitzbillies on Bridge Street (the second branch of this historic café) does great coffee and you might very well have to treat yourself to a sticky Chelsea bun too. At the weekend, Cafe Foy is also open on the quayside, serving coffee, luxurious hot chocolates and incredible toasties.  Find a bench or wall by the river and sit and watch the swans drift on by. Bould Brothers farther down Bridge Street has also proved a popular choice over lockdown and you can sit on the wall of the Round Church before heading home.

Grantchester Meadows

To the south of Cambridge is the idyllic village of Grantchester – home to the TV show of the same name, and one of the loveliest walks in the county. We suggest starting in Grantchester and walking to Newnham in Cambridge. Be sure to check out Grantchester village first. This lovely bronze statue by sculptor Stuart Anderson entitled ‘Mare’ is located in Jeffry Archer’s garden, which you can see safely (and without trespassing – don’t worry!) from the bridge near the millpond. Head towards the Orchard Tea Room to find the path to Newnham. This is a gorgeous walk with views reminiscent of Constable’s landscapes, but bring your wellies as it can get pretty muddy in places. You can choose to walk close to the river or along the path at the top of the fields giving you a different aspect for there and back. The meadows are host to Red Poll cattle in the summer months who sometimes like to wander beside you, but more often than not sit awaiting their close-ups, chewing merrily and watching the world go by. There is an abundance of swans, herons, plus some noisy geese once you get close to Newnham and Cambridge. It can be busy with walkers these days, but if you don’t mind politely letting people pass at a safe distance and waiting your turn to go through kissing gates and cattle grids you’ll have a lovely time.

Walk the route

Coffee Stop

Although the charming Orchard Tea Room, famous for being the hangout of Bloomsbury Set writers like Rupert Brooke and Virginia Woolf is currently closed (hopefully to open on April 12th), you can get great coffee once you get to Newnham, either from the delightful Meadow Deli on Eltisley Avenue, offering a range of cookies, cakes, and coffee or head to Derby Street and the wonderful Maison Clement (now two branches in Cambridge). Maison Clement is an authentic French bakery, that sells such delights as pastries, patisserie cakes, éclairs, and apricot slices, alongside your usual hipster coffee choices, oat milk n’ all.

Milton Country Park

If you like your wildlife then head to Milton Country Park just a few miles north of Cambridge, with plenty of parking. This is a lovely, nature-rich walk, where you can get your Twitcher game on and do some serious bird watching as all sorts of our feathered friends frequent the area. Created from old gravel pits the park has plenty of wonderful woodlands, lovely lakes, and attractive pretty pathways to explore. 

Walk the route

Coffee Stop

Grounds Café (and cycle centre) is a lovely modern café serving fab coffee and delicious cakes, sandwiches, pastries, and artisan gelato.  Check the website for Covid opening times for takeaway only.

Suffolk

Southwold to Walberswick

Southwold and Walberswick on the Suffolk coast are separated by the beautiful river Blythe and walking between these two pretty villages is one of my favourite walks in the world! The Bailey Bridge joins the two villages and used to be the route of the old railway. There are still the remnants of the platform on the Walberswick side, incongruous as it is, by the side of a lane looking out across the marsh. One-stop to nowhere. But this is a beautiful walk, where the light is ever-changing and it may inspire you to get out your camera or your paintbrush as many in the area do.

Walking from Southwold you can cut across the golf course (golfers fear not, this is on an approved path) and make your way down through the gorse to the Bailey Bridge. Stand on the bridge and look one way to an almost Scandi-esque landscape, of reeds and grasses, and the other to follow the widening river out to sea. As you leave the bridge, walk straight on, up Palmer’s Lane to come out eventually on the only road into Walberswick. Turn left and a short walk down the high street will bring you to the ideal coffee stop (see below). Carry on through the village, following the road around to the left. In non-Covid times, there is the ferry (a rowing boat) to get you back to the Southwold side in a slightly quicker time, but if it is not running then it’s lovely to walk back to the bridge along the riverside, admiring the pretty boats, and looking out for the odd seal as you go.

Walk the route

Coffee Stop

Coffee Stop: The Black Dog Deli serves great coffee and some amazing treats from homemade éclairs, to their legendary sausage rolls (veggie options too), scotch eggs, frittatas, pastries and much more. Also check out the artwork on the walls by none other than Charlie Mackesy If you’re doing the walk the other way, from Walberswick, then stop off at Two Magpies for delicious pasties, cakes and coffee.

Dunwich Heath

Dunwich, situated a few miles south of Walberswick, was once the capital of East Anglia and a bustling port. Dunwich Heath is managed by the National Trust and is a protected area of outstanding beauty. It has an impressive covering of bright pink and purple heather in the Summer that could trick you into thinking you’re further north. There are amazing views of the choppy North Sea with the odd sighting of dolphins and seals (yes – really!) from the hide. There are a few different walks and nature trails you can do with the kids, cute guessing games and questions that help them learn all about nature, there is a lovely nature centre too and a pirate-based play area.  

Walk the route

Coffee Stop

Best of all is the National Trust run Coastguard Cottages Tearoom and kiosk, which not only has the best Victoria Sponge I have ever eaten, old school sandwiches and sausage rolls but also has a rather wonderful lookout and map room upstairs.

Nowton Park

Nowton Park on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds has almost 200 acres of landscaped Suffolk countryside and you can really lose yourself on a proper long walk exploring this beautiful area.  Nowton has lots to keep the whole family interested, from the arboretum with trees from all around the world to a carved panda, and 35.4 feet totem pole!

The grand lime avenue creates a stunning walkway, think promenading in Bridgerton (yes, we are still thinking about that show) as you glide along, pretending you aren’t in your wellies and fleece at all, but the finest silks instead.  The avenue was planted around 1880 and in the Spring over 100,000 daffodils bloom beneath the trees. Sadly the famous maze is currently closed, but there is still plenty to see, including giant carp in the two ponds, an abundance of butterflies and birds, and of course there’s another fabulous café.   

Walk the route

Coffee Stop

Also a Grounds Café (like the Milton Park one) there are now eight of them, so they must be doing something right. Their tag line is ‘great coffee for the great outdoors’ and they are not wrong – Fab high-quality coffee and plenty of delicious treats to keep you going through those 200 acres!

We know this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of fab walks in Cambs and Suffolk. Please tell us about more, and we will add to this list in the coming weeks. Happy walking!

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