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10 Places to Explore at a Distance

There are plenty of places to enjoy the great outdoors here in Bury St Edmunds - all with social distancing measures in place to keep you safe...

The recent uncertain times have left many of us wondering how best to spend our sunny summer days, and many local sites of interest have unfortunately had to close temporarily. However, the good news is that we are about to see a steady lifting of certain stipulations, freeing us up to get outside and enjoy the open grounds, fresh air and glorious sights of Bury St Edmunds and beyond, all while maintaining a safe distance.

National Trust Ickworth House, Park & Gardens

Set among 1,800 acres of majestic Suffolk parkland, National Trust Ickworth House, Park & Gardens is part of an estate dating back to 1702. The huge site allows for families to move around together, making the most of the varied walks and keeping a safe distance from others, all whilst enjoying the wildlife and hidden twists and turns of this grand estate.  

Of course for now the house, West Wing, Porter’s lodge, children’s play area and trim trail are closed, but Ickworth is still a marvelous place for a dog walk and a picnic. You can also choose from a range of drinks, sandwiches, freshly baked cakes and ice creams available on site. Do remember that you must book your tickets by 3pm the day before your visit; a strict measure to ensure that the number of people at the park is well controlled for your safety.

Nowton Park

Picturesque Nowton Park is a fantastic place to wander through 200 acres of landscaped Suffolk Countryside. You can explore the arboretum, which is home to many species of trees from around the world and can get lost in the mysterious maze. 

Twitchers will enjoy looking for feathered friends in the bird feeding area, which is frequented by woodland birds such as the blue, great and long tailed tit, nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker. There are many strange curiosities in the park, such as the 10.8m high totem pole and a dragon carved from a Cedar tree that was struck by lightening. 

The play area in the park has been re-opened, as has the café, for takeaways. The park just requests that visitors maintain social distancing at all times.

West Stow Country Park


West Stow Country Park features 125 acres of wood and heathlands, a river and lake and is the location of one of Britain’s greatest archaeological sites. Step back in time to see how our ancestors lived, in a fascinating recreation of an Anglo Saxon Village.  

Head to the country park to explore the children’s adventure playground and take a stroll around the picturesque grounds, keeping an eye out for wildlife in the hides. There are many measures in place to ensure continuing safety in the park, including readily available hand sanitizer at various points, limited visitor numbers and one way systems to ensure social distancing. 

When visiting the Anglo Saxon Village, only one family is able to go inside the houses in the village at any point. All payments, including entry and purchases in the shop, must be taken using contactless payment.

Abbey Gardens

The peaceful Abbey Gardens are a tranquil setting for quiet contemplation, as well as offering a delightful stroll through the formal gardens and herb garden, along the River Lark and past the 11th century Benedictine monastery. There is also an aviary and recently re-opened children’s play area. 

Take advantage of two new hard tennis courts available to hire for £5 per hour, if booked ahead of time; the perfect excuse to get up and active outdoors.

Hardwick Heath

Expansive Hardwick Heath offers 55 acres of wide-open parkland and is perfect for a long dog walk as canine companions are allowed off the lead to run free through the grass. Children can run around too, and burn off all that built up energy, whilst enjoying the fresh air and wooded areas. 

There is a convenient car park, which is charged per hour, and eagle eyed folk might spot some rare flora and fauna including Aconites and Snowdrops, during their walk. Take a flask and get up early to enjoy a stunning pink and blue sunrise at the park.

Fullers Mill Gardens

The enchanting Fullers Mill Gardens are a real treat for the senses, with seven acres of dappled woodland, unusual shrubs, perennials, lilies and marginal plants to peruse. There is something to see all year round but the gardens are particularly captivating during the summer season, when everything is in bloom. There are so many little nooks and crannies to explore, with ponds and streams, wooded areas, walls, walkways and bridges.

To limit the number of people in the park at this time, visitors are being asked to book ahead and choose between a 2pm or 3.30 pm slot on Wednesdays and Fridays, or an 11am, 12.30pm, 2pm or 3.30 pm slot on Sundays; a rare opportunity to enjoy Fullers Mill at its best and quietest.

Clare Castle Country Park

A short journey outside of Bury St Edmunds takes you to the town of Clare where visitors can make the most of a refreshing day out at Clare Castle Country Park which, as well as being a beautiful place for walks by the river Stour, is home to the remains of a 13th century flint castle set upon a 60 foot motte overlooking the town. 

There are six circular walks to choose from, all starting from the park and taking you through glorious Suffolk countryside, past beautiful listed buildings. The walks range in distance from 2- 7 miles so there’s something for all levels of stamina. It’s worth noting that at this time the ‘Motte path’ is closed as it is too narrow to allow for visitors to pass each other and maintain social distance, but the playground is open, as are the toilets at The Goods Shed, apart from brief closures throughout the day for thorough cleaning. 

Even the much loved Platform One Tearoom is open Thursday –Sunday from 9am-3pm, for takeaway treats such as quiche, sandwiches, tea and cake. Find a shady spot and enjoy your refreshments out in the open air.

Kentwell Hall Gardens

Magnificent Kentwell Hall is a jewel in the crown of England’s Tudor houses and although at this time the house itself is not open, the gardens, which are a destination all of their own, are welcoming visitors on selected dates. Take in the majestic parklands, idyllic moat- soon to be draped in roses, and topiary gardens. Look out for the Sculpted Tree, based on the tower of Babel, which is the UK’s single biggest wood carving. 

At this time of year the gardens are at their most colourful and fresh, providing a spot of tranquility in an otherwise hectic world. Birdsong can be heard everywhere and the sweet smell of wildflowers rise up from the sunken garden to meet your nose. 

There are refreshments available for visitors to take away, including sandwiches, sausage rolls and scotch eggs, as well as tea, coffee and cakes. Visitors are requested to book their entry tickets ahead of time (before 10am on the day of the visit) and to follow directions for the one-way route around the gardens. The park also asks that visitors bring their own hand sanitizer, and invite them to wear a mask or face covering if they wish. Entry to the park is from 12noon to 3pm, with the park closing at 4pm.

Long Melford Country Park

There are some excellent walks that can be taken around this expansive estate, with an abundance of wildlife on show and views of the Suffolk countryside for miles around. Families of swans reside in the waterways and well-behaved dogs can be brought here for a substantial walk. 

The picnic tables have recently been re-opened for use, as have the toilets. Visitors are asked to maintain social distancing and to ensure they practice good hygiene during their visit.

Brandon Country Park 

The stunning Brandon Country Park on the Suffolk/Norfolk border is ripe for exploration and comprises open heathland, green forests and over 30 acres of parkland. There’s so much to see and do in this wild landscape, perfect for rambling or cycling. Look out for the lawns, arboretum, ‘haunted’ mausoleum and historic walled garden. 

The children’s play area has re-opened and the park asks that for the safety of all, parents ensure children apply hand sanitizer before and after use. 

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