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Not so flat out in Suffolk
Visit two of the county’s prettiest villages, with one the home of a dark and gruesome tale
Dispelling the myth that this is a county without hills, strike out on a walk through the pretty villages and rolling
countryside of southern Suffolk. Along the way there’s a tale of
gruesome murder and a spot of Georgian scandal thrown in for good measure. This route offers a memorable mix of two grand villages, still brimming with community activities, and undulating countryside.
From Polstead village green, edged with attractive cottages, the welcoming Cock Inn and friendly community shop, head downhill to the large duckpond, keeping an eye open for the iridescent blue flash of the resident kingfishers.
Take the lane opposite the pond to the beautifully situated St Mary’s Church overlooking the Box Valley and on towards the halfway point of the walk at Stoke-by-Nayland.
The 1827 murder of Maria Marten
brought the village notoriety and became the stuff of legend. So eager was the ensuing macabre tourist trade for souvenirs that her headstone was chipped away to nothing, leaving no grave marker, and today all that remains is an easily missed faded plaque on the church’s wooden shed. For all the grisly details ‘The Murder in the Red Barn’ booklet is available at the community shop.
Leave the graveyard through a gate near the large war memorial, crossing the meadow to join the footpath heading right, towards a white house. At the road go right for about 400m, over a bridge and left through the meadow, signed Scotland Street. At the footpath junction turn right (St Edmund Way) up the sandy track, then bear left at the waymarker post. Pause to look back for a fine view of St Mary’s and Polstead Hall.
Go left again as you enter the next field and on through a small wood,
turning right at the lane and heading up to the Stoke-by-Nayland crossroads. All around are fine buildings, plus two pubs, a bookshop and village store. Go straight over to reach the imposing St Mary’s Church, subject of a John Constable painting, flanked by the 15th- century timber-framed Guildhall.
Returning to the crossroads, turn right for about 300m, then left through a kissing gate. Follow the path along the field edge over rolling grazing land and out through the end kissing gate, then on through a small wood and diagonally across a field. Once through the gate take a hard left, staying on this path until the lane at Scotland Place.
Turn right, cross the River Box and go left over a sleeper bridge, crossing landscaped meadows between a large pond and Scotland Hall. Keep ahead to the kissing gate at the corner of the wood, being careful not to take the other path heading up the hill.
After the woods, turn right along the
 The pond at Polstead
Image: Mark Staples

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