Suffolk, England: Public Footpaths and Fields of Gold

Footpath Sign, Suffolk, England

Footpath Sign, Suffolk, England

Felixstowe, Suffolk

We’re back in the land of public footpaths, that ancient, glorious tradition of the United Kingdom.

In between visits with Clive’s father and family, we’ve walked on several Suffolk footpaths. They’re open to everyone, and as I wrote in ‘Walking in Suffolk, Part 1: England’s Rural Countryside,’  even Madonna couldn’t stop people from using the public footpath on her property.

Gipping River Path, Suffolk, England

Gipping River Path, Suffolk, England

Public footpaths seem to be everywhere. As I spend more and more time with Clive in his country of origin, I realise that whether we’re in coastal Suffolk, where he grew up, or travelling farther afield, to the Peak Districk, the Cotswolds, Scotland, or tomorrow to Wales, wherever we go there are footpaths and walks nearby.

Clive on Suffolk Footpath

Clive on Suffolk Footpath

Even as I’m getting more and more used to the idea, and reality, of public footpaths, I don’t think there will ever come a time when I take them for granted. My American upbringing still has me feeling I’m trespassing when we walk beside a farmer’s driveway or I find myself sharing a field with cows. (I’m also not sure there will ever come a time when I’m comfortable with big animals up close and no fence between us. Clive says the cows are not interested in us.) As for trespassing, he still reassures me, “Don’t worry. It’s a public footpath.”

In Field of Cows, Gipping Valley, Suffolk

In Field of Cows, Gipping Valley, Suffolk

Clive’s cousins were amused years ago on their first trip to the U.S., when they asked for walking directions. “They told us how to get there on the road.”

Well, of course! What other way is there? In the U.S., private property is sacred (most beaches are private, too, unlike those in England and Australia, as I described in ‘Hot Summer Day at Manly Beach‘). Walking across someone’s property is often considered trespassing, and in many parts of the country, if you take that risk you could be threatened with a gun or (God forbid) actually shot.

Footpath from Needham Market to Barking (and Back), Suffolk

Footpath from Needham Market to Barking (and Back), Suffolk

Not so in England. Here you are left alone, to follow the footpath where it leads. On one walk this trip, we encountered a large barking dog who ran toward us as his owner called out (as they always seem to do, when their dogs are panting and sniffing and drooling all over), “He’s OK.” I was nervous but we continued walking and the dog stayed with his owner.

This year I saw my first gorse, a word I’d seen and read about for years, on a regenerating heathland near Martlesham Creek.  We’ve also walked through several fields of rapeseed, a flowering member of the mustard family used to make animal feed and vegetable oil.

Field of Gold, Suffolk, England

Field of Gold, Suffolk, England

After suburban New Jersey, Paris, and London, it’s been a lovely change to spend time in this beautiful English countryside. We’re off to Wales tomorrow and, Internet connection permitting, I’ll post more about our travels from there.

5 Responses

  1. I’ve never seen a country so devoted to walks-paths everywhere.

  2. That pic of the fields of gold is devine. Footpaths – you seem to be having a great time. I miss all the walking I used to do while living in the UK. By the way you have the most amazing hair!!!

  3. Hi Caroline ,pleased you are having a great time in the UK…i haven’t been over to Suffolk for years !! yes I feel the same about “cows” I don’t suppose they will harm us, but non the less, !!

    Yes lots of footpaths in the UK, not all well sign posted as these that you saw !! 😉

    I am ok in the countryside but not for long, I would miss the shops and cafes too much… my hubby wanted to go camping, cannot even remember where now, might of been Wales…ah yes it was, i said are there any shops 🙂 Might of done us good, but then we might of parted ways …ha ha ha

    Take Care and have lots of fun!

  4. Hi Carolyn,
    I’m happy to see that you & Clive are having a grand time in Clive’s home region.

    Very interesting about the notion of public footpaths ! I like the idea 🙂 I’m not sure how it works out in France. Usually, the main hiking trails are marked and I think that most people stay on them.

    Enjoy it all and being with your in laws.

  5. Linda, I’ve never seen so many footpaths either. Lilly, thanks for your kind comments! Anne, I’m with you, especially on camping (shudder, shudder). Barbara, we hope to do some walking in France one day 🙂


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