River walk: Great Thurlow to Little Thurlow

The River Stour rises near Weston Colville, just a few miles from the Thurlows, and it runs for some 80 miles through picturesque Suffolk countryside till it reaches the estuary at Shotley opposite Harwich. You can walk the whole length of it and one section goes through the middle of the Thurlows.



Starting from Great Thurlow bridge, go through the extension to the churchyard (which has a wonderful honeysuckle hedge) into the meadows, keeping the river on your left. There is a plantation of poplars on your left which mistle thrushes and (in winter) redwings and fieldfares often use as perches. Over the stile at the end of the meadow there is a rough patch of nettles between you and the river, in the middle of which is a large guelder rose which has sprays of red berries in autumn. A little further on are some hazels by the side of the path on the left and some dead trees at the edge of the field on the right (which are used as drumming posts by great spotted woodpeckers).



You then come to the bridge at the end of ‘the Drift’. This is a good spot to watch for kingfishers (there is a convenient rustic seat) and also to look for crayfish from the bridge, as they crawl around the bottom of the stream. Failing that you can just play Pooh-sticks! Right by the side of the bridge is a rare South American beech (planted in 1989 at the same time as several other specimens were planted at Little Thurlow Hall) and some large white poplars.



Follow the path through the conifer plantation (where there are usually goldcrests and coal tits), along the edge of the field and past the water treatment plant. Though not a thing of beauty this is a good place for both pied and grey wagtails (in the sprinkler beds), long-tailed tits (in the elm suckers and hedges) and green woodpeckers (on the sward).


Continue along the concrete track, which has a good hedge on the left with lots of dogwood and field maple and a veteran oak (some 400 years old). Turn left where it comes out at Broad Road and go down to Little Thurlow bridge. From here an excellent path goes off to the right, running north along the river to Little Bradley and passing on the way various fine spindle bushes. There are views of badger runs on the opposite bank and this is another good stretch of river to see the kingfishers.