Gardens & Parks

//Gardens & Parks

Alton Water Park

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Listening to the dawn chorus in the peaceful setting of Alton Water Park with its lovely reservoir, is an excellent way to start the day in this wondrous peninsular playground.  As well as fulfilling its purpose of pumping almost 10 million gallons of water each day to serve the local area, the reservoir is a haven for wildlife and a magnet for birdwatchers, walkers, cyclists and water sports enthusiasts. Walking An eight-mile (13km) trail circles Alton Water, and the site is accessible every day of the year. Shorter trails are available too and a  three-mile route on the south shore takes visitors through a butterfly garden, wildlife meadow and past bird hides and ponds, alive with reptiles. Download a walks leaflet here (pdf). Sailing There is plenty to do for those seeking more energetic leisure pursuits too, as the nature reserve blends seamlessly with a vast water park and sports centre. There are rowing boats available to hire and visitors can take sailing lessons in kayaking, dinghy sailing or wind-surfing. Dry or wets suits are available for hire at the water sports centre. Cycling Visitors can take their own bicycles or hire them from the Alton Cycle Hire centre. Bikes, trailers for towing children, as well as single or double seated Go-carts are all available. Alton Water has teamed up with the Woolverstone Project to provide tuition and opportunities for those with disabilities and a desire to sail. Fishing The reservoir is also good for coarse fishing. Given its location near the rivers, Gipping, Stour and Orwell, there are good stocks of Bream, Pike, Roach, and the odd Carp or Tench. Fishing permits are available for adults and chilren can fish for free. Do check [...]

Blakenham Woodland Garden, near Needham Market

Blakenham Woodland Garden, near Needham Market is a six acre woodland garden. It has a fine collection of trees and shrubs including rarities collected on Kew overseas expeditions. Bluebells, magnolias and roses flourish amongst Chinese rock and unusual earth forms. Open 1 March-30 June, Mon-Sun, 10-5 Contact Blakenham Woodland Garden, Cottage Farm, Little Blakenham IP8 4LZ T: 07760 342131 W: Additional information Wheelchair access / admission charged / sorry, no dogs

Thornham Walks

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The 12 miles of waymarked footpaths on the Thornham Estate are known as Thornham Walks and a surfaced path, suitable for push chairs and wheel chairs, leads for half a mile to the Thornham Walled Garden and takes the walker past the newly refurbished bird hide, the pets' cemetery, along the Thornham Rock Trail to the Victorian Folly. For lots of images of the site and all the activities on offer, please visit the Thornham Walks Facebook page. Walks maps (£1) are available from the information board in the main car park. An events leaflet is available from the Thornham Walks' office, or the Thornham Walks website, which gives a list of the extensive programme of activities organised at Thornham Walks. The staff at Thornham Walks are available to lead and organise guided walks and environmental activities for groups and they run very popular environmental birthday parties. Volunteers are always welcome to help with practical work and events. The last Sunday of the month is Volunteer Day, offering the opportunity to meet new people and learn different skills. Thornham Walks are managed by Mid Suffolk District Council and are grateful for the support provided by them and Suffolk County Council. Contact: Thornham Countryside Officer Red House Yard, Thornham Magna, Eye IP23 8HH T: 01379 788345   f  01379 788008 E: F: Open:  9am to 6pm from April to October and 9am to 4pm November to March.  Thornham Walks may be closed occasionally between October and January. Car parking charges apply and all proceeds go towards the management of Thornham Walks. Dogs on leads are welcome.

Needham Lake, near Needham Market

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Needham Lake is a lovely, 13 hectare site and an ideal place for a walk or a picnic outing on a summer's day.  It lies on the River Gipping is close to Needham Market and Alder Carr Farm. Needham Lake is home to a variety of wildlife (including some very well-fed ducks!) and a the path around the lake is surfaced and used by both walkers and cyclists. There are picnic and play areas with many picnic tables dotted around and plenty of grass for children to play games and run around. There is also some play equipment for young children close to the (free) car park and slightly older children can enjoy a climbing boulder and the play equipment. Part of the site is a Local Nature Reserve with wetland areas, meadows and a small woodland with nest boxes throughout the site. There are plenty of wild flowers with pyramidal and bee orchids which can be seen from the paths. The fenced paddocks are grazed in the summer months to help improve the grassland for wildlife. There are toilet facilities and an information room which has leaflets and news of upcoming events and activities. Events at Needham Lake include regular children’s activities and other events during the school holidays. Angling permits for the lake (both day ticket and club membership) are available from Bosmere Tackle (Tel: 01449 721808) in Needham Market High Street. Access to Needham Lake is from the B1078 Coddenham Road,  OS Grid ref: TM 093547 (Explorer 211).

Thornham Walled Garden, Thornham Magna

Thornham Walled Garden is set in the 2000 acre estate of Thornham in Thornham Magna in Suffolk and is surrounded by woodland and footpaths with many lovely walks. Thornham Walled Garden is two acres in size and has a restored Victorian glasshouses, ampoule pilule fruit trees, pharmacy perennial borders and collection of East Anglian geraniums. There are 12 miles of waymarked footpaths on the Thornham Estate known as Thornham Walks and a surfaced path, price suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. The paths leads for half a mile to the Thornham Walled Garden, past a bird hide, along the Thornham Rock Trail to the Victorian Folly. Plants are for sale at Thornham Walled Garden throughout the year. Open Summer 9.30-5; Winter 9.30-4. Closed 25 December. Contact Thornham Walled Garden, Thornham Walks, Thornham Magna, Eye IP23 8HH T: 01379 788700 W: F: Additional information Wheelchair access, refreshments, shop, car park charge, free entry.  

The Place for Plants Aboretum, East Bergholt

The Place for Plants Aboretum in East Bergholt on the Suffolk/Essex border is a 20 acre garden and aboretum. It's a beautiful and peaceful place all year round and particularly in the spring, when lovely displays of snowdrops, magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias are followed by the fritillary and wild flower meadow. There are many unusual flowering trees and shrubs including stewartia, davidia and cornus as well as underplanting of woodland perennial and bulbs. Rambling roses and hydrangeas flower during the summer, and the garden can look spectacular in autumn as the trees and shrubs change colour and are covered in fruit. There is a specialist plant centre, stocking over 6,000 different plants and a cafe serving homemade cakes. The plant centre is open all year. Garden open 1 March-30 September, daily 10-5 | Closed Easter Sunday. Contact The Place for Plants East Bergholt Place, East Bergholt CO7 6UP T: 01206 299224 W: Additional information Partial wheelchair access Images ©The Place for Plants

Helmingham Hall Gardens, near Stowmarket


Helmingham Hall Gardens, near Stowmarket are lovely moated and walled gardens, surrounding the fabulous Helmingam Hall. There are many rare roses, a kitchen garden and herb and knot garden.  Helmingham Hall is not open to the public, but the garden and parkland area (with a herd of red deer) are a garden lover's delight. Helmingham Hall Gardens also include a classic parterre and an orchard filled with wild flowers The influence of the well-known garden designer and owner of Helmingham Hall, Xa Tollemache, is clearly visible - the parterre was redesigned in 1987 and the new rose garden was created in 1982, together with the knot and herb garden. Events take place at Helmingham Hall Gardens throughout the season, with guided walks through the estate, the annual Plant Heritage Spring Fair, Suffolk Dog Day, Classic & Sports Car Festival and the East Suffolk Game & Country Show. Please keep an eye on our events pages for details. Regular Cookery Days also take place, with Suffolk chef Emma Crowhurst. Open from early May to mid-September, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sun and Bank Holiday Mon, 12-5 Contact Helmingham Hall, Helmingham, Stowmarket IP14 6EF T: 01474 890363/890799 W: Additional information Wheelchair access, refreshments, shop Save Save Save Save Save

Haughley Park, near Stowmarket

Haughley Park, near Stowmarket is a Grade I listed Jacobean manor house set in 200 acres of gardens and park. Haughley Park and the Barn are approached through gently undulating  parkland that is enclosed by mature woodland. Six acres of landscaped gardens surround the buildings, including a woodland garden and an Edwardian style, walled kitchen garden. There is a large fish pond equidistant between the house and barn, and in recent years a new garden area was created close to the barn. In 2006, large contemporary glass sculptures were added to the gardens.  They are by Danny Lane and add an exciting and modern edge to the otherwise traditional setting. The park and gardens are open with teas and plant sales on “Bluebell Sundays” on the last Sunday in April and first in May, 2pm - 5.30pm Haughley Park is also home of the annual Weird and Wonderful Wood event. Please see our events listings in May for details of this lovely family event. The house is open by appointment only. Gardens and park open May to September, Tues 2pm - 5.30pm Contact Haughley Park Ltd, Haughley Park, Stowmarket IP14 3JY T: 01359 240701 W: Additional information Partial Wheelchair access

Flatford Wildlife Garden (RSPB), Flatford

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A beautiful wildlife garden developed by the RSPB to show how we can all make our gardens more wildlife-friendly and beautiful at the same time. Admission is free and volunteers are on hand to answer your gardening questions. The garden is in the hamlet of Flatford, where painter John Constable lived and painted many of his most famous works, including The Hay Wain and Willy Lott's Cottage, which are just a short walk down Flatford Lane. Also in Flatford, is Bridge Cottage (National Trust), the Flatford Field Studies Centre and you can take a boat trip on the River Stour as well as lovely walks across the fields to Dedham - the same route John Constable once walked every day to get to school. Open: 29 March to 3 November everyday 10.30 am to 4.30 pm. Contact Flatford Wildlife Garden (RSPB), Flatford Lane, Flatford, East Bergholt CO7 6UL T: 01206 391153 E: W: Additional information Entrance to the garden is free although the car park at Flatford is owned by the National Trust,  so charges apply unless you are a NT member, in which case parking is free. Alternative, free parking is available a one mile walk away, in East Bergholt. There is a National Trust tea room and shop and a small exhibition in Bridge Cottage about John Constable. The Flatford Field Studies Centre (the mill where John Constable lived and worked) is not open to general public, but you can take art and environmental courses there. The Mill and Willy Lott's Cottage can both be viewed from the outside and the place where The Hay Wain was painted can also be viewed.