Knettishall Heath Country Park

Explore the diverse landscapes and wildlife of Suffolk's largest country park.

NEAREST LOCATION

Knettishall Heath

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

4 miles (6.4kms)

ASCENT
164ft (50m)
TIME
1hr 30mins
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Easy
STARTING POINT
TL956807

About the walk

This is the only walk in this book that is situated entirely within a country park. Although this might seem an unadventurous choice, the landscapes of heathland, grassland, woodland and river are  considerably more varied than you are likely to encounter on most walks in rural Suffolk. Unlike farmland, which is expected to produce a profit, a country park can be managed for both conservation and recreation with the result that a wide variety of habitats can be protected. On this walk you will see semi-wild Exmoor ponies grazing on the heath, you may spot lizards, butterflies and moths, including the local grey carpet moth, and Muntjac deer, or see wild flowers such as red campion, rock rose, honeysuckle and wild thyme in summer. You should also keep a look out for birdlife including nightjars, yellowhammers and skylarks.

Bronze Age Knettishall

Knettishall Heath Country Park is found in the far north of Suffolk, in the area known as the Brecks. Whatever it may look like, this is a landscape created by human activity over many thousands of years. Bronze Age farmers kept sheep on the grasslands and cultivated the fields. Indeed, the park has its own Bronze Age burial mound. Until recently this was easily recognisable by its lone Scots pine upon its insubstantial brow. Sadly, this has now gone though its charcoaled remains can still be seen. Was it struck by lightning or was its destruction wrought by some human hand? The mound itself, which shows no signs of going away any time soon, is around 4000 years old.

Rabbits

In rather more recent times - the 18th century, to be more precise - warrens were developed for thebreeding of rabbits. These were kept for their meat and fur, and helped at the same time to keep the grass down. It's only since World War II and the arrival of myxomatosis that the heath has been left to its own devices, though the rabbit population has begun to restore itself in recent years. However, without careful management it would revert to woodland and scrub within about 50 years.

Waymarked trails

This walk follows the waymarked trails that have been set out in the country park, and which are clearly marked on a map usually available from the information office (when open) in the car park. The Riverside Trail is waymarked in blue with the symbol of flowing water. The red and green Heathland Trails are waymarked with the sign of a rabbit, while the yellow Woodland Trail takes an oak tree as its symbol. The walk covers sections of all three trails, but you could easily design your own walk instead.

Walk directions

Start by following the Riverside Trail, clearly signposted from the information office and toilet block. The trail takes you down to the banks of the Little Ouse River that divides Suffolk from Norfolk. After about 0.5 mile (800m) at a fork, the trail turns away from the river between areas of woodland and meadow (though there is no blue signpost to indicate it). 

When the trail turns sharp left after crossing a footbridge, leave the Riverside Trail and go half right instead. Now you are entering the green Heathland Trail, though frustratingly the waymarking posts are only marked on one side and you are walking in the opposite direction. Turn right at the first green marker you see to head into the woods. Turn left at a junction of paths and continue down to the road along the western boundary of the park. This is the end of the Peddars Way, a National Trail that follows a Roman road to the North Norfolk coast, and the start of the Icknield Way, possibly the oldest route in Britain. Cross the car park and continue along the path that soon arrives at open heathland. 

Turn left along the edge of a line of fir trees and bear left, still on the green trail, around the edge of the heath. Turn right through a kissing gate at a junction of paths to reach the remains of an 18th-century rabbit warren. Keep straight ahead at a crossroads and continue to where the main path reaches the wood at a junction. Turn left. At a gate bear left again towards Hut Hill, a Bronze Age burial mound that dates back to 2000 bc.   

A few yards after a red/green waymark post turn sharp right almost back on yourself onto a wide path that goes over the diminutive hump that is Hut Hill. The lone Scots Pine that used to mark it is no more - its remains, burnt to a crisp, lie about disconsolately. For a short cut you could keep straight ahead to return to the car park at this point. You now stay on the Woodland Trail for the remainder of your walk as it weaves its way through the woods past silver birch, oak and Scots pine. The path briefly joins a horse route and passes a barrier to reach a road. Cross the road and continue on a path to your left. Towards the end of the trail you pass an area of grazed heathland where Exmoor ponies and Hebridean sheep are kept. Cross the road again, turn right through a woody glade and continue to the car park, where there is a small playground and a weir where children splash about in the river.  

Additional information

Well-marked country park trails

Heathland, grassland, woodland, meadows, river

Well-controlled dogs welcome in country park

Map of country park available from information office

Knettishall Heath Country Park main car park (entrance off the north-south road, not the east-west road)

At car park

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WALKING IN SAFETY

Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.

Find out more

About the area

Discover Norfolk

The North Norfolk Coast is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and probably the finest of its kind in Europe. Here you’ll find a string of quaint villages and small towns – Holkham, Wells-next-the-Sea and Cley next the Sea are 21st-century favourites, while Sheringham and Cromer are classic examples of a good old-fashioned seaside resort where grand Victorian hotels look out to sea. Further round the coast you'll find Great Yarmouth, one of the most popular resorts in the UK and packed full of amusements, shops and seashore entertainment. And let's not forget Norwich, the region's only city.

Norfolk prides itself on its wealth of historic houses, the most famous being Sandringham, where Her Majesty the Queen and her family spend Christmas. Many of Norfolk’s towns have a particular charm and a strong sense of community. The quiet market towns of Fakenham and Swaffham are prime examples, as well as Thetford, with its popular museum focusing on the TV comedy series Dad’s Army which was filmed in the area.

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