Suffolk & West Suffolk

Walk Details:
Total ascent: 14m/ 46ft
Total distance walked: 2.81 miles
Walk difficulty: 3/10 (due to the wind and mud - normally about 1)
Enjoyment rating: 3/10
Best bits: Deer, walking with the wind on the way back
Worst bits: Walking into the wind on the way there, thick clay on boots
Walkers: Anth, Jim
Car Parking: We parked near the pub in Rede at TL 803 558. High speed baggers could park near the entrance to the radio mast adjacent to the top itself

Top details:
Great Wood
County top number: 39 and 40 of 207
Grid reference: TL 78872 55806 MAP
Height above sea level: 128m/ 419ft
How nice was the top? 1.5/10
Views: 2/10
Description/Notes: The highest point of Suffolk and of the former county of West Suffolk is an unmarked spot by a reservoir immediately west of Great Wood.

The Walk:

After the drizzle of East Suffolk, West Suffolk presented a much more appealing picture. As soon as we drove over the border, the car was bathed in early spring sunshine, and we were looking forward to getting out in it and drying off.

We could have parked right next to the county top but after our long confinement in the car broken only by the short stroll in East Suffolk, we were desperate to stretch our legs. We therefore took the opportunity of the round walk to the Top from the nearby village of Rede. We had a happy navigational accident in Rede whilst looking for parking spaces. The road through Rede took a sharp left turn hidden by a large pink house. Jim instead carried on up what looked like a private track, totally oblivious to the turn (I'm not sure he believed me about the turn until he saw it himself on the way out of the village later on). The track turned out to lead to the village green and pub, besides which there was plenty of parking.

We headed down a muddy footpath to the right of the pub. Emerging into open fields the wind hit us from the right. The weather forecasters had predicted winds of up to 40 mph today, and they were clearly good at their job. We didn't realise just how strong it was, though, until we emerged onto a farm track and turned right, towards Great Wood and head on into the wind. Suddenly it became a real struggle to walk, and things got worse when the track ended and the continuing bridleway had a surface of liquid mud, denying us the traction needed to push forward into the wind. It really was a case of two steps forward and one back.

Despite this there were compensations. It was still pleasantly sunny and seemed reasonably warm. We saw pheasants in the fields around and three red deer running across the field at the top. A radio mast ahead beckoned us on towards the highest point. The views of low hills in the distance were enough to give a hint of that great "top of the world, surveying everything beneath us" feeling, despite the distinctly modest height of this top. Furthermore, the wind was distinctly giving us more than our share of fresh air, and what our mum would probably refer to as a healthy glow in our cheeks.

The wind drop as we passed through Great Wood, which was far too small for a name like that (especially as the map showed larger woods nearby). We were through the wood in a couple of minutes, emerging into a field beyond which were the inevitable reservoir and radio mast that so often seem to despoil the county tops.

The spot height of 128m on the OS map was on a track just to the west of the radio mast, a spot suspiciously occupied by a postman in a van. It was not clear what he was doing in a remote place like this, unless it was searching through the mail looking for birthday cards with money inside. The top of the reservoir was clearly the actual highest point, but as an artificial structure wouldn't count for the purposes of hill bagging. Apart from we felt that the land immediately around the reservoir was visually higher than the spot height on the OS map. The GPS unit still gave the same 128m reading, but I'm not convinced how much I trust the accuracy of any altimeter. Whatever the correct point was, it was a landmark for us, being our 40th top.

We headed back to the car on a different route. Blown along by the wind at almost jogging speed, our progress was initially much quicker than on the way out. Unfortunately the path soon took us across a field with a particularly heavy clay soil, which doubled the size and weight of our boots. Our legs got more tired still, but our spirits were lifted by the sight of a hawk whizzing past at high speed - backwards. Its attempt to fly into the wind was distinctly unsuccessful.

This walk had been surprisingly hard work for such a short distance and gentle ascent; we'd gained the Suffolk and West Suffolk tops, but it had been a hard won (yet enjoyable) battle.