Cornard Walk

Cornard Walk

The Gainsborough Trail

Welcome to the Cornard Walk, the second section of the Gainsborough Trail, named after the famous Painter Thomas Gainsborough, the portrait and landscape artist born and educated in Sudbury who walked, sketched and painted some of the natural landscapes you will see on this walk. The Cornard Walk is part of an approximate 12.4 mile continuous walkable route which will eventually encompass the whole of the Sudbury area, giving access to the best of the countryside in Sudbury, Great Cornard, Chilton and beyond.

The Cornard Walk

This section covers the  Cornard Walk, 7 miles of varied landscapes from riverside paths, open glades and woodlands to viewpoints overlooking the landscape that inspired Thomas Gainsborough. Discover historic Bakers Mill beside the meandering Stour, ancient Danes Hole where Boudicca’s army defeated the Romans (possibly!), and chalk cliffs that gave rise to Sudbury’s brick-making industry.


Stage One – Car Park to Cornard Lock

With the Kingfisher Leisure Centre behind you and Waitrose on your right, walk to the far left corner of the car park to enter the Valley Trail, a former railway line that once ran from Sudbury to Bury St Edmunds. Follow the trail for approx. 50m, turn left over a metal bridge into Friars Meadow.  Sudbury Meadows are owned and managed by  Sudbury Common Lands Charity.  Then simply follow the red Great Cornard Walk waymarkers.

The River Stour is used by the Sudbury Rowing Club with rowers often training along the river. There are ducks and wildfowl here and look out for the blue flash of a kingfisher!

Sudbury ramblers have kindly provided a bench about half way to Bakers Mill and alongside the river on the walk and recorded its history and launch here 

Just before crossing the Peter Berry Bridge into the Dove House Meadow development, is a view of the 15th century St Andrew’s Church. The church is typical of medieval Stour Valley churches and is where Gainsborough’s parents were married.

Some people believe that this church is the subject of his painting “Cornard Wood”.  Great Cornard Lock is one of a number of working locks on the Stour operated by the River Stour Trust

Stage Two – Bakers Mill

Historic Baker’s Mill was a working water mill at the time of the Doomsday Book in 1085. The milling has moved on, but the Mill Tye Gallery and Arts Centre occupies one of the refurbished buildings opposite the mill pond.  Mill ponds were used to hold water above the water mill and allowed the mill to control the flow of water through the water wheel where it was used to mill corn to flour.  The Mill is privately owned but can be viewed across the pond from the adjoining footpath.

Stage Three – Past the pitches

After crossing the Sudbury branch line – railway line – you enter the residential area of Cornard briefly before proceeding to the recreational area which was once Moors Farm and today comprises of the Thomas Gainsborough school playing field, the Sudbury Rugby Club, the Cornard United Football Club and the Blackhouse Lane playing field. At weekends there are football and rugby matches, with the Cornard Park Run on Saturday mornings and the Children’s Park Run on Sunday mornings.


Stage Four – The Country Park

It is a source of pride that the Parish Council established Great Cornard Country Park in 1986. The Country Park was opened by naturalist David Bellamy.  The Park offers a wide variety of flora in a landscape of plantations, ancient hedgerows, badger setts and ancient woodland. Bluebells are prolific in spring!

Danes’ Hole was once an arable field. Now Danes’ Hole has been returned to a natural state with a wide variety of plants including Bee and Pyramidal Orchids. Danes’ Hole is home to Common Lizards and at dusk Barn Owls can be seen.  Danes Hole is believed to be the site of Boudicca’s defeat of the Romans in 60AD as well as the scene of a 9th Century battle between Saxons and Danes. You look down onto the battle sites from the higher part of the Park.

Stage Five – The Pot Kilns

The Pot Kilns was once the site of 19th century potteries producing coarse earthenware. The Water Tower is the highest point of the trail with views across Great Cornard and Sudbury.

Stage Six – Shawlands Wood

Shawlands Wood is a nature reserve of woodland glades where invertebrates flourish. Shawlands Wood is owned by Great Cornard Parish Council and managed by the Sudbury Common Lands Charity.   The wood’s existence owes much to the hard work of local conservationist George Millins.

Stage Seven – Towards Cats Lane

The descent to the Maldon Grey Public House in Cats Lane is very steep due to this having been the site of 18th century chalk mines. Geological conditions here were ideal for the extraction of chalk of high purity, an essential ingredient for brick making.  Just before the pub, a short detour to the right leads to the chalk cliff face rising above housing.

Stage Eight – Allotments and Armes Wood

The descent from Newton Road to Cornard Road passes allotments and a substantial wooded area known as Armes Wood.  This land is managed by the Eden-Rose Coppice Trust and is voluntarily managed by Graham Lucas. In 2019, volunteers planted 700 trees including Hazel, Oak, Hornbeam, Silver Birch, Wild Cherry and Rowan.

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