Wonderful walks on tap at pubs in Laurie’s new guide
Summer is here. Time for even fair weather walkers to slip on comfy shoes and head out into the countryside.
Trouble is, not everyone’s map-reading skills are up to working out where the footpaths go, especially if signs fall over and get swallowed up by nettles.
No-one wants to end up confronting an angry bull – or an even angrier farmer.
And who needs the job of wrestling with a map when they could concentrate instead on soaking up the wonderful scenery around them.
To the rescue comes Laurie Page, a man you could say lives and breathes footpaths.
At work, he is a council officer dealing with public rights of way.
Off duty, he likes nothing more than getting out to enjoy the grassy byways he spends his working life helping to protect.
And he has now done the tricky part for amateur explorers, producing a pocket-sized book of walks through some of the loveliest landscapes in Suffolk.
They range from the gently rolling cornfields in the west of the county to wetland nature reserves nearer the coast.
He also highlights landmarks to look out for.
Each walk finishes back where it started. Even better, that place is a always a country pub.
Laurie’s Guide to Suffolk Pub Walks has just been published by Countryside Books.
It details 20 not-too-challenging routes of between three and five miles through the foopaths, lanes and villages of his now-home county.
He previously wrote a similar guide for Essex, where he is a definitive map officer for the county council.
Three of his other books are also still in print.
Walking is now his way of keeping fit, often alongside his partner Deborah.
They moved to Glemsford last year with the youngest two of her four sons, James and Joseph, and are getting married in July.
“One of the reasons we like it here so much is that in two minutes you can be out in the countryside,” he said.
Both have always been keen walkers. “When we met we found it was a common interest,” says Deborah, a carer who looks after people with severe dementia.
Laurie, who has a grown up son, Simon, was a keen squash player until back trouble intervened.
He coached professionally for 10 years, and also spent more than two decades teaching PE in further education colleges.
“When I was made redundant I thought I’ve done this for 20 years, I want to do something different,” he said.
By chance, he spotted an opportunity to turn what had always been an interest into a new career.
“I saw the county council job advertised and liked the sound of it so I applied.
“I think the fact I’d already written walking books helped.
“My job mainly involves working with landowners who want to divert footpaths, say from the middle of a field to the edge.”
Strangely, he never intended to produce walking books.
“I approached the publisher because I wanted to do a book on family history which is another of my interests.
“They said no, then they came back to me and said ‘would you like to write one on walks instead.’”
Walking for pleasure is a Page family trait that has passed down through at least two generations.
“My dad Frank, who’s 94 now, was very keen on it and I remember he had some big AA books on walks,” Laurie says.
But by writing his guides he is really following in the hiking boot steps of his great-uncle, Hugh Page.
“He wrote books for British Rail starting and finishing at railway stations, and used to walk in the Cotswolds. the West Country, all over the place.”
Hugh’s writing career had a tragic end. He was killed researching a book, aged 79, when he was knocked over by a van.
Laurie’s bookcase contains treasured copies of some of his vintage guidebooks, which cost sixpence each.
“My dad had kept one called Rambles in the Wye Valley, and I found some others for sale on the internet.”
It was Countryside Books who asked Laurie to come up with walks centred on pubs.
Not that it was too much of a chore. He loves a good pub although, unlike a lot of serious walkers, he is not a connoisseur of real ale.
“The two things do seem to go together quite often, but I’m more of a wine man,” he says.
“When I begin a book I start by looking at the Ordnance Survey map to find a good network of paths where I can pick out a circular route.
“Then I have to go and try them out. Usually they work, but occasionally you find some kind of obstruction.
“Keeping footpaths open is very important. At work we get an awful lot of complaints if the paths are not walkable.
“I also like walking through the villages, looking at their churches and other historic buildings.
“Parts of my routes are on lanes where there’s not too much traffic, but I try to avoid main roads as some can be very dangerous.”
Among the pub hubs Laurie chose are the Rushbrooke Arms near Bury, the White Horse at Whepstead, and the Six Bells at Preston St Mary.
Routes from the Anchor at Nayland, the Crown at Framlingham, and the Bell at Kersey also feature.
So does the Black Lion at Long Melford, where the walk passes close to Tudor mansion Kentwell Hall.
Walkers starting from the Red Lion at East Bergholt will see Willy Lott’s cottage and Flatford Mill, scenes made famous by painter John Constable.
Well-known landmarks like Framlingham castle, and lesser-known ones like the village pump at Rushbrooke also feature in their local trails.
For each walk Laurie also suggests nearby places of interest to visit.
His previous books include two called Kiddiwalks – one Suffolk and one Essex – which describe shorter strolls suitable for families with children.
The Suffolk version includes walks from Brandon, West Stow, Clare, Hartest, Pakenham, Stoke by Nayland, Eye and Stonham Aspal.
He has also written a book on history walks around Essex.