There are dozens of wonderful walking routes in Suffolk, many of which reveal hidden gems of the countryside. With various types of habitat making up the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty across the Suffolk Coast and Heaths you are sure to enjoy stunning views and encounter a menagerie of wildlife throughout the seasons.
Lying just outside of the villages of Blaxhall and Tunstall, and a stone’s throw down the road from Snape Maltings, Blaxhall Common is predominantly heathland which is home to many species of birds, butterflies and even reptiles. There is also a variety of flowers and plants which grow in the area, and the Common is surrounded by woodland.
Blaxhall Common can be reached on the B1069. There are parking areas on either side of the road which gives walkers the choice of where they start their walk from. Whilst there are two main routes around the Blaxhall and Tunstall area - the Heath and Forest Hike and Across the Heath, there is also the Sandlings walk which you can follow as well as lots of diverges from the path you can take. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a short, fixed lead between March and July due to ground nesting birds and at all times when near livestock which are sometimes found in the area.
Today I went for a jaunt over Blaxhall Common, curious as to what species I would stumble across. Sadly the sun wasn’t shining as brightly as it had been the day before and despite the slight touch of drizzle in the air I set off undeterred. Initially my walk was a reverse of seen but not heard - I could hear a woodpecker and the twittering of all kinds of birds but nothing dared to show itself. I caught fleeting glimpses of the odd sparrow as they darted across the path ahead of me and into the undergrowth. It wasn’t until I startled a part of unsuspecting pigeons and a blackbird until I caught sight of some wildlife.
The Common was absolutely carpeted with bell heather, which blooms between July and September. As the sun finally made an appearance, the heather looked radiant. This plant can be found across Britain, apart from the East Midlands, and the splash of its purple-pink flowers is a welcome addition to the green Suffolk countryside over the course of the summer.
Gatekeeper butterflies are commonly found in the south and east of Britain, and are often called the hedge brown butterfly. The males and females look very similar as they share quite distinctive colours and patterning - orange with two large brown spots on the wings known as eyespots. This feature is designed to deflect bird attacks. They live in colonies which can range in size from a few dozen to thousands.
I managed to catch sight of several squirrels, but only one stayed still long enough for me to snap a photo. The grey squirrel was introduced to Europe from the North America and are common sights across Britain. They lived in woodland areas and make their nests, dreys, on tree branches or in the hollows of tree trunks. This particular squirrel was quite shy, hiding behind some leaves, before it darted along the length of the tree branch and jumped across to the neighbouring tree and out of sight.
The common blue butterfly is perhaps the most widespread blue butterfly in Britain and they thrive in a variety of habitats. Wings of the males of the species have uppersides in an iridescent lilac with a thick black border and grey undersides. Females have brown uppersides with a row of red spots along the edges, blue at the base of the wings and brownish undersides.
I wandered down some a path that was mostly obscured by the ferns which grow in abundance around the common. This winding path took me away from the Common towards a track used mostly by tractors. Feeling a sense of adventure, I followed the track for a while and it was here I caught sight of a French partridge, or red legged partridge, through a gap in a hedgerow. This partridge, with its dramatic plumage, is easily distinguished from the English or grey partridge. Introduced into Britain as a game bird, the French partridge has become naturalised in flat areas of England and Wales and is often spotted on farmland.
I interrupted a pair of rabbits having a nibble in the same field. A common sight throughout Britain, chances are if you are out for a walk in the Suffolk Countryside you’ll see a rabbit or two. Some scurry away before you get half a chance to notice them but others can be quite happy to watch you pass them by. These two were more than content to watch me through the hedgerow before they returned to their mid morning snack.
Just before I left the Common I spotted the striking combination of black and yellow which marks out the caterpillar of the cinnabar moth. They can grow up to 3 centimetres long, and the caterpillars can actually turn cannibalistic. You might think is would be due to lack of food but often this occurs for no apparent reason. Cinnabar moths, and their caterpillars, can be found throughout Britain and they are easily identifiable with their red and black markings.
Click here to download a map detailing Blaxhall Common and walks in the surrounding area.