Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Rather Curious Herring Festival 2011

An 8.8 mile circular walk through the Suffolk countryside to attend the 2011 Suffolk Herring Festival at Middleton.

I have been to music festivals and folk festivals and country fairs and even the novel barrel fair, but I can honestly say that I have never ever attended a Herring Festival until this walk. Held on the grounds of the Farm Shop in the village of Middleton this two day event features food and drink, exhibitions, music and games, competitions, and demonstrations of herring preservation and preparation.

A Rather Curious Herring Festival - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Leiston View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Middleton View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
9 miles
Walk difficulty


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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Map My Walk Map
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GPX data for route (download)

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
10:30 to 16:00
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Lovely sunny autumn day

Walk Notes

There are more direct routes to Middleton from Leiston but for this expedition we decided to amble out across to the Cakes and Ale campsite. This uses footpaths that I certainly haven't walked before which provided added spice and discovery to the days events. Return was along the Minsmere River to Eastbridge, then following the Sandlings trail back to Leiston.

As expected the festival was truly unique and I am glad to say that it seemed to be well attended, with a makeshift car park set up in the field across the road from the Farm Shop. Although there was no draught ales on offer at the bar, they did have a bottled ale, brewed by the Brandon Brewery for the occasion and named Silver Darling which was a light and refreshing bitter. When we arrived the mini opera Peter Herring was being played out. It was difficult to hear but was nonetheless entertaining, centered around the infamous Aldeburgh sculpture which was dressed up as a crab centre-stage. Lunch was a freshly filleted and BBQd herring in a crusty french stick served with peppers which was very tasty. For those who don't like herrings there was a baked potato stall, though quite why anyone who does not like herrings attends an herring festival is pretty much beyond me! Before leaving we caught some music and singing about herrings and the sea, heard some poetry about the sea and herrings, had a look around the herring sculptures and Farm Shop where the herring beer and herrings were on sale. So, in conclusion, I was somewhat bemused by it all, but the festival is a totally unique event and I do hope that it continues to get better and better in years to come. I will certainly attend again and recommend this to any herring fancier! So if you have a fetish, or just want to attend something totally different then be there for the next festival in 2013.

Chuck a herring
Chuck a herring


A simple walk using existing footpaths, lanes and tracks

Head down Victory Road adjacent to the park in Leiston. Contiue along the footpath at the end of the road which eventually emerges at the church and out onto Waterloo Avenue. Turn left and follow the road out of town, beyond the cemetary until a terrace of houses on the right. A footpath on the leiston side of the terrace follows the field boundaries, across the railway, across a country lane, then directly across an open field to Fishers Farm. The path cuts through the hedge and onto the drive to the farm. Follow this down to the road, turn right and keep to the road until there is a junction on the left. Follow this road all the way through to the end junction, carry straight ahead across the field along a footpath into Theberton where it emerges onto the main road through the village. At the church turn right and follow the lane out of the village. Take the first turning on the left and take the footpath on the left, through the gap in the hedge and across the fields. This eventually comes out at Fenn Farm in Middleton. As it meets the road , turn right down through the village.

RETURN: continue through the village until it meets the river bridge. Take the footpath on the right which follows the river through to the Eastbrdge road. Turn right and follow the road through Eastbridge and continue until a track on the left, marked with the Sandlings waymarker, is found. Take this track through to the Sizewell road, where it emerges on a sharp bend. Continue straight ahead and down the hill. At the bottom of the hill a footpath on the right leads through to Valley Road in Leiston. Keep on Valley Road until junctions at Barclays Bank in the centre of town. Turn left up the hill and then turn right at the traffic lights onto Cross street which end where the walk began.

Silver Darling beer from Brandon BreweryBlue skies and herring festivals!
On the left Silver Darling beer from Brandon Brewery; On the right Blue skies and herring festivals!


Eastbridge Eels Foot View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Eastbridge Eels Foot

A curious name for a pub; some say it comes from a Heel's Foot, a cobblers implement, others will argue that it is named after the Eel's Boot, a type of woven reed basket used in Eel Fishing. A more fanciful explanation is that it is a derivation of Neale's Boot, named after a medieval priest who trapped the Devil in his boot and tossed him into the river. The Devil escaped disguised as an eel.

The pub is an Adnams establishment and regularly has three of their cask ales on tap, these usually being the Bitter, Broadside and a seasonal ale. The pub is popular with walkers and birdwatchers from nearby Minsmere bird Reserve.

Food and Bed and Breakfast accommodation is on offer and The Eels Foot is renowned for its long tradition of Folk Music which still continue on Thursday evenings with a jam session.

On the interior walls of the pub there is a curious painting of a medieval country feast. If you look closely you will see that some of the men are wearing rather large codpieces. The painting appears to be a corruption of 'The The Peasants Wedding Feast' by Pieter Bruegel. I gather that his son, Pieter the Younger would copy his fathers work and this could well be a humorous copy as the original has a completely different background and no cod-pieces. But then I am no art expert so this is purely conjecture. Nonetheless it is amusing!


Although it was late afternoon by the time we arrived, this lovely village pub still had a few customers. Judging by their walking boots and waterproofs they were mostly walkers or twitchers. A pint of Adnams Bitter was refreshing, well kept as always at this pub. It still amuses me to look at the print featuring the large cod-pieces that adorns the wall.

Filleting the humble herring
Filleting the humble herring


Herring FestivalView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A biennial event promoting interest in the the Suffolk herring industry

Suffolk has a long historical association with the herring and herring fisheries and although there is little demand for this locally caught fish today, the Suffolk Herring festival seeks to reverse this decline and help people rediscover the humble herring. Autumn was the traditional peak of the herring fisheries and this, the second festival, is timed to coincide with that time of the year.

The Festival is organized by Suffolk Herring Festival Community Interest Company to keep alive the heritage of the Suffolk herring fisheries and promote the use of herrings in present day cooking in both home and restaurants. A varied programme of events take place throughout each day of the two day event and include demonstrations of filleting, preparing and cooking the Humble Herring, singing with Bridget Cousins, Captain Haddocks knotty workshop, Withy and Net Making, BBQ and bar, a mini opera called Peter Herring, Acoustic Guitar with David Harvey, Sea songs from Richard Turner and Brian Barker and an assortment of poems of the sea.

Paul Richardson's Steel Sculptures, Middleton: View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Larger than life metal sculptures and charactatures

This is a real treat that makes walking so worthwhile. The footpath that crosses the fields from Theberton descends across a marsh before coming back up to Middleton where it joins the road by a cottage named Ambleside. This is the residence of Suffolk Sculptor Paul Richardson. He sculpts in metal and his house is surrounded by examples of his work which are larger than life caricatures which, to say the least, are impressive. No-one who walks past this house can escape their curiosity and take time out to look at these magnificent works of art. Other examples of his work can be seen on peering out of the top of an Ipswich public convenience and in Ipswich Hospital.


Mother Lumpkins HoleView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A piece of local folklore

Mother Lumpkin's Hole is a deep hollow in the bed of the Minsmere River near Rackford Bridge. According to locals this teems with carp as big as pigs, and pike the size of baby sharks. Local legend states that a complete wagon and horses is said to have vanished into the hole and even today folk are warned away from this place for fear of being dragged in by the baleful monster that lives there.

herring sculptures
herring sculptures


Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2019-01-02


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