From mixed broadleaf woodland to coniferous and evergreen through grassland, rough pasture and flower studded meadows, Nowton park is a distillation of all the classic Suffolk landscapes in one park. Originally landscaped in the grand Victorian style, the park’s near 200 acres has evolved into a mix of the traditional in the form of the redesigned Victorian garden to the more modern woodland sculpture for kids to scramble over. There is also a maze that is open between May to October and a fenced play park with wheelchair accessible swing.
We walked the two mile perimeter trail through trees coming into leaf and crusted with blossom- hawthorn, cherry, horse chestnut and oaks; the air heavy with the scent from the bluebell filled borders and the meadows of cowslips. Felled tree trunks have been left in situ for children to swarm over and ape the Enid Blyton-esque childhood antics that modern life sometimes deprives them of. The east and west arboretum and folly woodland walk has been newly landscaped with sinuous bark litter covered walkways curving around specimen plants, camellia, Cedars of Lebanon and a flint and stone tumbled folly. This is the park in which we can meet characterful, amazing trees including a lightning struck Douglas fir; a catalpa (Indian bean tree) that appears to be consuming a fence; yews that spin and twist and finally, the giants of the tree world- the redwoods. Underplantings of vipers bugloss, brambles, dead nettle (lamium), dog’s mercury, sweet violet, lords and ladies, wood spurge come into their own in the spring and then die down in a blaze of colour as the winter approaches.
The park organises nature trails designed to both inform and entertain with ‘nature stops’ – the tall dead trees left standing might go unnoticed until your attention is drawn to the peppering of holes around their circumferences- the work of the parks resident woodpecker population. Clattering groups of Magpies racket through the denser cover and dogs are driven bonkers by the smell of rabbit everywhere. The park is a very popular place for your hound to walk, to run and exercise, although dogs must remain on the lead.
The switch from one landscape to another can be pretty dramatic. Pathways of deep bark litter and decades of leaf mulch push on through woodland; turn the corner and the trees break onto a meadow studded with cowslip, dandelion and buttercups. One minute later and you are into the gloaming of heavier Victorian planting; the black-green ever green quilted leaves of viburnum; the thick yews and laurels. Wander through this and arrive at the folly and pond planted with a Japanese feel- willows, specimen trees and bushes, airy, light with the branches traced against a more visible sky. It is no surprise to remember that the nearby large house used to be the local Japanese school.
Amenity wise the park caters superbly for its visitors. Huge car parks (charges do apply), the decent cafe and visitor centre with bathrooms for the able bodied and the not so. The cafe sells hot and cold drinks, light snacks such as jacket potatoes, cakes, sweets, ice creams and boxed picnic style packs for children. Dogs are offered water bowls. Nearby is the fenced in playground, a green with picnic benches and information points.
It is wonderful to see so many children really hurling themselves around, jumping from logs, using ,mole hills as stepping stones and cycling on the cycle tracks. The park has long been used for organised team sports with its ball pitches and tennis courts but is becoming a real local destination for outdoor activity and fresh air.