Funding threat to Thornham Walks

A CUT in funding for a popular mid Suffolk visitor attraction is set to be discussed by councillors next week.

Elliot Furniss

A CUT in funding for a popular mid Suffolk visitor attraction is set to be discussed by councillors next week.

Thornham Walks attracts about 20,000 people from across the country every year as well as hundreds more from the surrounding area but the future of the site has been plunged into uncertainty.

The attraction, based at the historic Thornham Estate, home to the Henniker family, includes 12 miles of paths and associated facilities and is largely funded by Mid Suffolk District Council.

However, the council is currently reviewing its services and budgets in many areas and proposals to reduce spending at the site will be discussed by its executive committee on Monday.

John Cousins, a trustee of the estate, said there remained a very good relationship with the council that had proved successful for several years and he understood the reasons for the review.

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He said: “We're on good terms with them and without a shadow of a doubt they have done a fantastic job and we totally appreciate that and we're looking at ways to continue that work.

“The Henniker family own the estate and the trustees are very, very keen to keep these walks open and we will do everything we can.

“We are looking at ways and means to keep the walks open for the public as they were designed to be by the late Lord Henniker - to give people access to the countryside, which is very important.

“It's never been a money-making activity. It's always been at the cost of the Henniker family and the estate.”

The walks set-up, which covers a large part of the estate's 2,000 acre grounds, includes an office, caf�, restaurant and toilet facilities and there is no entry fee, just a �1 parking charge.

Despite the best efforts of the trustees, the Thornham Field Centre, an environmental educational project at the estate, was shut in July last year and the closure of the walks would be another blow to the estate.

A spokesman for Mid Suffolk District Council said: “A proposal to reduce the funding at Thornham Walks will be going to our Executive Committee on January 11, where a decision on the future funding arrangements will be made.

“As like other councils in Suffolk, we are having to review our services and budgets and make some tough decisions. However, we are committed to looking at what other alternative arrangements can be made to help support Thornham Walks.”