Valley Walk and NCN 13 Development
The Valley Walk and Gainsborough Trail could play a major part in linking Long Melford and Great Cornard to Sudbury thus removing traffic from Sudbury roads. To achieve this investment is required to provide a smooth all-weather surface the whole length of the route and remove current barriers to cycling accessibility (specifically chicanes at Bakers Mill and Kingfisher). Additionally, Sustrans have identified the requirement for smooth all weather well drained surfaces for all NCN paths, the Valley Walk between Kingfisher and Rodbridge Corner is part of NCN 13.
From comments made at the Sudbury Town Council Full Council Meeting in June 2020 it is clear that the idea of upgrading the surface of Valley Walk would meet resistance from some councillors.
This ignores the very practical issues surrounding its use as a cycle path. There seems to be a media led perception that cyclists must wear PPE to cycle, specifically Hi- Visibility clothing and if necessary waterproof clothing. This is mainly due to the absolute lack of investment in “enabling” safe cycling and the decades-long emphasis on the “encouragement” of cycling on our roads system instead. The “Wiggins” effect has led to the major increase in sports or leisure cycling.
But Valley Walk is different, no sports cyclists on road bikes would use it because the surface will cause inevitable punctures, and nor do utility cyclists (those using it to cycle from Melford to Sudbury for work, school or shopping) use it much for most of the year.
The reason for this is that from October to May every year it is a mud-bath, anyone cycling along the route will get themselves and their bike spattered and covered in mud. Thus they need to wear waterproofs to use the route and crucially need somewhere to change into work or other clothing at their destination.
No such facilities exist at workplaces, schools or Supermarkets. It would be more cost effective and better for these businesses and institutions for the surface to be made sealed and smooth and make changing clothes unnecessary.