Today I’d be following the eastern side of the river Orwell from Ipswich, the county town of Suffolk towards the sea at Felixstowe, though I didn’t quite make it as far as Felixstowe.
I was travelling by train again today and resolved the ticketing difficulties I had last time by buying two tickets, one from London to Manningtree and another from Manningtree to Felixstowe online and collecting them before setting off, so as to avoid the long queue for tickets at London Liverpool Street.
I took the train to London Waterloo, the tube to London Liverpool Street and the train from there to Ipswich.
Last time I finished in Ipswich but from the nearest crossing of the river Orwell at the Orwell Bridge I walked another couple of miles into Ipswich, but it was not an especially pleasant walk for the most part and I didn’t wish to repeat it. So having paid for a ticket as far as Felixstowe when I arrived at Ipswich I saw that the train (well, single carriage) to Felixstowe was already waiting and so I decided to take this to a station called Derby Road. This is a little nearer the river Orwell than Ipswich and so saves me re-walking quite so much of the route. I was a bit puzzled why there is a station in Suffolk called Derby Road though, but there we are, there is.
It was a small station in the suburbs of Ipswich. From here I could follow the access road from the station and head south to the A1156. I followed roads south from here back to the edge of Landseer Park where I joined the route of the Stour and Orwell walk again, which I had followed at the end of my previous walk. I retracted my steps to soon reach Pipers Vale Country Park and the fine views of the Orwell bridge ahead.
I didn’t need to cross the bridge this time, having done so last time and so continued underneath it.
It is an impressive structure though as I said last time, not especially pretty in my view. Once under the bridge I was in the Orwell Country Park. Here the path continued on a pleasant path right beside the river. The tide was low this time and so there was only a narrow strip of water near the centre of the river channel, the rest being a mixture of shingle, sand and mud flats.
I was surprised to find there was a bit of a beach beside the river.
Rather than stick to the official path I decided to drop down onto this beach for a short while, as it was firm underfoot and there were even tyre tracks from a bicycle – another hint I was not going to sink into the mud.
Soon I started to get low sandy cliffs to my left and decided it was probably not wise to stick to the shore now. When I spotted a path up off the beach and onto the official route I followed it.
The official route now ran through an area of woodland along the top of what were now quite high cliffs, offering glimpses of the river through the trees.
Just inside the woodland, the official route of the Stour and Orwell Walk turns inland and follows roads for around 2 miles. However the path through the woodland seemed to continue ahead and I could rejoin another right of way at the far end of it, which I could follow back inland if needed, so I decided to stick to that.
On reaching the end of the woodland the cliffs had ended again and I was back to the foreshore.
The footpath I had now joined continued ahead for around 500 metres before coming to an abrupt end. Dead-end footpaths like this puzzle me as I can’t see any reason why there would be a path that ends at seemingly nothing. Footpaths are established by regular use over a number of years, so it seems odd people would just walk so far and stop.
I decided to follow this path anyway knowing it was a dead-end in the hope I would be able to get through. I passed a couple of World War II pillboxes and continued on the foreshore.
I was re-assured that the path, despite being a dead-end seemed to be regularly walked. A couple of footbridges marked on the map did indeed exist.
However the path did indeed end abruptly but on the foreshore. The tide was a long way out and the inland route was un-appealing, following busy roads that I suspected would lack a pavement. Checking the map I could see a stream ahead and beyond that a jetty at Nacton Quay. However below the high tide line was a large area of mudflats and the going so far had been good.
I decided that if I could get past the stream ahead without too much difficulty I should be able to get round to Nacton, where the Stour and Orwell walk re-joined the shore. If not, I could turn back. I’d seen that the tide was already low and so I had some time before high tide.
Initially there was quite a well worn path along the shore and again I could see cycle tracks. The stream ahead proved not difficult to get around, I could head a bit inland and find a part that was narrow enough I could simply step over.
Once over there was again the useful cycle tyre tracks I could follow. There were areas of reeds and small areas of salt marsh to my right, but the ground underfoot remained firm.
It was very pretty too, with the beach on the foreshore and some woodland just behind it.
Strictly speaking I was not trespassing here as I believe the land officially ends at the high water mark and so there is legal access along the coast and rivers if you are below the mean high water line.
I was pleased to seen reach Nacton Quay. This turned out to be easy to get around as the main jetty was very short, the rest more a few rocks on the foreshore. I was also pleased that the large house of Orwell Park House inland was shielded from me by trees, since it meant no one was able to see me from the house crossing the probably private jetty. I continued on a mixture of the foreshore and feint path just outside of the fence.
Just beyond this there was a small house and here I had a welcome surprise – a sign informed me I was now on a permissive path with a Suffolk County Council sign telling me it was by permission of Orwell Park School. This was very welcome as I now knew I’d be able to get through at the other end and avoid the road walking.
The path was good too, there were even sections of boardwalk over some boggy areas.
I followed this lovely path through the edge of the school grounds and soon I had rejoined the official route of the Stour and Orwell Walk, but I was pleased to have found a much better coastal route, albeit one that is only possible if the tide is out.
Where I re-joined the official route there seemed to be some evidence of another jetty of some sort, a line of rocks heading out to the foreshore with a marker at the end, but I don’t know what purpose it served.
The path continued through Home Wood with glimpses of the river through the trees.
At Nacton Shore the path gained a little height and I could see Levington Creek ahead and the masts of the boats at the large marina beyond it.
The path soon descended again and the trees on my left ended, giving me a nice view of Levington village inland, with a pretty church and what I think is a thatched pub next door.
A path cut inland here but I continued along the official route, closer to the coast to reach the banks of Levington Creek. The tide was out so this was mostly mud, but I could see the masts of lots of boats ahead and further along the cranes of Felixstowe ahead.
I turned left with the path to head into the creek and towards Levington. At one point an old boat appeared to have been washed up, though it had clearly been here for some time, with much of the side having rotted away.
It did not take me long to reach the head of the creek as it’s only about half a mile tall. I could then continue on the path around the eastern side of the creek and back towards the river Orwell.
I found the patterns in the mud interesting here. I’m not sure if they are natural or the remains of something man-made, but either way they were quite pretty.
The path continued along the edge of the creek and back to the shoreline, with a pond to my left and what looked to be landscaped parkland beyond, probably the grounds of Stratton Hall that I could see marked on the map.
Beyond this there seemed to some wooden posts sticking out of the river Orwell. I wondered if these are the remains of some sort of structure or purely for coastal defence.
A short distance beyond I reached the large Stratton Marina. It was packed full of boats, which surprised me in what is a fairly remote place.
Obviously as this is open to the sea I had to head inland behind it. Last time from the other side of the river I had puzzled about how you even accessed this marina, but it turns out the footpath marked on the map heading north is also the access road to the marina.
The marina was quite interesting and there was another of the red Lightships I have seen a number of along the Essex and Suffolk shore.
When the marina ended the path then ran along the coastal side of a large lake, Loompit Lake. The path was basically a causeway and I particularly enjoyed this section, with the water on both sides.
Looking back to the marina it looked to me like there might have once been another part of the marina or some sort of sea wall here that had since been eroded away or demolished, leaving a large area of mud behind.
Loompit Lake was lovely and I was amused by these ducks (or are they geese?) swimming in a straight line. across it.
At the far end the path continued along the shore, now with land to my left again and there was also some sand along the foreshore again. It was really pretty, with trees overhanging the beach in places and was a lovely peaceful place too.
I was really enjoying this part of the walk and was glad I had opted to walk around the river Orwell rather than use the ferry from Harwich.
A short distance ahead the path turned inland away from the sea wall again. The reason is that the sea wall ahead had been deliberately breached again. I suspect this is because I am nearing the large port of Felixstowe and I believe there is some law that if an area of marsh is lost to development (such as expansion of the port) a new area of the same size must be created elsewhere to compensate. I suspect I was walking past such a new area.
I wondered how long ago it had been breached, as there were now the dead remains of trees, killed by the salt water.
Beyond this breach I was back on the sea wall, but there was water everywhere again. To my right, the River Orwell whilst too my left were numerous ponds, small lakes and marshes, all part of Trimley Marshes.
This is a nature reserve owned by Suffolk Wildlife Trust. It is an attractive spot and there were a number of birds on one of the islands in one of the lakes. Judging by the tyre tracks alongside the path this looks like it might have been recently created, too.
The nature reserve however ends rather abruptly. At the far end of the nature reserve is the edge of the Felixstowe Container Port, the largest in the UK and the sixth busiest in Europe. It is quite a contrast to the rural scene behind me!
The map I had was a little odd here. The Stour and Orwell Walk was shown as going around the port as a permissive path, but another bridlepath was shown as taking a more direct and coastal route over the port. However it was clear the landscape was changing and it seems my map was created during this time. It is clear that the port had been extended over the old area of marsh and path but this had not been completely marked on the map and the old route of the path was still shown, even though it was built over. On more modern maps I can see that the route around the port is now a right of way and the old path on my map is no longer shown.
So as public access to the port area is not permitted I’d now have to head inland though before doing so I looked back to the river and sea and couldn’t help but notice just how much rubbish had been washed up beside the wall of the port, too.
A shame and I do wonder what effect it has on the nearby wildlife in the reserve.
So I headed inland beside the port for about 500 metres, to reach the edge of the port where I could turn right and follow the fences at the back of the port. I followed this path east around the back of the port for about half a mile, there was not much to see.
Here I had a decision to make. I had originally hoped I might be able to reach Felixstowe. But it was February and it was clear with the distance I still had to cover I was unlikely to make it before it got dark. So I decided to cut the walk a little short and head inland on a path to Trimley St Mary which had a railway station (Trimley) and was about 1 mile away. So I did that, following the path through a small area of woodland, Christmasyards Wood. Emerging from this woodland the path continued between fields on a pleasant tree-lined path that would not look out of place in a park and was dead-straight.
At the end this path came to Searson’s Farm and the road began. It was only another 300 metres or so along the road to reach Trimley railway station.
This was a pleasant and rural station with two platforms, though it was clear from the weeds that only one was in use.
I had about 25 minutes to wait for the train but at least the station had a nice little garden with some daffodils just coming into flower. As it was a sunny day the waiting shelter turned out to be fairly warm, so I was glad of a rest at the end of the walk.
This was a walk that I had mixed feelings about before starting, as I could see that whilst the middle section looked like it should be nice, the first few miles were not promising, along roads and I also expected the area around the port to be very ugly. In fact it turned out to be much better than I had expected, as I’d found a lovely route right along the shore at the start, avoiding the road. The sections along the river were lovely, it is a peaceful and picturesque river. The last path, like a path through a park was also unexpectedly pretty in an area I’d expected to be marred by the heavy industry of the Port of Felixstowe nearby. It had been a good walk in the end, better than expected.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :-