195. Trimley St Mary to Felixstowe Ferry

March 2008

This walk would take me back to the open sea at the large town of Felixstowe, having walked around the Stour estuary.  From Felixstowe I continued onwards to the little village of Felixstowe Ferry, separate from Felixstowe and at the mouth of the next river, the River Deben.

I travelled by train for this walk. Having found previously that it was now very costly to buy tickets on the day, I’d switched to booking tickets in advance. This has the downside that I’m committed to a specific train and date and have to plan in advance (meaning I can’t simply wait for a nice day). But it has the upside that it’s very cheap, my return journey from London came in at a total of £12, which is a very good deal.

I took the train into London, the tube to London Liverpool Street and the 9am train from Liverpool Street to Ipswich and finally another train from Ipswich to Trimley St Mary, where I ended my last walk. I made an early start so as to make sure I finished the walk before dark and because I was booked on the train home just before 5pm.

Thankfully my trains all ran to time and I arrived at Trimley St Mary a bit before 11am. I retraced the same route I’d followed to the station last time in reverse to return to the coast at Fagbury Cliff, overlooking the huge container port at Felixstowe. It was, as you might expect, full of shipping containers.

The Port of Felixstowe

I continued on the raised path alongside the docks to reach the railway line ahead. Here a gate allowed the bridlepath to cross the railway lines. There are several tracks to cross here, all serving this large port. There are many freight trains operating to and from this port and these tracks all service various sidings. Once over the tracks I emerged onto Fagbury Road running through the port.

Here I hit my first problem. At a junction ahead I was informed the road ahead was closed for resurfacing. However it was the weekend and there was no one around, so I climbed around the barriers and continued along the road to the large roundabout ahead with no problem

There is another busy road to the right here into the docks (Gate no 2, according to the sign) but I continued straight ahead, now on the A154 which thankfully did have a pavement. Though there was some traffic it was not that busy for an A-road.

I continued to the next roundabout and again went straight on, past dock gate number 1. Now I had a slightly strange mix. On my right the industry that surrounds the dock whilst on my left is now a large caravan site.

At the end of this I crossed the level crossing of another part of the railway line that serves the dock. This was once also the site of the Felixstowe Beach station, as although better known now for it’s container port, this was once also a very popular resort and trains used to continue to Felixstowe Pier. Now passenger trains no longer run along here, having ended in the 1960s.

I passed a now very closed and run-down looking “Avenue Cafe”. I continued ahead and after a couple of hundred metres at last the industry was behind me and I had reached the sea! Sadly it was a misty and overcast day so I couldn’t see very far and the buildings to the north, including the pier, were disappearing into the mist.

Felixstowe Promenade

Now I had a choice. Having reached the sea I could turn left or right along the promenade. Left was my route onwards along the coast but there was a narrow dead-end spit of land to my right that I could also walk around, stretching to almost 2 miles. I decided having come so far and walked around all the rivers I’d include this, too. So I turned right.

I soon passed something else I’ve not seen for a while, another Martello tower.

Martello Tower at Felixstowe

This one seemed to have been converted to a coastwatch lookout station. It is nice to see a use can still be found for these buildings. Soon I began to see beach huts alongside the shingle beach. Now I was firmly behind the industry and into the resort part of the town, but all was quiet on this early spring day.

Felixstowe

I continued past more caravans and then was only separated from the docks to my right by a thin strip of green common land (Landguard Common).

Languard Common

After a while, bored of the promenade I decided to head down onto the beach where there was a narrow strip of sand which made for easy walking and was more pleasant than the concrete promenade.

The beach in Felixstowe

I continued on my sandy strip of beach soon with the breakwater at the end visible, Landguard Point.

The beach in Felixstowe

Beyond this I could see the large container ships making their way in and out of the port of Felixstowe.

The breakwater seemed derelict and at the landward end I headed back to follow a path along it’s top.

The beach at Felixstowe

The beach around the western side of this spit was also shingle and this one with rather run down wooden sea defences. In theory I should be able to see across the estuary, but it was so misty I couldn’t. I followed the narrow top of the sea wall now, the promenade had ended.

The beach at Felixstowe

This had clearly been an important point to defend during World War II as there were some old concrete huts which I guess were used for lookout, though may also have held search lights. Now they were abandoned on the shingle and it was slightly reminiscent of Dungeness.

The beach at Felixstowe

Old World War II remains at Felixstowe

I continued along the sea wall past another  derelict pier and now onwards on the shingle bank, which was very hard going.

Felixstowe

Ahead I was now approaching the docks again, so I’d soon have to turn inland away from the beach. Here the large cranes dominated the landscape, used to lift the containers on and off the ships, though one near the front did not look at all right and looked like it might have collapsed.

To my right was a large castle of sorts, Landguard Fort.

Landguard Fort, Felixstowe

Landguard Fort, Felixstowe

The first fortifications here date from 1540. It has been greatly expanded over the years and had a particularly interesting role during World War II. From here free flying hydrogen balloons were launched, carrying incendiary devices or trailing steel wires which were intended to damage power lines. It was disarmed in 1956 and closed and now it is in the care of English Heritage. Although far from the prettiest of castles, I would have liked to have had a look inside, but it did not open until Good Friday which was another week or so away. So I had to make do with looking outside.

I continued right to the end of the beach where there was a car park behind the beach and just beyond it the wall that marked the edge of the port of Felixstowe.

The Port of Felixstowe

Now I was closer that crane certainly did look as if it had collapsed, as there were broken and bent beams at all sorts of odd angles. I wondered if it was a planned demolition or if someone had attempted to lift something too heavy, with disastrous consequences.

The Port of Felixstowe

I found it odd too how all the fisherman had decided to fish here, right at the end of the beach and alongside the docks. It was far from the prettiest of places!

From here I returned to the car park behind the beach and cut through this to go past the entrance to the fort, which also housed Felixstowe Museum.

Felixstowe Museum

Landguard Fort, Felixstowe

This too was closed, only opening on Sunday and Wednesday. From the fort entrance I followed a path back over Landguard Common towards the beach but followed a different path from the one I walked earlier. This was a path on a grassy bank made of shingle.

Landguard Common, Felixstowe

I wondered if it was also used as some sort of defence, or a patrol route during World War II.

I could once again look over to my left to the container port.

The Port of Felixstowe

I continued along this track until it rejoined the promenade next to the caravan park. Here I returned to the promenade and now headed north, re-tracing my steps from earlier in the walk, as there was no alternative now.

I passed the point where I had joined the promenade earlier and just after this I passed a large leisure complex on the left. This looked like it was once a nice art-deco building of some sort, perhaps a cinema but was now a Family Fun Centre (or amusement arcade), painted a rather garish pink and blue!

Felixstowe

Looking ahead, the pier was now appearing out of the mist. It was not the most elegant of piers, a small building at the landward end and a couple of small huts near the sea end.

The beach at Felixstowe

Still I continued along the promenade to reach the pier but when I got there only a very small stretch was open. The rest seemed to be derelict and was fenced off, presumably unsafe. I later found that the pier owners had applied for demolition in 2004, though this was 4 years later and it was still here. Felixstowe certainly had a rather down-at-heel feel to it.

Still from the pier I had a good view north along the coast, a mixture of sand and shingle beach with some fairly grand houses behind, probably many of them would once have been hotels.

The beach at Felixstowe

Happily there is a good ending here. In June 2012 plans were again announced to demolish the pier but this time to replace it with a modern design. This revised plan was approved in 2014 though this did not happen either but eventually a scaled down version of this plan was carried out. The old pier was demolished and replaced with a new modern pier, which finally opened last summer (August 2017). So the small stub of a pier I walked on is now more, replaced with a new and fully-open pier.

Felixstowe pier promenade

Beyond the pier I continued along the promenade. This part of town was smarter, with well maintained shelters along the promenade and numerous beach huts. There were also pleasant gardens on the left.

Felixstowe promenade

Gardens at Felixstowe

I continued to Cobbolds Point and tried to continue on the sea wall below this rather grand building (I suspect a hotel).

Felixstowe

Sadly I could see ahead the promenade abruptly ended and no way up. So I had to head back to the road just before this and go inland behind this building on the road.

In fact there were several buildings I had to go around and so at the end of the road I turned right into Golf Road and then I could soon turn right over a green, through some beach huts and back to the sea.

The promenade was quieter now and lined with beach huts and slightly below the low cliffs, so I could not see much beyond the beach huts to see what was inland.

Beach huts at Felixstowe

I was nearing the edge of the town now though a footpath sign directed me to continue on a narrow path behind the beach (is it still a promenade?).

The Suffolk Coasts and Heaths Path

The groynes along the beach had now ended and it was just shingle as far as I could see.

Shingle beach near Felixstowe

Soon rather oddly, pools of water had formed between me and the waters edge, where there was another Martello tower.

The coast near Felixstowe

In fact I soon realised when I saw the people that I could have been following a more coastal route in front of the Martello tower, so I headed over the shingle to do just that.

The coast near Felixstowe Ferry

Here there was again a narrow strip of sand below the sea wall which made for easier walking,  so I followed that. This soon ended and for a while I trudged along the shingle. I was nearing the mouth of the river Deben and there were shingle banks just beyond the water, probably where the river flows out to sea and washes shingle with it.

The coast near Felixstowe Ferry

I was now nearing the village of Felixstowe Ferry. There is actually about a mile gap between the northern edge of Felixstowe and this village, so it is a separate settlement that grew up around the ferry that crosses the river Deben. I continued on the beach to soon reach another Martello tower, where the promenade began again, with beach huts alongside it.

Martello Tower at Felixstowe Ferry

Over the river I could see through the mist a very grand house which when looking at the map I realised must be Bawdsey Manor.

Bawdsey Manor from Felixstowe Ferry

Felixstowe ferry itself was an odd mix of styles of building that seemed to have been built rather haphazardly.

Felixstowe Ferry

I was now at the mouth of the river Deben which I could see ahead and the small village of Bawdsey across the estuary.

Bawdsey from Felixstowe Ferry

Soon I reached the steps for the ferry that operates across the river. I wasn’t going to use it today though.

The River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry

If I headed inland alongside the river it was quite a distance to the nearest village as was the case if I crossed the river. So instead I had a look around Felixstowe ferry.

Felixstowe Ferry

It did remind me of Dungeness with the large shingle beach and banks, fishing boats and equipment being piled up all over the beach.

Felixstowe Ferry

There were also some rather temporary looking homes, with felt roofs.

Felixstowe Ferry

At the end of the little dock there were the familiar mud flats that seem to line every river and the usual range of derelict and abandoned boats.

The River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry

Felixstowe Ferry

It was quite an interesting place. Inland, the land from here was mostly taken up with a large golf course which was at least being used.

Golf course at Felixstowe Ferry

I ended my walk at Felixstowe ferry, heading back to the pub in order to take a bus back to Felixstowe.

Felixstowe Ferry

The River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry

I had timed my walk to end in time to catch the last bus (at 16:05) back to Felixstowe and the train home from there (this bus no longer runs). The bus arrived on time and from the centre of Felixstowe it was a short walk to the railway station. From here I took the various trains required to get back home. Sadly the bus from Felixstowe Ferry no longer operates, so you will have to walk back to Felixstowe, or call a taxi now. There is at least a pub in which you can wait, though.

The Ferry Boat Inn, Felixstowe Ferry

This was a varied and interesting walk. It did not take me long to get past the docks and industry that surrounds it and to the more pleasant surroundings of Felixstowe itself. It was an interesting town with some remote areas of mostly shingle beach and areas of a pleasant resort. It is also nice to hear that the areas I found a little run-down have since been improved too, such as the pier. Felixstowe Ferry was also quite interesting, with a varied mix of buildings and boats! Though next time I’d have to decide whether to go around the river Deben or take the ferry across.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. As mentioned above there is no longer any public transport from Felixstowe Ferry. Therefore the only option is to walk back to Felixstowe, which is a little over 2 miles. From there you can take the train back to Trimley.

Greater Anglia trains Ipswich to Felixstowe line : Ipswich – Westerfield – Derby Road – Trimley – Felixstowe. Trains run hourly, seven days a week. It takes only around 3 minutes between Felixstowe and Trimley.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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