196. Felixstowe Ferry to Woodbridge

March 2008

I finished my last walk at Felixstowe Ferry. Here I could opt to take the ferry over the river Deben to Bawdsey and continue on the (then) Suffolk Coasts and Heaths path or I could walk around the river. As there looked to be a good route around the river, I opted for the latter route.

The first place you can cross the river Deben is just north of the town of Woodbridge, which I presume is so named because it was once a wooden bridge (but it isn’t any longer). So that is where I was heading today.

I had managed to book cheap “Advance” tickets on the train, £6 from London to Felixstowe and £6 from Woodbridge back to London, a bargain, but it does mean I’m tied to a specific train on the way home.

So I took the train into London Waterloo, the tube to London Liverpool Street and then a train from there to Ipswich. At Ipswich I had to change onto the train to Felixstowe. This last train was a single carriage only and a sizeable portion of the passengers seemed to be on a hen-weekend to Felixstowe, which made for a rather noisy journey to Felixstowe, I was glad to get off the train!

I had timed my arrival to be the train closest to the time needed to take a bus onwards to Felixstowe Ferry. I had to find where the bus departed, a short walk from the railway station and it arrived a few minutes late. A couple got off in Old Felixstowe meaning I was the only passenger for the rest of the journey on the rather bumpy mini-bus onwards to Felixstowe Ferry, by which time we’d made up time and arrived on time.

Sadly this bus doesn’t run any longer (I guess that’s not too surprising, given I was the only passenger). To do this walk now you’d need to extend the walk slightly by starting from Old Felixstowe instead, or take a taxi from Felixstowe.

I arrived at Old Felixstowe in time to see the ferry to Bawdsey, though it looked like the boatmen had no passengers waiting either, it was a quiet morning in Felixstowe ferry.

Felixstowe ferry

Re-tracing my steps from the ferry slipway I soon turned right on the footpath along the western bank of the river. This passed a boat yard and then some rather quirky house-boats.

Boats at Felixstowe Ferry

Boats at Felixstowe Ferry

The path followed the bank of the river around a short muddy creek and then alongside marshes, with the river just beyond. Inland I could see an isolated and seemingly derelict house located in the middle of a field.

Abandoned house near Felixstowe Ferry

To my left was some scrubby grass and a drainage channel a short distance beyond that and then the fields of Felixstowe Marshes further inland.

Felixstowe Marshes

Felixstowe was gradually disappearing from view. Inland I soon passed the end of a large and wide drainage channel, King’s Fleet.

King's Fleet, Felixstowe

This was once a river, but now seems partly blocked, perhaps with sluice gates allowing the water through at certain times, but the path goes over the grassy bank at the mouth of the channel. It is so called because Edward III fitted out his fleet for an expedition to Flanders here in 1338, so it has a long history! The channel into which this river was once emptied was now devoid of water, revealing large areas of mud, as it was near low tide.

King's Fleet, Felixstowe

Beyond this the area of marshes to my right ended and I was now directly alongside the river, though the channel of water was now in the centre of the river, revealing large mudflats on either side. Alongside the path were bits of broken wood, embedded in the ground, the remains of something, but I’m not sure what.

The River Deben near Felixstowe

I soon came across a very make-shift jetty which seemed to be made up of platforms floated by barrels underneath. There was no obvious clue inland as to what this might be being used for, it was a bit odd.

The River Deben near Felixstowe

A short distance beyond this the marshes beside the river began again, though as a thin strip.

The River Deben at Falkenham creek

I was now level with the small village of Falkenham inland. It is a peaceful section of the walk and seems a world away from the busy shipping lanes around Felixstowe.

Ahead I soon reach the mud flats of Falkenham Creek.

This looks to be a place where the sea wall has been breached (whether intentionally or not), so the path follows the new sea bank slightly inland. This reveals a large area of mud and marsh which seems to be popular with ducks, who I see walking over the mud.

The River Deben near Falkenham

The River Deben near Falkenham

Inland the scenery is pleasant too, with gently rolling hills up to Falkenham. There are a few flocks of Canada Geese (I think) passing overhead as I walk around the creek, perhaps migrating away from the UK now that spring is here.

The River Deben near Falkenham

Once around the creek I’m back beside the river and can see the small village of Ramsholt on the other bank, where there is a bright pink pub, the Ramsholt Arms.

Ramsholt Dock from Falkenham

It has a large beer garden but there is no one there today probably because whilst it is late March, it is still overcast and cold.

I continue north soon spotting the pretty church of the village which seems quite remote from the rest of the village, but must have a lovely view.

Ramsholt from Falkenham

The path I’m following soon turns inland to follow the south bank of another creek, Kirton Creek, though it’s very short, only a few hundred metres, so it does not take long to get around it. It starts to rain lightly, too.

Marshes near Hemley

The path continues along the waters edge for a short distance further, but the map ahead is unclear. A right of way continues ahead but it soon has mud and marshes on both sides of the path. I am wondering what state it is in and the answer is soon revealed when I come to a footpath sign pointing along it, with the warning “No through route – this public right of way is not a through route due to erosion”.

Dead-end footpath

It doesn’t look like a good idea to risk continuing and in any case my cheap train ticket back from Woodbridge is tied to a specific train, so if I miss it, I have to buy a new ticket. This means I can’t afford to take a path where I will have to turn back, as it will take too much time.

So instead I turn inland on another footpath which follows a very muddy track to the small village of Hemley.

Hemley

I’m grateful when this track soon turns to a tarmac road and reaches the pretty church that serves the village. It seems rather unusual in that most of the church looks to be built from stone, but the tower is built from brick instead, perhaps a later addition.

Hemley church

Hemley church

The sleight extra height gained gives me a view over the wider estuary and the marshes below where the breached path is.

The River Deben near Hemley

At the church I can then turn right and head north along a road which soon becomes a bridleway and heads north, parallel with but inland from the river.

It is a pretty tree-lined path and thankfully the rain has stopped again. It is a little higher up so I can still enjoy views of the river, even though I’m not right beside it.

Path near Waldringfield

The River Deben near Waldringfield

In a little under a mile the path reaches the road again at White Hall and here I can turn right on a bridlepath to get closer to the river again. This goes round some sort of artificial lake which I think is used for fishing. I am wondering if some of the water is leaking or there is a spring, since it’s very boggy and muddy on the path as I pass it, so I soon end up with wet feet.

Lake near Waldringfield

Just beyond this I’m back at the coast at Waldringfield, sailing club which seems a hive of activity.

The River Deben at Waldringfield

There is a footpath right along the coast here though it turns out to follow the beach which is lovely, but might not be possible if the tide is high.

The River Deben at Waldringfield

The River Deben at Waldringfield

This path ends at the slipway of another boat club ahead and the path goes around their little boat yard.

The River Deben at Waldringfield

Waldringfield is a tiny place and once past a few more houses beyond the boat yard, I’m back into the countryside again, though the house owners are at pains to point out that the land either side is private.

The River Deben at Waldringfield

The tide is coming in now and the marshes are beginning to fill with water, it’s so much prettier than mud flats.

Marshes near Waldringfield

The path along the river is lovely but sadly short-lived because ahead is another area where the path has been lost to erosion as the land has turned into salt marsh. This means the path ahead is a dead-end so I have to turn inland again, though this time it is going to be mostly road walking.

I turn back for one last view of the pretty marshes before I have to leave the river side again.

The River Deben at Waldringfield

Here I follow a footpath to Manor House and continue along the track to the road, which I follow to the junction. Here I turn right onto Woodbridge Road. This is a narrow road, single track in places and so thankfully has little traffic.

The road passes a track leading to Cross Farm and then descends into a little valley near Howe’s Farm and then climbs back up the other side.

The Deben valley near Waldringfield

The road soon levels out and I now pass a house called Thatched Cottage on the right, no prizes for guessing how it got it’s name!

Near Martlesham

As soon as I pass this house I can turn right on a footpath that heads alongside Lumber Wood where there are still some daffodils in bloom.

Lumber Wood, Martlesham

The path turns left at the end of the woodland and then right where I reach a junction of paths and turn right. I’m planning to follow this path back to the banks of the river. The path takes numerous twists and turns, many of which don’t quite seem to match exactly what the map shows but it is well signed so I don’t get lost and am soon back beside the river, at the mouth of Martlesham Creek, which I need to turn left inland to get around.

I hate road walking and so tend to walk fast along roads and as a result I’ve made good time and can see I am going to be early into Woodbridge. So rather than turn left straight away, I take the time to turn right along the dead-end path a bit to get a better view along the river. Oddly though I’m heading upstream, it now seems much wider than it did before! I can see buildings ahead which I take to be my destination, Woodbridge.

The River Deben near Woodbridge

Zooming in I can see the white building looks to be a pretty clapper-boarded mill.

View to Woodbridge

Woodbridge looks like it’s going to be pretty. The tide is coming in fast now too with the river now full of water and lapping at the edge of the marsh.

Having enjoyed the view I then turn back inland to get around Martlesham Creek, which stretches for almost a mile inland.

Martlesham Creek

At the mouth of the creek but on the opposite side of the bank is this grand house, at Kyson Point.

Kyson Point, Martlesham Creek

It is a nice walk along the banks of the creek and as I near the crossing point I come across another boat yard of sorts, oddly not marked on the map, where there is an eclectic mix of boats moored up.

Martlesham Creek

In fact they are moored up alongside a thin strip of dead-end land that I suspect was once the old sea bank which has now also been breached. It has a footpath along it, but I can see it’s a dead-end, so have to head a bit further inland along the edge of Sluice Wood.

At the head of the creek I join the another long-distance walking path, this one the Sandlings Trail, which starts in Ipswich and heads for Southwold. I follow it along the western bank of the creek, over the sluice gates that no doubt give the woodland it’s name. Inland is an area of flooded land, marked as marshes on the map.

Martlesham Creek

Once at the end of the creek I can turn right and follow it’s northern bank. This gives nice views of the village of Martlesham which I was passing close to on the south side of the creek, but was largely out of sight.

Martlesham

I continue on the north bank of the creek soon passing on the coastal side of that large house I saw earlier and then back beside the Deben. Now it is only a short distance onwards to Woodbridge.

Martlesham creek

The path starts as quite a narrow path along the sea wall but soon widens and becomes tarmac. This is clearly a well used path as there is a car park just inland and an RSPB sign tells me that up to 150 species of bird can be seen each year in the Deben and around 70 of them breed here.

Ahead I have fine views of Woodbridge and the old mill house.

Woodbridge and the river Deben

Woodbridge and the river Deben

The path soon passes another small boat park and then a water-logged park beyond it, I’m rather glad my path is tarmac now having seen how wet the land around is.

Flooded park in Woodbridge

The path is now protected by a concrete sea wall and the water is lapping just below it.

The River Deben near Woodbridge

I pass another small boat yard and then come to a little harbour. Once again it is filled with various different boats.

Woodbridge

Woodbridge

The path goes around this little harbour and once I’m at the landward end of it I have reached the pretty little railway station.

This is my destination for today as I’ve booked to take the train home from here. However at the time I did the walk trains ran just once every 2 hours (now the service runs hourly) and I have about 40 minutes before my train is due. So rather than spend it sitting at the station I cross the foot bridge over the tracks and head to explore the town a little bit, though the footbridge itself is worth climbing as it gives me a better view.

Woodbridge

Woodbridge station

Since it’s nearly 5pm now most of the shops are closed or closing, but I can still appreciate that this is a very pretty town.

Woodbridge

I soon reach the lovely and well preserved wooden mill.

Woodbridge mill

I then head inland again to explore the roads of the town. It is, as my first impression suggested a lovely little town with a good range of mostly independent shops. I suspect the town is just too far away now for most people to consider commuting to London and so it retains it’s rural feel. I like it very much.

Woodbridge

The Red Lion, Woodbridge

Woodbridge church

Woodbridge

Woodbridge

Woodbridge

Woodbridge

Having explored the town I soon head back to the station and the train home. Woodbridge station is located on the East Suffolk Line. This is a very rural route that somehow and thankfully escaped the Beeching cuts. At the time I did this walk trains ran once every 2 hours, straight through to London Liverpool Street (Now they run hourly, but only as far as Ipswich, you have to change for London).

When the train arrives it is only 3 carriages, which seems rather small considering it is going through to London and stopping at many large towns and cities on the way, though it is only about half full initially. It is a slow trundle through to Ipswich but from there we join the main line where the train picks up speed.

As I suspected, the little 3-carriage diesel train is soon overwhelmed by passengers, many of whom have to stand so I’m glad I got on early enough to get a seat! Perhaps this is why trains no longer run through to London on this route – they are too small to cope with demand.

This was a trickier walk than I had expected, as it turned out some of the paths marked as through routes on the map aren’t in fact passable, so I had to take more diversions inland than expected, hence my earlier arrival at Woodbridge, though thankfully I did not have to walk on any busy roads, only quiet ones. Despite the overcast weather, the river Deben was a very beautiful place and it ended at pretty town of Woodbridge. I’m glad I took the diversion inland though, rather than the ferry, since it was an attractive walk and ended at the lovely town of Woodbridge, which I’d otherwise have missed.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. As mentioned you can’t get a bus to Felixstowe Ferry now, the closest is old Felixstowe. The nearest you can get now is Old Felixstowe, a little over a mile now. There is a direct bus from Woodbridge to Old Felixstowe (see below), or you could take the train back to Felixstowe station.

Ipswich Buses routes 173 and 174 : WoodbridgeMartlesham – Martlesham Heath – Waldringfield (174 only) – Kirton – Falkenham (173 only) – Trimley St Martin – Trimley St Mary – Walton – Felixstowe – Old Felixstowe. 5 buses per day Monday – Friday, 4 on Saturdays, no service on Sunday. It takes around 50 minutes between Woodbridge and Old Felixstowe.

As an alternative you could travel by train. To do this take the train from Woodbridge to Ipswich and then change at Ipswich for a train to Felixstowe (this is in the town and so a couple of miles walk from Felixstowe ferry). Trains run hourly between Woodbridge and Ipswich (The East Suffolk Line) Monday – Saturday and once every 2 hours on Sundays. Trains run hourly between Ipswich and Felixstowe, seven days a week. All trains on both routes are operated by Greater Anglia and you can download the timetable here.

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

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1 Response to 196. Felixstowe Ferry to Woodbridge

  1. Ah, those marshy estuaries… and all that mud! Woodbridge looks lovely and a good end to the walk.

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