200. Snape to Orford

July 2008

Having explored Orford Ness on my last post I’m returning to Orford to continue north along the coast. Well actually I’m not – I’m going to somewhere called Snape and walking back to Orford instead as that worked out easier to plan with the limited bus service at the time. Orford is at the mouth of the River Alde and so I now need to walk around this river.

I was pleased to have been able to book another bargain-basement train fare for £6 each way from London to Melton. Once I got to Melton station I took the bus to Snape rather than Orford because I’d otherwise have a long wait for a bus to Orford (neither bus ran very frequently at the time, neither bus runs at all now, sadly). Thankfully all my trains and buses ran on time and so I arrived at Snape just after midday.

Before I started this walk I thought Snape was a character in Harry Potter (specifically, Professor Snape), but it turns it is also a place in Suffolk (whose residents are probably sick of Harry Potter!). It is also the lowest point at which you can cross the river Alde (or is it the river Ore), at Snape Bridge, which is why I headed there today. Oddly as I mentioned last time this river seems to have two names, but I’ve no idea why. Wikipedia clarifies things (a bit?) by saying it’s the river Alde but that it is known as the River Ore for the final section (around 11km) of the river, but it doesn’t specify why it has two names!

I got off the bus in the village centre. If I’d have done my planning a little better, I’d have realised I’d have been better getting off the bus at Snape Maltings. This is right by the bridge (which has footpaths on either side of the river from the bridge, which I’ll be following) whilst the village centre is around 500 metres further north from the bridge. This meant I’d have to walk back along the road the 500 metres or so back to the bridge.

Still it gave me the opportunity to see the village of Snape which (as seems to to be the case for all the villages in Suffolk), is very pretty.

Snape

Snape

I headed south alongside the road, which thankfully had a pavement so I didn’t have to keep dodging the traffic. Soon I had reached the river Alde at Snape Maltings. This too was very pretty.

Snape Maltings and the river Alde

The beautiful original malting buildings are still present here, though the malting ended in the 1960s when the company that ran it went bust. It was converted to a concert hall and music venue in the 1960s after the local composer Benjamin Britten was looking for a new venue for the Aldeburgh music festival. It is still used for the same purpose today. The bridge is rather more in the functional rather than pretty category, however.

Snape Bridge, Suffolk

At the time of my visit the buildings of Snape Maltings were clearly undergoing some sort of refurbishment work at the time of my walk, as can be seen below. I later found this was because Aldeburgh Music had recently purchased a 999 year least of the site and as a result were investing in the building by creating new rehearsal space, amongst other things.

Snape Maltings

It was nice to see these once industrial buildings had found an interesting new use rather than being demolished as sadly often seems to happen.

Snape is another of those places where the coast seems to have been re-aligned. A footpath is marked on the map that I suspect followed what was once the south bank of the river. But the old bank beside the river had been breached, meaning the path wasn’t usable and now had mud flats on one side and the river on the other and with a couple of breaks in the bank. So instead I continued until I had reached the south end of the maltings complex where I could turn off the road on the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths path (now called the Suffolk Coast Path).

The path soon headed over an area of marshy land but helpfully a board walk had been built meaning I keep dry feet!

The Suffolk Coast path near Snape

The path continued around the edge of some fields close to the estuary until I had reached the point the old footpath rejoined the route at a placed called Iken picnic spot, where there was a small car park and some picnic benches.

Just past here I was now alongside the river Alde. It was very pretty with one of those Thames sailing barges I like moored up (even though I’m not quite far north of the Thames).

The River Alde near Snape

The Suffolk Coast Path continued along the shore here in front of a small wooded area, concealing a couple of houses. The path was right beside the river here where there was a thin but welcome strip of sand.

The River Alde near Snape

At the end of this woodland, the Suffolk Coast and Heaths path turned south, inland. This is because that path (now the Suffolk Coast Path) cheats (in my opinion!) here by missing out the walk beside the banks of the river Alde and instead taking a straight route due south to the river Butley which I crossed last time.

I wanted however to walk a more coastal route (as per my rules), so I ignored the official route and continued on the footpath along the coast. This was initially good, but soon there were numerous boggy and marshy bits so it was not the easiest path to use.

The River Alde near Iken

I passed Iken Hall and soon after this the path reached an area of marsh amusingly marked on the map as “Troublesome Reach”, I can imagine some boats must have got in trouble here at some point.

The River Alde near Iken

Here the path turned inland to the road, as did I, though it was a minor road. After a few metres I came to a junction. A dead-end road headed left to The Anchorage and the church but as it was a dead end road (that didn’t lead to any footpaths either) of only half a mile, I instead turned right, with the existing road.

This takes me through the village of Iken, which seems more a name given to the few remote and scattered dwellings around here than an actual village with a centre. I passed a grand house and continued to the hall and junction about half a mile ahead. There were distant views over the fields to the river, but I was now almost a mile from it, because there is no access to the river here (I’m beginning to see why the Suffolk Coast path heads inland here).

The River Alde near Iken

At this junction I continued ahead on the road, now called Ferry Road to head for the hamlet of High Street (I was amused by the name, given there were few buildings, and no shops). I followed this road for almost a mile passing a caravan park on the right and soon reached High Street, with a couple of houses and a farm just off to the left. Here the road simply ended, but a footpath continued straight ahead.

This was initially a good track but soon narrowed to a path that was poorly signed, so I had to keep checking the map. It crossed a little footbridge and soon I was back beside the river Alde, relieved to get off all those roads. The land to the left was signed as a nature reserve here, Alde Mudflats, which perhaps explains the lack of access (it is managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust).

Alde Mudflats

So instead I turned right to follow the footpath alongside the banks of the river. The river was noticeably wider than when I had last seen it.

The River Alde near Aldeburgh

The footpath along the top of the river was clearly rarely walked and in dreadful condition. It was heavily overgrown and uneven, but the undergrowth was thick enough I couldn’t really even see where I was putting my feet. In places, it was also blocked by gorse bushes, which I had to squeeze past. It was not good at all.

After more than half a mile of difficult walking along this the map suggested the footpath now dropped down off the sea wall and followed the south side of the drainage ditch between the sea wall and the fields. However the top of the sea wall was now neatly mown grass. Later on I could see the footpath rejoined the sea wall anyway, so I decided to ignore the official footpath and keep to the sea wall, which was now easy to walk thanks to the short grass. I had no trouble following this route, until the official path rejoined the sea wall.

Just before the river meets the sea, it turns sharply right, which is the start of the shingle spit leading to Orford Ness. On the south (or now west) side of the river where I was the path also turned right to head south, with the banks of the river. Over to my left I could see the town of Aldeburgh where I hoped to reach on my next walk.

The River Alde near Aldeburgh

I was reminded that the road that led here was called Ferry Road and presumably there was once a ferry over the river here (the slipways are marked on the map), but it doesn’t operate now, so I had to walk around it. It seemed so close and yet to walk there it is well over 10 miles!

The river was now full of yachts, I expect in some sort of competition, or perhaps all just from a local club, heading out at the same time.

The River Alde near Aldeburgh

Aldeburgh looked quite nice from this side of the river, but I was a bit frustrated I’d have to wait a while to take a closer look!

The River Alde near Alderburgh

Soon I rounded the bend in the river to now turn south and head away from Aldeburgh and towards Orford. On the left I soon passed a Martello Tower on the narrow spit of land at the other side of the river, a reminder how well this coast has been defended in the past.

The River Ore near Alderburgh

It was feeling hot and humid now and clouds were gathering over Alderburgh, I was getting nervous there might be a thunderstorm, because I was a long way from any shelter and following a raised bank beside a river meant I was also about the highest thing around.

The River Ore near Alderburgh

It felt remote now with few buildings around and just the sound of the water gently lapping at the rivers edge. In the river itself I passed the rotting remains of another wooden structure (or perhaps an old boat).

The River Ore near Alderburgh

Inland was just miles of flat marshland, criss-crossed with drainage channels and grazed by sheep.

Sudbourne Marshes near Aldeburgh

The path was difficult again now, uneven and overgrown in places, but at least the route was obvious, just keep to the river bank. After about a mile I passed a little creek with a pump house behind it.

The River Ore near Aldeburgh

At this point the shingle spit on the other side of the river was deserted though it was high enough I couldn’t quite see over to the sea beyond it.

I continued on the river path beside the rather featureless Sudbourne Marshes but soon there was more of interest to see on the other side of the river. I was soon passing large masts.

Cobra Mist, Orford Ness

At the time I didn’t know what they were, but now I know (from my visit to Orford Ness) they are the old Cobra Mist site. The buildings alongside are the old radio station buildings I think, which were later used by the BBC World Service (but now disused).

The River Ore near Orford

Continuing south for another mile or two along the marshes, I was getting a bit bored with passing marshes, marshes and more marshes on the left (there was no variety), but at least I had the buildings of Orford Ness to look at on the other side, as I was soon level with the lovely old lighthouse there.

The River Ore near Orford

A few yachts made their way down the river too. I hadn’t seen any other people on the footpath but the river was at least being used.

The River Ore near Orford

Soon I was nearing Orford and beginning to see more boats moored up in the river, a sign a settlement is near.

The River Ore near Orford

Sure enough I was soon entering a boat yard, marking the start of the village of Orford.

The River Ore at Orford

Just beyond this I reached Orford Quay, where the boats to Orford Ness depart from.

The River Ore at Orford

I had now joined up with my previous walk. The flat path along the river was not that interesting and being flat I had made quite good progress, so I had about an hour before the bus I needed to catch was due. Having previously visited the castle I decided to re-walk a short stretch of the marshes south of Orford, to fill the time. So I wandred south for about half a mile slowly along the river enjoying the views and the peace and quiet, before walking back to the quay.

The River Ore at Orford

The River Ore at Orford

The River Ore at Orford

From here I then followed the road back to the main square of the village in order to catch the bus back to Melton station for the train home.

Orford

Orford church

Orford

The bus arrived on time, so I was soon on my way to Melton. Once there I had about a 30 minute wait for the train. As I had discovered before there isn’t a lot at Melton Station so I headed down to the river for a short walk up and back before the train arrived, as it was now a nice sunny evening.

The River Deben near Woodbridge

Ship wreck

The River Deben near Woodbridge

Fortunately the black clouds I saw at Aldeburgh didn’t amount to anything and soon dispersed again. From Melton my train back to London was on time and I took the tube across to London Waterloo for my onwards train home.

This hadn’t been the most interesting of walks. Snape Maltings and Snape itself were both very pretty and I enjoyed coming back to Orford again. However most of the first part of the walk was along minor roads, inland from the coast. The second part was beside the river but the path was uneven and overgrown and there wasn’t a lot to see, since it followed the river beside flat marshes for many miles, and was not very varied. Still I was pleased that at least for my next walk I be heading back towards the open sea again, to Aldeburgh.

Unfortunately, there is no longer any suitable public transport to complete this walk, unless you live in Suffolk.

Snape has 3 buses on weekdays only at the time of writing. There is one bus from Snape to Ipswich Monday – Friday only, which leaves Snape at 07:15 and arrives at at 7:44 and Ipswich at 08:45. In the other direction there are two buses from Ipswich (at 17:20 and at 18:20) which reach Snape 1 hour and 20 minutes later (at 18:39 and 19:39). This is the only service. Similary, Orford has a single bus every day except for Sunday, at 7:05 which arrives at Woodbridge at 7:44 and Ipswich at 08:35. In the other direction the bus departs from Woodbridge at 17:45 and arrives at Orford at 18:24. I can’t see that these buses can be combined to make this possible as a linear walk using public transport.

If you do live in Suffolk there is the “Connecting Communities Suffolk Coastal” which can be booked for journeys in the area where there is no bus service, but must be pre-booked by calling 01728 635938 (8:45am to 4pm), however this service is only available to residents living in the area and not to those living outside.

The only alternative now is to call a taxi. There are several companies based in nearby Woodbridge or Saxmundham however I’ve not used any taxis in the area so can’t recommend any particular company.

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

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2 Responses to 200. Snape to Orford

  1. You were more persistent at following the river than I was. Well done for finding a way through along those overgrown banks. I followed footpaths inland, walked through pig farms, and never even got to Orford, although all the roads seemed to lead there. There is a ferry crossing over the river – Butley Ferry – but it is only manned on weekends in the summer by volunteers. I think I saw it moored in the river – basically it’s a rowing boat!

    • jcombe says:

      Yes I used that ferry on my previous walk. I was surprised to find not just that there had been a ferry there, but that it was actually still running!

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