Lowestoft to Snape Maltings / Orford to Shotley Gate


Orford Castle We drove to Iken Cliff for a view over the marshes and the Ald and then on to Orford. Both were ports before being cut off from the sea by the gradual growth of Orford Ness. Orford’s past importance is syrnbolised by its imposing 12th century castle. This was built by Henry II as a coastal defence and when completed, consisted of a curtain wall with a number of flanking towers, and a twin-towered gatehouse surrounding a polygonal keep. However, most has decayed through neglect and standing alone, but impressively intact, is the Great Tower with three turrets rising 90ft around it.

Orford QuayInside the thick stone walls are a maze of rooms and passageways and spiral stairs inside each of the towers. The basement, most likely used as a storeroom, has a well at the centre. At the first level is a chapel and a narrow gap at the edge of the floor shows this was used as a portcullis slot. The Great Tower is five storeys high, the first and second floors spanning two levels, above which is the battlemented roof.

Orford LighthouseThere is a pretty quay just down the road, where boat trips can be taken across to Havergate Island and Orford Ness. The water levels in the muddy lagoons of Havergate Island are artificially maintained to provide the correct depth of water for Britain's oldest colony of avocets that returned to breed in 1947 and visitors need a permit to go there.

Orford Ness now belongs to the National Trust and has a red and white lighthouse that has been in use since 1627. A lot of restoration work is being done at present and visitors can get a boat from Orford Quay.

Orford Ness

There are some weird pagoda buildings remaining from the Cold War years, when it was a weapons testing centre belonging to the Atomic Energy Authority.

There are some fascinating details on their website:

Shingle Street

Shingle Street We drove down a narrow road to Shingle Street. It is a row of cottages built along a wide stretch of shingle thrown up by the sea into a high bank. Plants were growing in patches in the red shingle and it felt pretty desolate.

There is a martello tower at the end of the village and several more can be seen stringing off into the distance, stretching along the Suffolk Coast Path to Bawdsey. These squat, round towers were built in 1803-8 to counter threat of invasion by Napoleon. They were never used but many still remain as museums, cafes etc.

Bawdsey Quay

Bawdsey Bawdsey College is the former base of RAF Bawdsey, where radar was developed before World War II. The quay has a small parking area next to the modern RAF base. There is a passenger boat to Felixstowe Ferry over the River Deben that operates in the summer.

Anyone walking the coast path at other times of the year will have an enormous detour via Woodbridge. To attract the ferryman’s attention if he is on the opposite bank, there is a bat to wave!

Some old photos are on display with the following words:

A ferry has run since 1200AD, being interrupted only during plague, piracy or war. The ferry was for passengers only - their horses had to swim the river.


Shire HallWe had to drive at least ten miles inland to Woodbridge to cross the river. Sail-making, rope-making and boat-building made the town prosperous in the 15th century. It is now a most attractive town, with timber-framed and Georgian houses, and steep streets running down to the quayside. In the centre of the triangular market place is a 16th century Dutch gabled Shire Hall, now bedecked with flowers.

Nearby there is a magnificent 15th century church which had a beautiful embroidered frieze on display and an interesting marble monument. On the ouside of town we found the fully restored six-storey Buttrum's Mill.

Tide MillWe had tea in an open air cafe near to the station and walked across the railway line to the quayside. We could see the yachts through the windows of the station and it looked very odd.

The white, weather-boarded Tide Mill has a red gabled roof and is prominent amongst the boatyards, chandleries and yachts. It was uilt in the 1790s and operated until 1957and has now been returned to full working order.

Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo Just east of Woodbridge, Sutton Hoo is a group of grassy burial mounds on a heath where a Saxon king's treasure was excavated in 1939 and proved to be the richest ever found in Britain. A 'hoo' is a small hill and Sutton is the southern 'tun' or settlement.


Excavation of one of the barrows revealed the tomb, thought possibly to be Raedwald who died in about 625. He was buried in a huge, 90 ft long wooden ship, together with a fabulous collection of goods, including a magnificent ceremonial helmet. No human remains were found, despite the fact that the goods inside the grave had lain undisturbed there for more than thirteen centuries. It now appears that Sutton Hoo was the royal burial ground for the powerful dynasty of East Anglian kings, founded by Wuffa, whose palace stood at Rendlesham, some four miles upstream.

The treasure was hidden in the London Underground during the war and subsequently displayed in the British Museum. The National Trust has constructed a new exhibition that will open in March 2002 that includes objects loaned from the Museum.


At the southern edge of Suffolk, the coast collapses in a mass of marshes and estuaries with no coastal path. There is only forty miles of waterlogged land, with isolated towns at the end of long flat roads. The roads weave in and out to Felixstowe and Harwich and beyond.

WaldringfieldBack along the southern shore of the Deben, we arrived at the small sailing centre of Waldringfield. The scene was just like a jigsaw puzzle picture with colourful boats moored in the water or pulled onto the muddy shingle. In summer, river trips along the estuary can be arranged. We stopped for a coffee outside the Maybush Inn to enjoy the view before driving towards Felixtowe.


Felixtowe FerryHuddled round one of the Martello towers that dot this stretch of coast, Felixtowe Ferry can be reached by driving through Felixstowe golf course at the north of the town. We watched the small ferry carry passengers across the Deben back to Bawdsey Quay, but there isn’t much else here.

Felixtowe beachFelixtowe itself is a pleasant Edwardian resort, stretching round a long, gently curving bay with a shingle shore and rows of breakwaters. There are old-fashioned beach huts, although swift currents make swimming unsafe a mile north of the pier, where the remains of a fort lie close to the waterline.

Water clock

By the Spa Pavilion there are a series of well tended seafront gardens, one of which contains the Water Clock, whose mechanism is actually driven by water. It was designed and built by Rex Garrod. The water is pumped from the pool up to the fountain at the top. It then flows into the water wheel. The weight of the water turns the wheel, which is connected to en escapement wheel. The rotating water wheel turns once per minute, passing this motion through shafts and gears to the hands.

We parked near the pier and wandered around before stopping for a superb lunch at the Old Millars.

Languard FortAt the southern end of the town a road leads to Landguard Fort, originally built in 1540 to guard the entrance to Harwich harbour and the only fort in England to have repelled a full scale invasion attempt. There was a notorious scandal in 1763, when the acting governor held a dance in the chapel and used the altar as a bar.

Now, the fort is being made safe by English heritage and is a museum. It is quite stark and has a warren of tunnels. To the north, where the River Orwell reaches the sea, is a nature reserve at Landguard Point, but visits to the observatory must be arranged with the wardens.

Felixtowe DocksThe busy modern harbour of Felixstowe is the undisputed king of container cargo and also runs ferry services to other European ports. From the Fort, we watched the containers being loaded onto the ships like lego bricks. The giant cranes moved along the rows constantly, picking the next scheduled container, while a constant stream of lorries and trucks weaved in and out.

A 3 mile coastal path crosses Trimley Marshes at the edge of expansive tidal flats beside the Orwell, but we had to take a main road to travel north west to Ipswich, along with an army of container lorries. There is a huge private marina called the Suffolk Yacht Harbour that can be reached from Levington. In the 17th century Orwell Park was the home of Admiral Sir Edward Vernon, nicknamed 'Old Grog’ because of his suit of grogram cloth. He introduced the daily rum ration to the navy, known as 'grog’.


The county town of Ipswich may be ancient but is not on a par with neighbouring Norwich, although a dozen medieval churches survived 19th century destruction.Founded in the 6th century, Ipswich became a prosperous inland port because of its location on the estuary of the Orwell. It became a great trading centre of wool, skins, leather and fish. The docks still thrive and there is a Wet Dock Maritime Trail exploring the historic docks and surrounding streets. Tours of the Tolly Cobbold Brewery can be arranged also.

Ancient HouseIpswich's Victorian expansion is manifest in the Old Custom House, Town Hall and Corn Exchange in the main square. Cardinal Wolsey was born here and a few fine half-timbered buildings from the Tudor period survive, notably the Ancient House (1567), once a merchant's house that has fine pargetting (moulded plasterwork). The dustmen in Ipswich are jolly nice guys – they even offered to move their van so I could photograph it.

Wolsey's Gateway was to be the portal of a college that was never completed. In the pedestrianised shopping centre are the new Buttermarket and an extensive sprinkling of ornate medieval houses. There are a number of museums - the Wolsey Art Gallery, the Transport Museum and the Ipswich Museum.

Deben Bridge

To the south, we crossed the Orwell Bridge and stopped beneath it beside the mudflats. It is an immense concrete structure – very impressive. When you are on it you have no idea that you are crossing a bridge as the walls are quite high and from below only the tops of the continuous flow of container lorries can be seen.

Just off the road at Cat House, is the Woolverstone Marina which is home to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club. In the 18th century a stuffed cat was placed in a lighted window as a signal to smugglers that the coast was clear. A path along the foreshore leads to Freston Tower, a 16th century six-storey tower house built by Lord de Freston as a place in which to educate his daughter. On each level she was taught a different subject, culminating in astronomy at the top.

Pin Mill


We drove to Chelmondiston and turned down a narrow lane to Pin Mill. The sign in the car park kindly worked out our parking fee!

Pin MillHigh spring tides on the Orwell allow boats to moor so close to the walls of the Butt and Ovster Inn that drinks can be ordered without stepping ashore! The settlement of Pin Mill is a conservation area with a number of well established boatyards. The inn dates back to the 17th century and is associated with smuggling and the stories of Arthur Randsome.

thames bargeA number of old Thames barges are often moored here as examples of these once important trading vessels.. There is no mill there now, but the name is said to be derived from the wooden pegs or 'pins' that were made there and used in boat-building.

Pin Mill Cliff belongs to the National Trust.The tide was out when we arrived but it is still pretty. Amidst the little sailing boats, a large container vessel made its way upstream to the docks at Ipswich.

Shotley Gate

Shotley Gate Skirting Shotley Marshes, we drove down to the end of the peninsula where the Orwell meets the River Stour at Harwich Harbour. At the end of the road by Shotley Quay there are fine views of the shipping entering and leaving the docks at Harwich and Felixtowe.

A marina houses an array of expensive sailing boats. We crossed over the little lock to a grassy path leading to the marshes – the sailing boats on one side of us and the huge container ships on the other.

We were looking towards the next county - Essex.


We haven't done the South East yet so: