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Monday, 12 December 2011

Stour and Orwell Walk - Felixstowe to Ipswich

A 17 mile walk along the banks of the Orwell River in Suffolk starting at Felixstowe and ending in the centre of Ipswich

The Stour and Orwell path is an extension to the southern end of the Suffolk Coast Path and follows the coast along the estuaries of the Orwell and the Stour. The start of the walk is characterised by the earthen river defences along which the footpath navigates. From Levington Creek an alternative route gives a change of scenery as it passes through the quaint Suffolk village of Levington and then down through Broke Hall Woods to Nacton. Unfortunately the grounds around Orwell Park House are private and it is not until one reaches the Orwell Country Park that the views of the river are regained which are dominated by the vast structure of the Orwell Bridge. The final stage through to the centre of Ipswich was surprisingly green despite the urban surroundings, walking through Pipers Vale, Landseer Park and Holywells Park.

Felixstowe to Ipswich Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
FelixstoweView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
IpswichView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
17 miles
Walk difficulty


First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
75/76/77/78 - First Group buses run every 15 minutes between Ipswich and Felixstowe
Ipswich Park and Ride - Bus Service
Service Number
Park and Ride - Ipswich Park and Ride from Martlesham Heath

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
10:30 to 17:00
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Lovely warm sunny spring day

Walk Notes

This walk was undertaken on probably the best and hottest spring day of 2010, glorious sunshine with hats and t-shirts the order of the day. The day began with a long hike behind Felixstowe Docks. You really don't know the expanse of this container port until one has to walk the length of Walton Avenue through the industrial parts of Felixstowe. Back in the 60's this was bordered with woods and was the scene of the so called Felixstowe Fire Demon (see below).

Eventually the path leads across the railway at the end of the freight terminal and up through the woods to some magnificent views across the river which certainly made the feat well worth the effort. As you enter the woods it is important to take the left fork on the footpath which is not very well marked. The route to the right is a path that ends up in Trimley and we made this mistake and had to retrace our steps after several hundred yards heading away from the river we were supposed to be following!.

Just beyond Trimley marshes the original defences have mostly been washed away requiring additional distance along the defences around what amounts to no more than a mud pond. At Levington Creek there is a choice of route, either to continue following the river or take the path into the village and through the woods. This was a welcome change of scenery - after all river views are pretty much the same and the baked path on the defences is tough on the feet. Additionally this also provides a refreshment stop at the Levington Ship.

It is unfortunate that there is no access along the river bank by Orwell Park House as this necessitates a long trudge up a rather busy country road to Ransomes Europark, an industrial complex by the side of the A14. This is a hazardous walk as there is no pavement and the straight road results in lots of speeding cars. It did leave me thinking that the landowners of Orwell Park House, which these days is a rather posh prep school, must be pretty mean to not allow walkers to navigate around the edge of their land. There may be other reasons but judging by the many Private signs on that side of the road, they certainly didn't want Joe public on their land!

A highlight of the walk had to be the Orwell bridge. Even though I have driven over this many many times it is not until I viewed the bridge from the riverside below that I really appreciated exactly how colossal this construction is.

The River Orwell
The River Orwell


The footpath is well marked with the distinctive Stour and Orwell Walk waymarkers throughout the distance from the end of the Felixstowe Port through to Ipswich.

Head southwards along the seafront in Felixstowe until Beach Station Road is reached. Take this and continue along Walton Avenue behind the docks. Keep to this, effectively following a straight line to the end of the docks where there is a footpath across the railway and into the woods.

As the path enters the woods, keep to the left branch of the footpath which climbs up to a viewing point at Fagbury cliff. Follow the path down and around the bank keeping the trees to your left until the track leads onto the river defences with views back to the dock.

Keep to the river bank until Levington Creek is reached which is just past Levington Marina. Take the path out onto the road and follow the road past the pub and church, bearing left at the junction. At the bottom of the hill there is a path leading into the woods that eventually emerges on Church Road in Nacton. Turn right down the lane and continue to the t-junction. Turn left and follow the road to the A14 intersection.

Proceed the A14 and onto the A1189. A few hundred yards onward there is a track on the left on the far side of a copse of trees. This leads back over the A14 and down through the Orwell Country Park to the river. Continue along the riverside to the Orwell Bridge. Pass under the bridge and follow the paths and tracks through Pipers Vale until it emerges onto a road at the edge of a housing estate. Go straight over, past a school, straight across the main road at the bottom and follow the national cycle route into Landseeer Park. Keep to the right hand side boundary and follow this around the perimeter of the park until it emerges onto a road. Turn left and down the hill. On the right is another footpath through Holywells park which eventually comes out on the main road running around the side of Ipswich Waterfront.

Holywells ParkIpswich Waterfront
On the left Holywells Park; On the right Ipswich Waterfront


The Ship Inn, Levington View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
The Ship Inn, Levington

A 13th century thatched inn overlooking the Orwell estuary with a history of smuggling during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is said that a cupboard under the eaves was used as a place of concealment by the smugglers who used Levington Creek to land their hoard.

The building was savaged by a fire in 2001 which started in the chimney but refurbishment and re-roofing eventually enabled the pub to reopen in 2003. In 2009 the pub became part of the Adnams estate

Cask Adnams ales are on offer together with a selection of traditional home cooked food.

Unfortunately this pub closed its doors in May 2013 and it is uncertain if and when it will open again.


Excellent pint of Adnams Explorer sat on the benches in front of the pub.

The Swallow, Ipswich View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub

A Brewers Fayre pub adjacent to a Premier Inns hotel. Large family oriented establishment with the usual family amenities and food deals. Guest ales on offer.


Not the ideal location for a pub, located on what seemed like an industrial estate on the outskirts of Ipswich, but certainly no complaints about the pint of Old Hooky from Hook Norton Brewery

Orwell bridge
Orwell bridge


The Felixstowe Fire DemonView in OS Map | View in Google Map

An interesting tale from the mid 1960's that made the local press.

Although the industrialisation of Felixstowe docks have swamped Walton Avenue in Felixstowe, back in 1965 it was a rural road on the edge of Languard Marshes. It was on this road, on the evening of September 20, 1965 at about 10:30pm that a group of young friends stopped their car. The driver was Geoffrey Maskey and his passengers were Michael Johnson and Mavis Fordyce. As they sat and chatted, 25 year old Micheal, without explanation, opened the door and wandered off into the woods beside the road. The others thought he had just answered the call of nature and thought nothing of it.

Shortly after, the other two friends, still in the car, heard a high pitched humming sound and witnessed a luminous orange oval shaped object hovering above the car bathing the surrounding area in its glow. As they watched the object shot off, disappearing behind the trees.

Their friend had still not returned form the woods and anxious as to his whereabouts they started calling his name, and when there was no reply Geoffrey reversed the car back down the road, still calling out to their friend from its windows. Eventually Micheal staggered out of the trees, head in hands looking shocked before collapsing on the pavement, unconscious. Micheal and Mavis managed to drag him into the car and hastily drove him to Felixstowe hospital where he regained his senses, although he had no memory of what had happened or even who his companions were. He also had burn marks on his neck and a contrusion above his right ear. The doctors diagnosed this as a serious state of shock and transferred him to Ipswich hospital which was better equipped.

The next day, Micheal's memory returned sufficiently to relate the story that had happened to him. He stated that he had felt a 'force' urging him to leave the car and head into the woods. He could not say how far he had walked when he came face to face with a large being with slanted luminous eyes surrounded by orange flames. His next memory was waking in hospital.

Exactly what this was, what the object the others witnessed was and an explanation to this whole eerie episode we will probably never know. Just another mysterious incident that was eventually reported to the local press.


Orwell BridgeView in OS Map | View in Google Map

An awe-inspiring landmark across the Orwell estuary, the ORwell road bridge allows traffic travelling from the east coast ports to the midlands to by-pass Ipswich

The Orwell bridge links Wherstead on the west side of the Orwell to the site of the former Ipswich Airport on the east side and carries the A14 trunk road. Construction of the Orwell bridge started in October 1979 and it took three years to complete. At the time of its opening it was the longest pre-stressed concrete span in use. The bridge is constructed of a pair of continuous hollow concrete box girders which carry services, including telecom, power and a 711mm water main from the nearby Alton Water reservoir. The road currently carries 60,000 vehicles per day

The bridge design took into consideration the impact on the Orwell Estuary, as well as the needs of the Port of Ipswich. The location close to the Southern edge of Ipswich was chosen to be convenient for the industrial areas of the West Bank Terminal and Ransomes Industrial Estate on the eastern end. The bridge was set at an angle to the river to get the best relationship to the surrounding terrain.

The bridge has a reputation for suicides, being a magnet for depressed people with accompanying ghostly encounters of those who have thrown themselves from its heights.


Holywells ParkView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Holywells Park is 57 acres of rolling grounds, ponds and woodland situated close to the Waterfront area in Ipswich.

Originally the grounds were part of the Manor at Wykes Bishop, which was held by the Bishops of Norwich in the 13th century. During Henry VIII's reign the Manor was surrendered to the crown and then granted to Sir John Jermy before passing ownership several times until John Cobbold secured the title in 1812. The Cobbold family owned a brewery in Harwich but due to the water being bad would ship the spring-water from Holywells to brew their beer. Holywells House was built in the 19th Century on the site of an old farmhouse and the Victorian gardens were redesigned in the 20th Century in accordance with the ideas of gardeners such as Gertrude Jekyll. In 1935 the land at Holywells was presented to the people of Ipswich by Lord Woodbridge and then opened to the public in 1936. The former mansion was demolished but a Grade II listed Orangery from the late 19th century still exists.

Felixstowe Docks
Felixstowe Docks


Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery


Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2017-02-05

2013-06-20 : update The Ship at Levington details - currently closed down

  1 comment:

  1. This was originally posted in 2010 - this has now been updated with a whole lot more information and references.


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