Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

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 is used to pay a visit to the 13th century Ship Inn before proceeding through Broke Hall Woods to rejoin the official route through to Ipswich.

Stour and Orwell Walk - Felixstowe to Ipswich - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

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


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)


Details of public transport that is required for the walk

First Group - Bus Service
Service Details
75/76/77/78 - First Group buses run every 15 minutes between Ipswich and Felixstowe

Walk Data

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

Walk Notes

The walk starts from the Felixstowe sea front where it heads inland behind the docks. This is 1.5 miles of industrial area walking where the views are metal fences, concrete, roads, traffic, railway yards and lots of noise. Not the best of starts to a walk but perseverance will lead to something much better. Back in the 60's this route was a long straight avenue of trees known as Walton Avenue and this was the scene of the so called Felixstowe Fire Demon (see the feature below).

Eventually the path leads across the railway at the end of the freight terminal and up through the woods on Fagbury Cliff to some magnificent views across the river. 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 it is an easy mistake to make. Below the cliffs the docks continue with masses of containers and cranes loading and unloading ships. This area used to be a mass of oyster beds before the docks were built. The path descends onto the landward side of the the wooded mound that masks the docks and follows this around to eventually meet the waterside. There is a sense of relief at this point for all one can see ahead are rural scenes and a broad yet placid river with only the sounds of the docks behind. From this poitn one can really start to enjoy this walk.

Just beyond Trimley marshes the original defences have mostly been washed away and the path follows around what has now become a lard area of saltmarsh. This is immediately followed by a path along a narrow path that separates the river from Loompit Lake. On one side a rocky bank drops down to the estuary shoreline, on the other the freshwater laps almost to the edge of the path. The lake must be a fairly modern lake for it does not show up on pre-war maps. The path then leads along Stratton cliff following the perimeter of a marina before crossing the boatyard at the far end and then turning to follow the inlet of Levington Creek.

There used to be a choice of routes from Levington Creek, an inland route that took in the village of Levington and continuing onwards through Broke Hall Woods and the riverside route which continues along the creek path before heading inland at Levington car park, meeting up with the first route at the woods. The first route is no longer waymarked as the Stour and Orwell Walk but is nonetheless still publicly accessible and also passes the picturesque thatched Ship Inn. Dating from the 13th century this roadside pub is full of olde worlde charm and character and is worth the excursion away from the river.

It is unfortunate that there is no access along the river bank by Orwell Park House which is used as a prep school these days. 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. From the industry there is a lane that leads across the A14 and through the Orwell Country park back to the river bank.

The path continues up to the mighty Orwell Bridge where there is pedestrian access across to continue the walk along the Shotley Peninsular. For this walk we continue into Ipswich but one has to stand and admire this huge feat of engineering. No matter how many times one may pass over this huge bridge, one can never gauge its immensity until one stands against its structure. Now, I am no fan of a lot of modern construction, but this is truly impressive.

The final section of the walk negotiates some Ipswich housing estates to get through to Landseer and Holywell Parks, ending up at the Ipswich waterfront.

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 and although it temporarily closed in 2013 is now trading again.

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


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 an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2019-01-22

2011-12-12 : Initial publication
2013-06-20 : update The Ship at Levington details - currently closed down
2017-02-05 : General website updates
2019-01-22 : website updates + revision of notes and pub reopening

  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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