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

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Suffolk Coast Path - Orford to Butley Ferry

A 7 mile Suffolk circular walk along the banks of the Ore and Butley rivers between Orford and the Butley Ferry river crossing at Gedgrave.

The Suffolk Coast Path Orford Loop has two routes back onto the main trail, the first returns from Orford up to Chillesford but an alternative is to follow the lane from Orford to Gedrgrave and down to Butley Ferry. Although this crossing only operates from April to September, a pleasant and easy circular walk can be made from Orford returning along the top of the river defences.

Orford to Gedgrave Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
OrfordView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
GedgraveView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
7 miles
Walk difficulty

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
11:30 to 15:30
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Lovely sunny winters day

Walk Notes

The footpath along the river defences is designated as a licenced footpath, a little research reveals that this is the same as a permissive footpath, which is a footpath across private land where the landowner permits access. This is not marked on the OS map but there are clear waymarkers from Butley Ferry along the well maintained path atop of the flood defences with numerous self-closing latch gates to keep the sheep contained. The only hindrance along the entire route was where the licenced path rejoined the public footpath which was closed due to flood defence repairs. Even so, there was a well trod route at the bottom of the bank around the obstruction.

One of the reasons why I wanted to walk this route was from a comment made earlier in the year from an elderly woman we had met at the Plough and Sail at Snape Maltings. She had lived in Orford all her life and informed us that the centuries old Oyster cultivation on the Butley creek had left a track paved with oyster shells. This warranted the investigation. Alas, all we found was a sandy track down to the river where there is a cottage with a smokehouse and piles of lobster pots but no sign of any oysters or tracks paved with their crushed shells.

The Orford Loop section of the Suffolk Coast Path is not very well documented in the media and is not marked on OS maps so information about this route is hard to obtain. I had assumed that the Orford Loop merely ran from Iken down to Orford and then returned to the main trail at Chillesford. Many years ago, when I first walked the Suffolk Coast Path, I attempted to find out the possibility of getting across the Butley Creek by ferry, but in those days the ferry did not operate on a regular basis and I had to forgo walking this route, concluding that the official path had been diverted around the creek. Therefore, it was something of a revelation when we found Suffolk Coast Path waymarkers all the way down to the ferry, and notices at the ferry declaring regular weekend services from Easter to September. This route and the ferry service really needs widely advertising to encourage people to use it because despite living in this area for the past 12 years I never knew anything about it. On this occasion the ferry operations had ceased for winter, but this has nonetheless whet our appetite for another walk next summer to include a trip across the creek on the ferry.

Along the lane down to Gedgrave, on the right hand side is a huge pit which demonstrates the multi-strata layers of the ground. This is the best example of Coralline Crag in this area and the strata contain Aragonite with a high content of quartz and is a rich source of fossils from the late Pliocene period. On the left a little further up the lane is the site believed to be where St Andrews Church once stood. Then, as the sandy track goes down to the river, Burrow Hill dominates on the view on the opposite bank of the river.

Every visit to Orford is not complete without purchasing something from the local smokehouse, this time a ham hock. Also noteworthy is the fine second hand book shop in the shed behind one of the houses just up the road from the Jolly Sailor, always worth a perusal and all donations go to charity. Unfortunately on this occasion we did not pay a visit to the pub.

Walk back to Orford
Walk back to Orford


The route takes a mixture of tracks, public and licenced footpaths, following the official Suffolk Coast Path along part of the route.

Take the Gedgrave Road out of Orford, and keep to the lane for nearly 2 miles until the way ahead becomes a private road and a track on the right leads leads down to Ferry Cottage. Turn left along the river bank defences and the ferry is a hundred yards down river. To continue back to Orford, take the gate onward from the ferry, which is marked as a licenced path. This follows the river bank back to the public right of way at Chantry Marshes, and then on into Orford.

The official Suffolk Coast Path heads inland to Gedgrave Road at Chantry marshes, where the licenced path joins the public footpath.

Licenced footpath back to Orfordtrack across the marsh to the ferry jetty
On the left Licenced footpath back to Orford; On the right track across the marsh to the ferry jetty


The Jolly Sailor, Orford View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Quay Street, Orford

Charming 16th century pub on Quay Street in Orford offering freshly caught fish landed at Orford Quay and home smoked hams and hand made sausages and a full compliment of Adnams ales. An array of pastimes are available including dominoes and shove-ha’penny as well as newspapers and during winter months there is a roaring log fire. A sign outside the pub advertises 'Children, Dogs, Parrots and Horse are welcome, humans by appointment!' Legend has it that the pub was built from the timbers of wrecked ships and is said to have been a smugglers haunt. A 'wanted' poster for an escaped lady horse-thief is displayed on the walls of the pub. This was a certain 18-year-old Margaret Catchpole whom was captured at the pub and subsequently transported to Australia. Accommodation available as well as a campsite amidst the orchard at the rear of the pub.

Cottage on the banks of the river with Burrow Hill in the background
Cottage on the banks of the river with Burrow Hill in the background


Butley FerryView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The Butley ferry links Gedgrave and Butley across Butley Creek and is operated by the Alde and Ore Association. This volunteer rowing boat ferry operates on weekends and bank holidays between Easter and the end of September.

Alognside the jetty, there is a notice board with details of the natural habitats and information about the ferry. This includes the following brief history:

"Historically there has been a ferry operating at Butley since at least the end of the 16th century. Landowner Robert Forth employed a ferryman who lived next to the river and, at the time, there was free passage for pedestrians

In 1632 Robert Forths grandson, William, sold the lease of the ferry, ferry house and land for £300. The land was valuable as it included sheep pasture along the river walls. The amount paid indicated outside investors, who employed local men to run the ferry and farm.

In later years the Smith family ran the ferry for almost a century. When George Smith was run over by a wagon in 1897, his widow, who was left with 10 children, had to row the ferry herself. She was not the first woman to do so, a century earlier another widow Lydia Gunnell operated the ferry.

Jane Connard who holidayed at Ferry Farm in 1914 recalled that the "ferry rarely functioned - the ferryman was constantly in and out of jail". The ferry stopped operating in 1932.

In recent years, the ferry service has been revived."


Burrow HillView in OS Map | View in Google Map

On the Butley side of the Butley River is a conspicuous hill known as Burrow Hill. Local legend states that this hill is a burial mound covering a ship and a Danish king surrounded by his treasures and weapons. Valerie Fenwick excavated part of the hill in 1978, revealing 8th century iron working and an Anglo-Saxon cemetery but no royal treasures were found. The graves were all of men, so it may be the site of a monastery.

St Andrews Church, GedgraveView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Although there are is nothing to mark the site, the church of St Andrews in Gedgrave was believed to have been on the left hand side of the Gedgrave road, towards the end of this lane. The church was established prior to 1171 and it is thought to have been a vicarage to Butley priory. By the 16th century it had fallen into disrepair after the dissolution of the monasteries and was eventually completely dismantled around the mid-1500's

Pagodas on Orfordness, aging structure from the secret testing of atomic bomb detonators
Pagodas on Orfordness, aging structure from the secret testing of atomic bomb detonators


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

2013-04-08 : Update pub website plus add in full image gallery


Post a Comment

Walk Summaries

Latest walk summaries are basic information sheets for walks that have yet to be fully documented. These provide links to maps, public transport and walks stats, although detailed notes and features are not included.

Latest Walk Summaries

Featured Walk

Deben Estuary - Melton to Bawdsey

A 15 mile river side walk along the Deben Estuary in Suffolk between the villages of Melton and Bawdsey This walk follows river side footpat...

What is GPX

All you need to know about GPX, electronic mapping and how to use modern apps and mobile devices as navigation devices

Popular Walks