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Monday, 2 April 2018

Suffolk Coast Path

Martello Tower at Bawdsey

An overview of the Suffolk Coast Path, a 60 mile long distance path following the coast of Suffolk

A 60 mile long distance footpath from Felixstowe to Lowestoft in easy stages through some of the characteristic landscapes of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The path also includes the Orford Loop which provides access through to Orford and the Butley Ferry. Alternative beach walks, providing the tide is right, can be undertaken throughout.

Lowestoft to Felixstowe Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Lowestoft View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Felixstowe View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
65 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy

Maps:

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:
OS Explorer Map Sheet OL40 The Broads
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map:
OS Explorer Map Sheet 231 Southwold & Bungay
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map:
OS Explorer Map Sheet 212 Woodbridge & Saxmundham
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map:
OS Explorer Map Sheet 197 Ipswich, Felixstowe & Harwich
Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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GPX data for route (download)

Walk Notes

The actual distance of this path varies depending upon what website or information leaflet one reads. The official route from Lowestoft to Felixstowe is approximately 60 miles. The Orford Loop will add an additional 15 miles to this unless the Butley Ferry extension is used. With beach alternatives, which reduce the distance slightly, there is no definitive distance.

The path follows the Suffolk coast from Lowestoft to Felixstowe, however, due to coastal erosion some sections have been diverted inland. The sections from Pakefield to Southwold and more recently the section from Sizewell to Thorpeness have redefined routes. It is still possible to walk both of these sections along the coast providing the tide is right. For full details of up-to-date diversions and information visit Suffolk Coast Path Restrictions section on the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Website

At Felixstowe the path joins the Stour and Orwell Walk, a 42 mile path around the Shotley peninsular to Cattawade and Manningtree. In February 2012 Suffolk Coast and Heaths adjusted The Stour and Orwell Walk so that it now starts from Languard Common and the former coastal section from Felixstowe Ferry to Felixstowe town has become part of the Suffolk Coast Path and is waymarked as such.

The Suffolk Coast Path can be broken down into the following sections:

  • Lowestoft to Southwold (inland): In 2011 the inland route was diverted and now passes through Frostenden Corner. The previous route went through Potters Bridge Marshes but was subject to frequent flooding. Details of the walk can be found on this site.
  • Lowestoft to Southwold (beach): It is essential to check the tide tables before walking the beach. This section should only be walked between mid and low tide and even then it can be impassable during storm surges and adverse tide conditions when Easton, Benacre and Covehithe Broads can be breached. The section in front of the cliffs at Pakefield can also be impassable at high tide. Having said this, choosing the right time and day, this section is quite spectacular and is well worth walking. Details of the walk can be found on this site.
  • Walberswick to Dunwich: This section navigates through the marshes and can be subject to flooding, particularly in winter months. Alternative routes are the beach which is predominantly shingle although there can be a little sand revealed at low tide, or using the Sandlings route which navigates around the perimeter of the marshes.
  • Dunwich to Sizewell: The route heads inland to Dunwich Heath and then passes in front of Minsmere Bird Reserve. An alternative route is via the beach which is predominantly shingle although there can be a little sand revealed at low tide.
  • Sizewell to Aldeburgh: Due to erosion of the cliff on the North side of Thorpeness the path has now been diverted inland across Thorpeness Common. The route can be walked along the beach although the section in front of the houses on the north-side of Thorpeness is completely impassable at high tide. An alternative is to take the path up the cliff just before the houses which leads onto the common with access into Thorpeness village.
  • Aldeburgh to Iken: The path navigates around the Alde estuary using the footpath known as the Sailors Path. The section between Snape Maltings and Iken Cliff can be subject to flooding for a short periods of time at high tide.
  • The Orford Loop: An extension to the main path allows access along the Alde estuary to Orford. This continues through to Gedgrave where there is a ferry to Butley. The ferry only operates on weekends and bank holidays between Easter and the end of September. There is an alternative route from Orford which rejoins the main path at Chillesford
  • Iken to Felixstowe: The path runs through Tunstall forest and then follows the Butley River and Ore River to Shingle Street. The section into Bawdsey navigates inland due to coastal erosion. There is no alternative on this section. The Bawdsey to Felixstowe ferry operates daily from May to September and weekends only from Easter to October. As from February 2012 the path continues along the seafront to Felixstowe town along the former route of the Stour and Orwell Walk.

The Sandlings Path, which runs parallel to The Suffolk Coast Path between Southwold and Rushmere, East of Ipswich, makes a convenient route to create circular walks using this and the Coast Path. Pleasurable circular walks include Dunwich Forest and the Walberswick Marshes, The area around Minsmere Bird Reserve, The Kenton Hills Woodland and Sizewell Belts area. In addition the section between Sizewell and Aldeburgh can be tailored into a cicular walk making use of the permissive path along the old railway track.

Tide Times

Whenever walking beach sections always consult tide times to assess the feasibility of your walk. Where there are cliff sections avoid the beach other than between 2 hours either side of low tide. Tide times can be found at www.tidetimes.org.uk

Public Transport

Public transport is limited along all of the Coast Path which makes it difficult to walk extensive linear sections of the route without resorting to en-route accommodation or relying upon family and friends to assist.

There is a regular bus service between Southwold and Lowestoft (First Group 99 Service) which also links Kessingland. This makes this section accessible to all experienced walkers.

There is no bus service linking any of the coastal villages from Southwold through to Aldeburgh. This section is off the beaten track. There is an hourly bus service (excluding Sundays and bank holidays) between Aldebugh and Leiston which is a couple of miles inland from Sizewell.

The 65 service which used to operate between Aldeburgh and Snape has been severely cut back to just a single journey a day with no return option (First Group 65 service). This makes the section from Aldeburgh to Felixstowe, a lengthy 27 miles, only achievable as a single day walk for experienced walkers. The section from Snape to Bawdsey is particularly remote and one can expect to see few people walking this section with little in the way of services. Take plenty of food and water. Perfect for those who seek solitude on their rambles.

Accommodation

Lowestoft, Southwold, Aldeburgh and Felixstowe offer plenty of B&B accommodation. Leiston also has similar accommodation and is only 2 miles from the coast at Sizewell and easily accessible using footpaths.

There are campsites along the route including Tangham Forest Camping (just off route in Rendlesham Forest),Sizewell Beach View Camp Site and Southwold Harbour Campsite which breaks the distance into manageable day-walks.

Ferries

The path includes three ferries which provide the means to navigate across the rivers Blyth, Butley and Deben. The river Alde has no operational ferry and the route uses the Sailors path through to the first bridge at Snape. An information leaflet with 2018 operating schedules, times and prices is available in in PDF format at Suffolk Coast and Heaths Website. Please do download this. A brief summary of the ferries is below.

The Southwold to Walberswick ferry is a seasonal foot passenger ferry across the Blyth River operating from March to November. There is an optional footpath route via the old railway bridge for when the ferry is not operational.

In recent years the Butley Ferry has been reinstated. This is a seasonal ferry (April to October) operated by volunteers and provides access from Gedgrave, south of Orford to Butley. This is part of the Orford Loop extension, with the principle route being the alternative to the ferry, which cuts across from Iken, through Tunstall Forest to navigate down the southern side of the Butley River.

The River Deben ferry from Bawdesy to Felixstowe Ferry only operates May to September. The only viable alternative is to navigate around the Deben estuary which is an extensive walk to the river bridge crossing at Melton. This is 15 miles with a similar distance walking through to Woodbridge and along the southern side of the estuary. There is no public transport to or from Bawdsey so make sure the ferry is operational before embarking on such a walk.

Coastal Erosion

The Suffolk Coast suffers from frequent erosion and incursions by both tide and weather resulting in the coastline constantly changing. Storms during 2007, 2013 and 2017 with strong the easterlies of early 2018 have caused significant damage to the coast path over this time. The path is reinstated after each incursion but be aware of such incidents may leave sections requiring an alternative route.

The marshes between Walberswick and Dunwich are regularly breached by storm surges with some incursions resulting in the loss of the footbridge or boardwalks along the marsh river. The alternative is to either use the beach route providing the tide is right or to use the Sandlings Path around the perimeter of the marsh and through Dunwich forest.

The coastal erosion at Thorpeness makes it impossible to walk the beach at anything but low tide. The cliffs just north of the village are particularly unstable and dangerous with one fatality caused by a cliff fall in February 2017. Do not under any circumstance attempt to walk close to the base of these cliffs, even if there appears to be sufficient distance between the water and cliff to complete the distance. A cliff fall will catch you unawares and leave you with little or no time to escape. The alternative route is to either follow the official route waymarkers south of Sizewell Hall which navigate inland across the commons to Thorpeness or, continuing along the clifftop path which descends down to the ness, then follow the unmarked path just before the beach warning notice, up to the clifftop. Follow the path across the common and onto the road that leads in front of the clifftop houses.

During March 2013 a large section of Kessingland Beach was washed away close to the Benacre Sluice, south of village ( reported in the see Eastern Daily Press.) The path is still passable here but the coastal section from Benacre down to Southwold is ever changing. Only walk this around low tide and always consult tide tables before setting out on any beach section.

The beach section in front of Bawdsey Manor is currently impassable and the route from East Lane to Bawdsey Quay is now diverted along the road.

The coastline at Felixstowe can be walked throughout given the right state of tide. The official path avoids Cobbolds Point and is routed along the clifftop roads. The coastal path at this point should only be used at low tide.

England Coast Path

The Suffolk Coast is currently undergoing Stage 2 Develop and Propose, for inclusion into the England Coast Path. The proposals are expected to be published during 2018 after which it will hopefully be agreed and the path established by 2020. This will join the Norfolk coast path at Hopton and continue down through to Felixstowe and onwards around the Shotley peninsular. For full details and to keep up-to-date on the progress please refer to the England Coast Path website.

Directions

The path is marked out with the distinctive yellow on blue waymarkers.

The route is depicted on OS maps and very well sign-posted throughout. The alternative beach sections are not marked but are merely a case of walking along the beach.

Gallery

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: 2018-04-02

2012-04-20 : adjusted to take into account the relocation of the start of the Stour and Orwell Walk and the end to the Suffolk Coast Path
2013-03-19 : Add in route changes caused by 2013 coastal erosion. Also realign the dead links to Suffolk Coast and Heaths website
2018-04-02 : General text changes and updates to erosion and bus service information

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