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

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Walk to Languard Fort

A 10 mile walk along the Stour and Orwell Path from Trimley to Languard Fort via Felixstowe Ferry

Taking the inland route of the Stour and Orwell Path, this walk navigates down to the Kings Fleet and along the banks of the River Deben to Felixstowe Ferry, the setting of a Black Shuck tale from many years ago. The route then follows the coast past three Martello Towers and on to historic Languard Fort, where a military defence has stood since the 1500's.

Trimley to Languard Fort Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
TrimleyView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Languard FortView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
10 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy

Transport:

First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
75/76/77 - First Group 75/76/77 bus services connecting Ipswich, Trimley and Felixstowe.
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2012-04-07
Walk Time
10:00 to 15:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Cold and blustery day with showers

Walk Notes

It would have been good to have made this excursion into a circular walk, returning from Languard Fort via the River Orwell and then across the inland route of the Stour and Orwell Path to Trimley. However, using public transport we would have really been pushing our luck to getting the last bus out of Ipswich and back to Leiston, therefore we decided to terminate the walk at Languard Fort where we could take the bus back to Ipswich.

The official route of the inland path out of Trimley is on the Ipswich side of the village through a housing estate. On alighting the bus we headed in the wrong direction and ended up walking along the road to the A14 junction. This wasn't a huge problem as there was a pavement and the official route is picked up on the far side of the A14. From here the route leads down a country lane and then diagonally cuts across the fields to lead down into the valley of the Falkenham Brook. On crossing the last field, before emerging back onto the road, the path was totally obliterated by parallel lines of heaped earth with a large amount of discarded carrots which was quite obviously last seasons carrot crop. Half way across the mounds were sheeted in plastic which was too much of an obstacle and we had to follow the heaped earth channels over to the far side then follow the hedgerow. Hopefully the path will be reinstated within a week or two once the new crop has been drilled.

The path down to The Kings Fleet and onto the River Deben was devoid of any soul on this blustery, overcast and showery day. At one point the rain came down in a persistent fine spray catching on the breezes and blowing into our faces. Luckily, my jacket had a hood and I could hide in there, which was most comforting as it sounded just like being in a tent. The creek is called Kings Fleet after Edward III assembled his fleet on its waters in 1338 in preparation for a French campaign. The creek is no longer navigable being cut off from the Deben by the earthen defence banks.

I always like walking along the Deben into Felixstowe Ferry with its mixture of houseboats and sailing craft moored on the banks. Particularly amusing is the boat named Potamus with a fine display of caricatures, comical cartoons and effigies of hippopotamuses. Inside the boat are a multitude of faces staring out but these are just dummy heads (I think!). Alongside this are a few discarded boats that are not quite wrecks and one large hull of a wreck, laying on its side across the marsh. This has certainly been here for the past year but is still pretty much intact.

This is the first time I have walked the complete seafront from Felixstowe Ferry through to Languard Fort and it is such a pleasant stroll even in these overcast and blustery conditions. Do look out on the first Martello tower for the seaward facing window which is buried deep into the walls and shows just exactly how thick these structures are.

Languard Fort is an impressive structure and certainly a lot larger than I had expected. You don't actually get to see it until one is virtually standing in front of the concrete walls, as it sits on the tip of Languard Point and is masked by the dunes on Languard Common on one side and the vastness of Felixstowe Port on the other. Time did not allow us time to fully explore this historic defence on this occasion but we subsequently paid a visit at the start of June. This was well worth the return and the only disappointment was that the Sunday Ghost Tour was not running on this particular date. The photos from the visit can be found here.

Originally we had intended to walk back into town from the fort, this would involve retracing our steps back up the coast. As luck would have it, there was an Ipswich bus waiting at Languard Fort. Unbeknown to us at the time, some of the Ipswich buses run down to Languard Fort (one each hour) which provides an easy end to the walk. First Group currently offer a day ticket for £7.00 entitling travel on any of their Ipswich based services throughout the day. This makes an economical method of travel when your journey involves two or more bus trips, and with petrol now hitting record high prices it beats the cost of travelling by car and paying for expensive all day parking.

Martello Tower on Languard Common, presently used as a coastguard station
Martello Tower on Languard Common, presently used as a coastguard station

Directions

The walk follows the former route of the The Stour and Orwell long distance path, initially along the inland route, and then along the coast from the Deben to the Orwell. From February 2012 Suffolk Coast and Heaths cut the inland route and the coast path section of the The Stour and Orwell Walk from its official route. The start to the route is now at Landguard Common, Manor Terrace Car park, and joins the original route where it cuts inland along Beach Station Road. Nonetheless there are still waymarkers along the former inland section and the coastal section is marked with the Suffolk Coast Path waymarkers.

Trimley to the River Deben

The route follows Mill Lane on the Ipswich side of Trimley which leads out across the A14 trunk road and then along the country lane towards Falkenham. After leaving the A14, just before a wood on the left, there is a footpath diagonally across the field, through the wood and then diagonally across another field. At the far end it emerges back onto the Lane down into the valley of the Falkenham Brook. As the lane leads back out of the valley there is a footpath on the right which leads along the field boundary, eventually crossing this and a field to the lane to Deben Lodge Farm. Keep on this lane, past the farm, where the lane turns into a track and leads down to Kings Fleet. Keep along the side of the Fleet through to where the river defence blocks its navigation to the Deben. Climb up onto the earthen defence, taking the path to the right, following the Deben into Felixstowe Ferry.

Felixstowe Ferry to Languard Fort

The footpath leads onto the concrete walkway alongside the sea. Keep to this all the way down to Felixstowe. Just before Cobbolds Point it is necessary to climb up the cliff on the public steps, and walk along Cliff Road, then left into Maybush Lane back down to the seafront. Keep to the seafront all the way through to where the official route turns inland to navigate behind the docks. At this point continue along the seafront, past the last Martello Tower and onto Languard Common. Take either route along the common which eventually emerges at Languard Fort.

A boat named PotamusPrecarious jetty out to the boats at Felixstowe Ferry
On the left A boat named Potamus; On the right Precarious jetty out to the boats at Felixstowe Ferry

Pubs

The Ferryboat Inn, Felixstowe Ferry View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
The Ferryboat Inn, Felixstowe Ferry
Website

The site of the inn was originally a fisherman's hut for selling fish and dates back to 1043. The present building dates from the 15th Century when it was the home to the Ferry master. It became a hostelry in the 16th Century. The hamlet it sits in is presently known as Felixstowe Ferry which dates from the 19th century. Before this time is was known as plain Felixstowe and the present town that bears this name was then known as the Waltons.

The Inn offers a range of food with daily specials displayed on a blackboard. Guest ales are available.

Review

Pub oriented to the tourist trade but has some good old photos and a table set out with newspapers and books including a book of old photos from the area which proved to be very interesting. Three ales were on offer, Adnams bitter, Woodfordes Wherry and Timothy Taylors Landlord. I opted for the Landlord as I had not sampled this ale for a few years. A good accompaniment to a beef baguette.

St Judes Brewery Tavern, Felixstowe View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
St Judes Brewery Tavern, Felixstowe

Formerly known as The Old Millars on Felixstowe seafront, this grand building has now become the outlet for Ipswich microbrewery St Judes. The pub offers up to 30 real ales straight from the cask, a wide variety of European lagers, ciders and wine. Bar snacks and hot pies available everyday. An ale drinkers paradise!

Sadly, due to difficult trading conditions the St Judes brewery closed for business in May 2012. This is a big loss to both local micro-brewing and as an exceptional real ale pub that offered probably the largest range of ales in Suffolk.

Review

When we stepped into this large seafront pub we were confronted with a blackboard listing 24 ales including a selection of their own St Judes beers. Initially we thought this must have been a beer festival, but no, this is the selection of ales that are regularly on offer. I opted for the Raven ale from Sinclair brewery, part of the Orkney brews, a hoppy golden bitter that was very refreshing. Kat went for Hopbacks Spring Zing, a golden ale with a hint of grapefruit and very drinkable. This pub is well worth seeking out and I will make an excuse to visit it again!

The Kings Fleet
The Kings Fleet

Features

Martello TowersView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Three Martello Towers sit alongside the seafront at Felixstowe

Between Felixstowe Ferry and Languard Fort there are three Martello Towers, all in a good state of repair. These formed part of an original defence of 103 towers along the east and south coasts of Britain. They were built between 1805 and 1812 during the time England was at war with France and were a measure against the potential invasion by Napoleon which never took place. There were 29 of these distinctive round structures built along the Suffolk and Essex coasts, each one constructed of brick with their walls up to 13 foot thick on the seaward side and approximately 30 foot tall, originally equipped with a canon on the roof.

Languard FortView in OS Map | View in Google Map

An historic Fort that defends the mouth of the River Orwell and dates from 1543

The north side of the point where the Orwell joins the open sea is known as Languard Point and it was here that a fort was originally built in 1543 by order of Henry VIII. Within a few years these blockhouses had deteriorated and their defensive guns were returned to the Tower of London. A replacement fort was built in 1628. This was a square structure of earth and wood with a bastion on each corner. This was strengthened with a brick wall around the fort in 1666 and the following year seen its first combat as an invasion from the Dutch navy was repelled by the Duke of Yorks Albany Maritime Regiment of Foot.

A new brick Fort was constructed in 1717 and this only lasted until 1744 when it was replaced with a red brick fort in the shape of a pentagon, the walls of which still remain to this day. The structure was remodelled in 1871, and in a 1878 submarine mining establishment was excavated from a room within the walls of the fort. More alterations occurred in 1901 and for the most part of the 20th century the fort was used as barrack accommodation, with a control room set up in 1951 for use during the 'cold war'.

The fort was finally vacated in 1956 when it was considered as no longer needed as part of the national military strategy. The complex was sealed up and left to decay until the 1980's when local interest set about restoring the fort, eventually falling into the hands of English Heritage who now maintain the building and open it to the public.

The Fort has several ghost stories and is the subject of frequent Ghost hunts and ghost tours. A solitary musketeer was seen by several soldiers during the second world war. A Victorian Artilleryman has been seen to step through the wall of what is now the shop which is also said to be the scene of poltergeist activity including things being thrown off the shelves. The bathroom is said to be haunted by another soldier who was believed to have hanged himself there.

The ghost of a Portuguese lady named Maria who cries out in the night and occasionally whispers in a foreign tongue. Maria was the wife of the forts paymaster sergeant during the mid 18th century. She was not particularly liked by the wives of the other soldiers and when a silk handkerchief went missing, the finger of blame was firmly pointed at Maria. Set on proving his wifes innocence, the paymaster sergeant set off to find help in gaining evidence. He was gone from the fort for four days and on his return was accused of desertion and promptly executed by firing squad. Maria was so devastated that she flung herself from the ramparts to her death. From that point her ghost has been heard by many unsuspecting visitors.

The Chapel Bastion, which used to have a chapel attached to it, is reputed to be haunted by a young Georgian soldier who died from a tropical disease that he contracted during his posting abroad. On his return the symptoms manifested and he was secretly quarantined in order not to spread fear and panic amongst the other soldiers. He was the only son of a widow and had wanted his mother to know that he had not deserted her but due to his illness was not allowed to see her. He is sometimes heard crying and has been seen crouching in a corner of the room. Whenever the door to this part of the fort is propped open it mysteriously shuts on its own.

References

A Curious Tale of Black Shuck at Felixstowe FerryView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A piece of folklore of the East Anglian canine spectre, Black Shuck

This is an interesting tale from a publication by Morley Adams that was published in 1915. As many will well attest East Anglia is the haunt of a ghostly black dog with fierce red eyes, commonly known as Black Shuck, portender of doom and death. Even to the modern day there are reports of sightings of this menacing hound whose hunting grounds are predominantly the Norfolk and Suffolk coast. It is said that occasionally Black Shuck will assume the form of a human and this story from the beach-folk of Felixstowe Ferry attests to such an occurrence.

The tale starts with the arrival in the small hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry of a strange gentleman with a darkened complexion. No-one knew where he came from and although he could speak English well he never spoke of his origin. The locals had assumed him to be of Mediterranean origin, soon giving him the simple name of 'The Italian'. As time passed he became accepted by the village folk, in particular by a local fisherboy whom appeared to warm to his company. Eventually, The Italian confided with the boy that he had to return to the 'foreign parts' from whence he came and tried to persuade the lad to accompany him on the journey. The lad refused and The Italian was left to depart alone but entrusted the boy with his large black dog during his absence. Although the locals, and indeed the boy, had seen this large black hound around the village ever since The Italian had arrived, they could not help but notice that the two were never ever seen together. In fact no-one had seen them within sight of each other and this was a topic of many a conversation.

Despite his initial qualms, the fisherboy soon became attached to the dog and it wasn't long before they could both be seen out swimming in the sea as was the lads custom. Then one fateful day he swam out a little further than was usual. On attempting to come back to the shore he was horrified to find that the dog would not let him, growling and snapping at his legs and neck and driving the lad further and further out to sea. The lad was fearful that he would end up drowning but with the fierce growling and panting behind all he could muster was to swim further out into the sea. Eventually he plucked up the courage to turn and confront the hound but was horrified to see not the large black shaggy dog but the scowling face of The Italian staring straight at him with a hellish grin. Then, in an instant he resumed the form of the dog and immediately went for his neck with a savage snarl. As luck would have it, a sailing ship had heard the boys cries and raced to his aid, hauling him from the waters to find his neck lacerated from the dogs teeth. Looking back they saw the dog dive beneath the waves like a whale and was gone from sight. From that moment on the dog was never seen again and The Italian never returned.

There is no date to the story, other than the copy date of the original book by Morley Adams, who declares that he spent many fascinating hours listening to the legends and folklore from Norfolk and Suffolk village folk.

References
Martello Tower on Felixstowe Ferry Golf Course with another in the background
Martello Tower on Felixstowe Ferry Golf Course with another in the background

Images

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

Maps

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: ... 2017-08-26

2012-06-05 : include info bout subsequent visit to Languard Fort

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