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

Monday, 30 May 2016

Deben Estuary - Melton to Bawdsey

View across the Deben estuary

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

This walk follows river side footpaths with spectacular views across the estuary. Unfortunately at Ramsholt there is no public access and one needs to divert through to the village of Alderton with a road walk for the last few miles to Bawdsey. A ferry crossing an a short walk into Felixstowe provides public transport access back to Melton

Melton to Felixstowe Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
MeltonView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
FelixstoweView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
15 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy
Terrain
Footpaths and country lanes with some road walking
Obstacles
The section from Ramsholt to Bawdsey has no public access along the river side. Therefore one needs to navigate to Alderton and follow the road through to Bawdsey. Although this is not a particularly busy road there are sections where there is no pavement and adherence to the highway code is a necessity

Transport:

First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
75/76/77 - First Group 75/76/77 bus services connecting Ipswich, Trimley and Felixstowe.
Timetable
First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
65 - First Group 65 service connects Ipswich, Woodbridge, Rendlesham, Snape, Leiston and Aldeburgh. Unfortunately this was made into a 2 hourly service from August 2015
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2014-07-25
Walk Time
07:00 to 14:30
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
After a hazy start the day turned to a glorious sunny summers afternoon

Walk Notes

Currently, The Suffolk Coast Path omits the chance of a walk around the Deben estuary favouring a ferry across to Felixstowe. This misses out on a fantastic estuary walk that is worth seeking out. Most of the estuary can be walked along riverside public footpaths and such a walk along the southern side of the estuary is described on this site in An Amble up the Deben Estuary. The walk described here continues the ramble along the northern side of the river and is just as spectacular. There is a drawback in a lack of public transport linking the two ends of the walk with the only method of return involving a ferry crossing followed by a walk up into Felixstowe where there are buses back to Melton via Ipswich.

The ferry only runs seasonally from Easter to April at weekends from 10 am to 5 pm, and daily from May to October, 10 am to 6 pm. Full details can be found at Felixstowe Travel Watch website This limits both the months and days one can undertake this walk and also restricts the amount of time one can dedicate to walking which is a shame because there is so much to explore. On this specific occasion the walk was initiated at the early hour of 7am with a haze that shrouded the scenery. By the time the riverside path was reached at Sutton Hoo, the haze was clearing to usher in a glorious sunny and warm day to provide a spectacular scene.

The first item of interest along this route is undoubtedly Sutton Hoo. I don't want to dwell on this well known tourist attraction as it is covered by so many websites and tourist information leaflets. Briefly, it is a Saxon burial site where a Saxon boat was unearthed in the 1930s and is now the centrepiece in a large exhibition hall. Due to the lack of transport and time limitations on this walk I would suggest visiting Sutton Hoo on a separate occasion and spend several hours exploring this site in its own right. This walk can whet ones appetite for such a revisit.

From Sutton Hoo the walk leads along the foot of Ferry Hill before heading up the wooded hillside and across the fields to Methersgate hall. The river is never far away and there are some fantastic views across the estuary. The path soon leads back down to the riverside where it continues all the way to the tiny hamlet of Ramsholt. When I describe it as a hamlet, it is barely that. There is a little circular towered church that overlooks the river and can be seen from the footpath and the pub and that is about it. The pub goes by the name of The Ramsholt Arms and is located on the riverside to provide a worthy place to stop for refreshments, where one can sit on the lawn and watch the river craft glide by.

Beyond Ramsholt, the unsuspecting walker may well attempt to continue along the riverside path as the path does appear to lead onwards towards Bawdsey. However there is no public access after the first few yards. I had dedicated a significant amount of time to investigate whether there was permissive access all the way through to Bawdsey but by all accounts this was not possible. I did chance upon one walker who had managed to navigate this distance unchallenged but the general consensus was that one should not attempt to walk the defence banks beyond Ramsholt.

It is hoped that in the near future this section of the riverside path may be opened up for public access. The Alde Valley Ramblers in response to the Sizewell C consultation have highlighted the route as one of nine key paths that need public access, particularly because the Suffolk section of the England Coast Path is expected to navigate around the estuary.

This stretch from Ramsholt on the Deben to Bawdsey along the river wall should be made available to the public to connect two existing routes and be part of the future National Coastal Trail [England Coast Path]. This section of river wall is not currently open to the public but could be made a public footpath with a minimum of alteration and expenditure with no inconvenience to the landowners. Such a path would have a good deal of support from local residents as well as visitors.

Here's hoping that such access will eventually be granted and if and when it does I will certainly be one of the first walkers to tread that way. The alternative route, as used in this walk, is to take the lanes and tracks up to the village of Alderton then follow the road through to Bawdsey quay. In general these lanes have little traffic and the road through to Bawdsey does have pavement for a good deal of the distance.

Making up for the lack of a river scene, this alternative route does have its own little gems including Alderton church, dedicated to St Andrew, which is conspicuous for its detached stump where the tower should exist. This ivy clad ruin was once the base of a tower which was reduced to a stump by falls during the 17th and 18th centuries. The last collapse occurred on a Sunday in 1821 during the morning service. Local folklore maintains that the falling masonry killed a cow that had been standing outside. The church bell is now contained in a timber frame behind the ruins.

Further along the road there is the compact St Marys Church of Bawdesy which is set back from the road. Before this, on the opposite side of the road there is an interesting single story square building that is set back from the road with the characters H H Crane adorned above its main windows. This, at first glance, is just an old car showroom but on closer inspection, peering through its mucky windows, one is soon rewarded with the sight of a collection of vintage motors including a 1940 BMW 326 Frazer Nash Saloon registered LMF 411 and a 1939 BMW 327 registered FNK 211 along with a wartime motorcycle plus other vehicles further back and not clearly seen.

Clearly gathering dust in their deteriorating showroom, to all intents and purposes they look lost and forgotten. Little can be found about why these are here. A word with locals provides some rumours that the vehicles belonged to the former owner of the garage. Unfortunately when he passed away his family refused to relinquish ownership, yet had no interest in maintaining either the exhibits or the showroom. How true this is I do not know but I have heard the tale from several folk locally. On a more recent visit the BMWs appear to have been removed with just a tarpaulin covering an unknown vehicle at the back of the showroom.

With regards to refreshments there is obviously the Ramsholt Arms, although we arrived here a little too early on this occasion. There is also the Sun Inn at Alderton which is due to reopen early summer 2016. Across the water at Bawdesy is the Ferry Boat Inn which was the choice on this walk.

Bawdsey
Bawdsey

Directions

An esturay walk in all its glory along the River Deben

From the main bus stop on The Street in Melton, take Station Road that leads past the parish church. At the junction turn left and follow the road past the station and across the railway track then continue acrorss Wilford Bridge. Continue straight ahead at the roundabout all the way through to the National Trust site of Sutton Hoo. Just beyond the entrance on the right hand side, and beyond the small wood aside the entrance is a footpath that leads along the side of this wood. Follow this down to the track in from of the Sutton Hoo complex. The public footpath continues onwards but one can also turn left and follow the track, bearing right at the junction to pick up another footpath which passes the ship burial site. Continuing along this path, the land drops down to Sutton hoo Farm where a right hand turn present another track to the left betwen the buildings. Take this and follow the footpath down to the river.

At the river follow the defence back that continues in front of ferry cliff. At the far end the path heads up into woodland and doubles back on itself emerging onto a large field border by woodland. Keep to the boundary alongside the wood until the wood leads off to the left with the footpath continuing straight ahead. Follow the path that leads in a long straight line down to Methersgate hall, whose buildings can soon be glimpsed at the end. At the buildings turn right, then turn left at the next track. This leads onto a straight footpath across the fields and down to the riverside. From this point onwards it is just a case of following the riverside path through to Ramsholt.

The Ramsholt Arms pub sits beside the river and marks the end of the river path. Follow the road up past the pub and keep to this until it junctions with another road. Beware, this road, although just a country lane, can be fairly busy during holiday periods when the pub attracts a lot of custom. At the junction go straight ahead onto a track and follow this past some woodland on the left and around onto heathland that leads out onto the road by Heath Cottage. turn left and follow the road into the village of Alderton. Continue straight ahead when this meets the main road through the village, following it around to the right and continuing straight ahead. There are pavements along this stretch of road which leads through Bawdsey village and onto Bawdsey Quay. This is a long stretch of road walking although there is little traffic as it leads to nowhere but the quay.

At the quay, if the ferry is not in use, hail the boat by waving the bat provided. Once on the Felixstow side of the river, follow the coastline around. A long line of beachhuts is encountered at Felixstowe and midway through these there is access up to the road above. Follow the road through to Felixstowe town centre. Eventually there is a roundabout. Turn left where there are bus stops, a supermarket on the right and the railway station beyond. The Ipswich bound buses depart from the stop on the right hand side of the road.

Road out of Ramsholt
Road out of Ramsholt

Pubs

Ramsholt Arms, Ramsholt View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
The Quay, Ramsholt
Website

A very popular isolated riverside pub with glorious views across the River Deben. The pub dates from the early 1900's and was originally known as the Old Dock Inn or the Dock House before the present name was adopted in 1916. The present day owners took on the pub in 2013 and have made a modern clean bright place to dine and enjoy the views. Ales are predominantly Adnams although guest ales are sometimes on offer.

Review

A little too early for this pub on this occasion although previous visits have resulted in a fine pint of Adnams ale

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

A rewarding 'end' to a very satisfying walk. There is usually a guest ale or two at this establishment and we was not disappointed on this occasion. Sunshine, ale and a wooden bench outside is all it takes to rejuvenate weary legs

Sutton Hoo entranceThe Swan Inn
On the left Sutton Hoo entrance; On the right The Swan Inn

Features

Sutton Hoo LegendsView in OS Map | View in Google Map

With a site such as Sutton Hoo whose 6th and 7th century burial grounds have thus far revealed a Saxon ship and numerous other Saxon artefacts, one would expect the locality to be steeped in myth and legend. This is sadly not the case and tales from old are few and far between.

The primary excavations that revealed the Saxon ship were carried out in 1939. Prior diggings into the mounds had taken place in previous centuries and no doubt there was a lot of speculation as to what may lay beneath them although such tales have failed to make it through to our modern age other than the speculation that this was the resting place of King Edmund. Edmund was both the king and Saint of East Anglia and there is little evidence to support the idea that his remains lie beneath the mounds.

The 1930s excavations were conducted by Mrs Edith May Pretty who was the sole landowner after her husband, Colonel Frank Pretty, died in 1934. Edith had an active interest in spiritualism and some have stated that this was the source of her need to excavate, becoming convinced that treasures were buried under the mounds after a series of dreams including a vision of a Saxon funeral procession. She also attested to witnessing an armed warrior standing atop onto the the mounds at twilight. Whatever the truth is of these visions and dreams, it is true that once the treasure were discovered she had hid them under her bed for the first night as they were too large to fit into the family safe.

Another story from the locality, which is included on the Hidden East Anglia website, involves the location a battle between the Danes and Saxons. The reference for these tales are taken from a book by W. G. Arnott titled The Place-Names of the Deben Valley Parishes and states that the narrow valley beyond Methersgate Hall named Saxtead Bottom, or locally known as Saxons Bottom, was believed to be the where the battle took place although there is little other detail.

References

Alderton legendsView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The unassuming Suffolk village of Alderton has a few stories to tell which are worth iteration on this page. There are much reported ghostly goings on at the Swan Inn as well as spooky occurrences at Aldertain Hall.

Alderton Hall is set back from the road into the village, adjacent to the church. This 15th century brick building with a pantiled roof is said to have a reputation for being haunted. During the 16th century this area was a stronghold of Catholicism at a time when practising such a faith resulted in persecution. The Hall therefore had a so called priest hole so that the resident Catholic priests could hide should the need arise when an unexpected search was made by the authorities. The hole was said to have been linked to a tunnel that went through to the church opposite and beyond to the Swan Inn. It was this tunnel which was supposedly the source of the hauntings. The ghost stories related here are taken from the now defunct website for the hall. The site had stated that during WWII the hall was used to billet airmen who would often be rudely awakened by ghostly noises emanating from the tunnel. The nightly disturbances became such an issue with the airmen that an exorcism was performed in order to eradicate the Hall of the spirits. There is no record of whether the exorcism succeeded and there is little other evidence of such ghost stories.

The Hall was converted into holiday lets in 2004 and the website was probably developed to attract trade to this new business. Unfortunately there are scant references to the Halls history or the folklore although there are numerous references to a tunnel that links the Hall to the church and the Swan Inn. So was this just a tactic employed to attract custom or was it stories that only the owners had privilege to their sources?

So, onward, by tunnel if one wishes, to The Swan Inn. This 16th century former Smugglers Inn and listed building also has its tales to tell. A tumble down wooden barrel sits outside the hostelry and on the side of the barrel the following words are scrawled in white paint THE SWAN INN WINNER OF THE GREAT BRITISH PUB AWARD. Below this it continues FEATURED ON TV RADIO PRESS. The barrel has probably now been removed as part of a recent refurbishment undertaken by the new owner who is hoping to reopen the pub during early summer 2016, after a short period of closure. These words indicate there is more to this building than its history of smuggling and this certainly is the case. From the year 2004 the pub was owned by landlord Peter Saxon who ran the pub as both a traditional drinking inn and as an Indian Restaurant. It was during his tenure that the ghostly stories and strange occurrences were picked up by the media.

The local press, in particular the Coastal Scene edition of Friday March 7th 2014, carried the headline 'Ghostbuster' as a tantalizing introduction to a feature on the ghostly takes that the pub had to offer. The paranormal investigator John West had been sent to investigate the strange events that had been occurring on the premises and witnessed by both landlord and his chef Gulab Miah. In one incident he described how a full pint was seen by himself and customers to float across a table and spill on the floor. Other incidents include mysterious meddling of gas cylinders in the cellar, glasses being moved in the bar and bangs and thumps throughout the building. In addition there are oddities such as the words scrawled above the fireplace that are said to have warded of witches, and human teeth that were found in the garden.

The ghost stories were not the first time Mr Saxon had found notoriety in the press. In Novemeber 2004 he was the subject of a report by the Evening Star concerning his sighting and video of a UFO in the sky above the pub a n month earlier. Mr Saxon was quoted as saying

I was awoken by shouting coming from outside, and after getting dressed, went into the back car park where I saw what I initially thought was a helicopter, hovering in the sky over the houses opposite to the Swan. I soon realised this could not be the case as the ‘light’ began to move erratically over the sky, at which point I could see it had a jet black dome with a long rectangular bar underneath with a group of lights at each end. I could see it shaking from side to side and moving up and down.

The area is close to the infamous Rendlesham Forest which was the location of what some have termed the British Roswell when numerous US airmen encountered strange craft during December 1980. The area has been a hotbed for UFO activity both prior and since this encounter. No explanation was ever forthcoming of Mr Saxons encounter and the camcorder footage which originally extended to 9 minutes was unfortunately mostly erased before a proper analysis could be undertaken. Little data could be garnered from the remaining 65 seconds with the lack of any frame of reference.

References
estuary view
estuary view

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: ... 2017-02-13

2015-03-26 : Added information about Highbury Cottages

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