Suffolk - Shotley Peninsula

Shotley Peninsula – a walk with two rivers - By Mark Ford

This walk covers parts of the Stour and Orwell Walk which is itself an extension of the Suffolk Coastal Path and is located in the wildlife rich Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB.

The Shotley Peninsula, along with Trimley on the opposite bank of the Orwell, had the last outbreak of the plague in England covering the period 1906 -1918 causing 6 deaths.

The starting point for this walk is the public car park at Shotley Marina TM2520 3384.

We are at the conflux of the rivers Stour and Orwell and in the shadow of the majestic cranes of the Port of Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port and capable of handling over 2m containers a year. We set off towards the reception building skirt around it and cross the marina lock gates and take the path on the outside of the yacht basin before heading upstream along the banks of the Orwell. The footpath hugs the top of the flood bank and is only wide enough for single file walking. We soon come across the remnants of old oyster beds just before the creeks at Crane’s Hill from where a detour up the hill from the footpath junction will take you past the vineyard to Shotley Church and a small War Commission cemetery.

We continue to follow the Orwell to Collimer Point with views of the Suffolk Yacht Harbour on the opposite bank, the river provides a huge area of safe sailing, boating and sailing tuition. As we reach the shade of the National Trust’s Cliff Plantation the path widens out and we continue through the trees and where the path splits take the lower path along past the boat house moorings to reach the tiny hamlet of Pin Mill and one of my favourite lunch stops, The Butt and Oyster.

The river is tidal and a high tide may see the water level against the wall of the Inn so a check before you set off is advisable to avoid having to double back. This is our halfway stage having covered around 5 miles so far.

Historical records for the building date back to 1456 when the Water Bailiff held his court here and it was recorded as a Public House in 1553. It featured in Arthur Ransome’s 1937 book ‘We didn’t mean to go to Sea’ and in the 1993 TV series Lovejoy in which it was renamed as ‘The Three Ducks’.

Suitably refreshed we head up the lane out of the hamlet to the village of Chelmondiston but the n is silent and it is commonly referred to as ‘Chelmo’. Here we cross the road and turn left then take the first footpath on the left and head into arable farmland and big Suffolk skies. We keep Broomfield Covert to our right and continue along the path to Warren Lane. Here we are on wider field edge paths so it is possible to walk 2 or 3 abreast and chat while you walk though this has its dangers! Please see the next paragraph.

There are quite a few variations possible to this route and a quick study of the map will show you how to add a couple of miles on. My last walk along this route was actually 12 miles just because we decided to follow a different path or because we were chatting and missed the turning?

Warren Lane leads us to Erwarton Hall, rebuilt in 1575 by Sir Phillip Parker the uncle of Anne Boleyn who was apparently a frequent visitor to the Hall. Legend has it that her wish was to be buried in Erwarton and though there is no evidence to suggest this happened a heart shaped casket was found in a wall in the church in the 1830’s and was reburied with due ceremony underneath the organ.

Following the road to our right and keeping the Hall to our left a short 650-yard walk along the road takes us to Erwarton Church and the observant among us may have seen the alpaca in the field behind the Hall. At the Church we take the lane to our left and there is a bench at the back of the church with views across the fields down to the River Stour, worth a little break and to see if the church is open. The lane becomes a footpath after a while and we follow this to the river and climb up onto the bank of the River Stour. The footpath again hugs the top of the flood wall and single file walking resumes.

Here we have views over to Harwich International Port which is a ferry terminal for the lorry freight trade and support centre for offshore wind farms.

We head east along the bank though the Stour and Orwell walk actually takes a higher path to the road into Shotley but, at the time of writing the shoreline footpath is readily accessible. This may change after a harsh winter or succession of storms and it is advisable to take note of any warning signs. There is a further choice before the caravan park and I prefer to drop down onto the lower path when possible and keep alongside the river which leads us back to the village of Shotley Gate and our starting point of Shotley Marina.

(Note from the editor) As a retired Royal Navy man, I'd like to mention that it might be worth stopping at the HMS Ganges Museum which is situated between Shotley Gate and Shotley Marina. Ganges taught generations of naval ratings from 1865 until it closed in 1976. One thing that all "Ganges Boys" remember is "Manning the Mast" (before the days that girls in the RN were seagoing) which saw uniformed young boys climb a 143 foot high mast in time to music.

OS Explorer 197 covers walk - the going is easy though can be heavy in the wetter autumn and winter months on the field-side paths and the bank of the Stour.