Suffolk Coast Path: Landguard Point to Shingle Street

11 May 2013

The Suffolk Coast Path is a route that I've wanted to walk for a while now, but never quite managed the logistics involved, particularly the first section which involves a ferry only open in the summer months, and which prevented starts to the walk in autumn 2011 and 2012. Being through rural areas, there are no practical public transport options to create one-way walks, so either a lift or a bicycle is needed. Today Lucy kindly agreed to pick me up at the end after visiting a friend.

George at Languard Point, where the Rivers Stour and Orwell enter the sea, and where the coast of Suffolk starts (unless one considers that those two tidal rivers constitute the coast, in which case I started at Cattawade when I started the Stour and Orwell Walk).

This board-walk and the rope fence are new since I was last here, and clearly intended to reduce damage to parts of the nature reserve

Looking past the concrete obstacles, placed here as part of World War II defences, to the cranes of Felixstowe docks. On the right is part of the WWII additions to Landguard Fort.

More ruined defensive works

These four plinths held practice guns during the Victorian period. In the background is the radar tower for the harbour

Three lines of containers on railway wagons are at the very end of the line

Having left the Nature Reserve behind, and now merely on Landguard Common rather than the Nature Reserve, we are now free for George to wander off-lead, with a pleasant undulating walk along the dune ridge

After leaving Landguard Common, there is a section along the beach which may be impassable at high tide (when the road a bit inland can be used).

There are many, many beach huts along the front at Felixstowe

Approaching the pier, which is closed this early in the morning on a windy and cool day. So far all the facilities have been closed, including all the ice-cream kiosks.

After passing the far end of the Promenade, a concrete access road brings us to this point, where any further progress is again dependent on the tide. The official route of the Suffolk Coast Path is up a road and then down some steps a bit further on, but this seemed like a better route as the tide permitted.

Steps over one of the groynes, and some contemplative graffiti

Groynes as far as the eye can see - plus lots more beach huts.

Having found a delicious ice-cream at what I think was the final kiosk on the front, we have just rounded the corner after walking past the golf course, and are now looking across Woodbridge Haven, the mouth of the River Deben, to what is unnamed on my maps but could perhaps usefully be called Bawdsey Point. I've been to Bawdsey Quay a lot of times, but can recall going to this side, Felixstowe Ferry, only once, almost thirty years ago, and I don't think we came down the footpath to see the river from this angle, so it was a very interesting and novel perspective on a partially familiar area.

Some of the habitation at Felixstowe Ferry

The harbour-master and his trip boat on the right, and powering in on the left is the ferry which will take George and me across the river to the Bawdsey side for the excellent value of two pounds. The ferry was on the other side when I arrived, and I signalled my desire to cross by waving a circular wooden paddle above my head until I detected movement on the other side.

Safely on the Bawdsey side, a look back to Felixstowe Ferry across the River Deben. The original and potentially future route of the Suffolk Coast Path was around the coast from here, past Bawdsey Manor and under Bawdsey Cliff, but coastal erosion means that the route currently heads along the road from Bawdsey Quay to the East Lane car park - not quite as exciting a route, but somewhat easier underfoot to walk on tarmac than on shingle.

A look upriver before the road turns inland. That dark sky signals rain, which soon arrived, and it rained for much of my walk along the road to Bawdsey.

As we reach Bawdsey Hall, the rain has stopped, and bits of blue sky are reappearing, and there was no more rain this morning. I was pleased that my own attempt to forecast the weather had proved significantly more accurate than that of the Met Office or BBC.

Approaching the East Lane car park, where the route reaches the sea once more - the bank in the distance is the sea-wall. This tower from WWII was used by soldiers trying to spot German aeroplanes: they would signal to those in the gun battery in the distance who would fire on the planes.

Above the gun battery, the sea is trying hard to breach the coastal defences, which have recently had to be strengthened, with significant works near the Martello tower completed in 2009 at a cost of 3.06m, after 17 metres of land was lost to erosion in just four years, but the beach where I am here a little north of those works has virtually disappeared since, and this section of the sea wall must now be vulnerable

Looking north, there is plenty of shingle there for the moment, but these shingle beaches can change very rapidly with winter storms. Our route lies along the sea wall past three more Martello towers to the white cottages at Shingle Street in the distance on the coast.

And what's this! Lucy and Ellie come to meet George and me.

The four of us continue along the slightly inland sea-wall, with WWII coastal defences between the sea-wall and the shingle beach

Getting close to the Martello tower at Shingle Street. Lucy had parked the car near there, and it was then a trip to Felixstowe to pick up the other car and then home. A very enjoyable walk (despite the short period of rain), and I look forward to the next leg.

Total 16.9 km in 4 hours 3 mins (making 15.9 km progress along the Suffolk Coast Path)

Suffolk Coast Path Next Suffolk Coast Path walk - onwards to Chillesford


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson