Wickham Market to Felixstowe walk
Long (or 2 day) walk over farms, heathland, then along the Butley river, wild and isolated coastline, and a ferry crossing to Felixstowe.
Wickham Market station, grid reference TM327557, and Felixstowe station, grid reference TM303352, are both in Suffolk.
OS Explorer 212 (Woodbridge and Saxmundham) and 197 (Ipswich, Felixstowe and Harwich).
OS Landranger 156 and 169.
|Toughness||3 out of 10. Butley Hill, which would have been an island in Saxon times, is all of 15 metres high. 4 out of 10 if following the tortuous shingle beach rather than the road to Bawdsey Quay.|
This is a very long walk and it is suggested that you break it by staying overnight at Butley Mills (after 10.6 kms) or Hollesley (after 21.5 kms plus a short detour), giving two very contrasting days of walking. Bed and breakfast and self-catering options are few and far between, but some addresses are given below.
The walk crosses farming country (the start is shared with Walk 205 – Wickham Market to Aldeburgh) and the Suffolk heathlands, known as the Sandlings. You pass close to the villages of Tunstall and Chillesford, where you could have lunch and dinner at the Green Man and the highly rated Froize Inn respectively if following the two day option.
The nature of the walk changes completely as you follow the bank of the Butley river, gradually developing in to wild coastline. The isolated hamlets of Butley Mills, Butley Low Corner, Shingle Street and East Lane give signs of human habitation, but don’t expect any refreshment facilities. This is flat walking along the grassy sea wall, more North Kent than Cornwall. You take a minor road to Bawdsey Quay (or a lengthy section of shingle beach) for the ferry across the River Deben, then complete the walk through Felixstowe.
|Shortening the Walk||
If you do not wish to stay overnight it would be a shame to miss out on the coastal section, so you could consider catching Anglian Bus number 165 which leaves Ipswich station at 8.35 except on Sundays then at hourly intervals (varying between 25 and 35 minutes past) for Aldeburgh, calling at Melton station and at Tunstall (journey time 48-53 minutes). Directions are given below for joining the main walk at Tunstall, which would reduce the distance by 5.2 kms.
Directions are also given in the text for starting the walk at Blaxhall Youth Hostel, for those who wish to stay overnight, reducing the distance by 3.9 kms.
Detouring to the Froize Inn at Chillesford adds about 1 km to the distance.
Buses are sparse on this remote stretch of coastline. PF Travel bus number 71 calls at Chillesford (5.08 on Saturdays) on its way to Ipswich via Melton and Woodbridge stations (it runs ten minutes earlier on school days).
There is also a Demand Responsive Transport service operated by CATS (Coastal Accessible Transport Scheme) which operates from 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturday except Public Holidays. You could arrange to avoid the road or shingle beach section to Bawdsey Quay and the urban walking through Felixstowe by arranging to be picked up from East Lane. This service could take you to Melton or Woodbridge station but it does need to be booked a week in advance on 0845 604 1802 so you would need to estimate your likely time of arrival. The service charges normal bus fares.
There are no buses from Felixstowe ferry but you could shave 3.1 kms by taking First bus number 76 which leaves from Golf Road/Western Avenue, Old Felixstowe hourly to 5.14pm every day except Sunday for Felixstowe station, continuing to Ipswich.
Both stations are outside the Network South East railcard area, which ends at Manningtree, but there are often Advance single tickets available which represent excellent value if you are willing to commit to a specific train for the return journey.
If there are no Advance tickets available or if you wish to be flexible, your best option (if you have a Network South East railcard) is to buy a return to Manningtree and separate singles to Wickham Market and from Felixstowe.
Catch the train nearest to 9am from Liverpool Street. Currently the 9am train connects with the 10.17 Abellio Greater Anglia train from Ipswich on a Saturday which arrives at Wickham Market at 10.42 (alternatively you could catch the 165 bus as above and be at Tunstall for 11.25). Trains run hourly but two hourly on Sundays. If you are planning to stay overnight at Butley Mills, leave an hour later.
Trains depart from Felixstowe hourly (including Sundays) and the journey time to Ipswich is 26 minutes.
|Points of interest||
East Suffolk Line Walks
A booklet has been produced of walks between stations on this line. This walk in its early stages intersects with the ESLW from Wickham Market to Saxmundham.
Runs through the Suffolk heathland (or Sandlings) for 59 miles from Ipswich to Southwold.
Suffolk Coast Path
Stretches for 55-60 miles depending on the chosen route, from Lowestoft to Felixstowe.
The inhabitants of this former fishing hamlet were forcibly evacuated in 1940 in anticipation of a German invasion and it was subsequently used for testing experimental bombs. Only in the late 1940s was the beach cleared of mines and today it is little more than a collection of holiday homes.
The Green Man, Woodbridge Road, Tunstall is 5.4 kms in to the walk including a short detour and would be suitable for lunch if you are doing the walk over two days at a leisurely pace. It opens at 12 and serves food until 3pm (8pm on Sundays).
Tel: 01728 688351 http://www.greenmantunstall.co.uk/
The Froize Freehouse at Chillesford, 11 kms in to the walk (including a detour) may be too early to be practical, bearing in mind the last ferry from Bawdsey Quay. Built on the site of Chillesford Priory, its unusual name is said to be derived from a pancake called a ‘froise’ which the friars supplied to passing travellers. These days it is highly regarded for its locally sourced British cuisine (Suffolk beef, Orford skate etc). Open 12 to 2 every day except Monday.
Tel: 01394 450282. http://froize.co.uk/
The options listed below at Bawdsey Quay and Felixstowe Ferry could also be suitable for lunch if you decided to do the walk over two days.
Boathouse Café, The Quay, Bawdsey, reached after 30 kms, is open March to November, generally 11 to 5pm but closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Lovely views from the veranda over the Deben River. Does a range of teas and coffees, cakes and scones. Tel: 07900 811826. www.boathousecafe.co.uk
Ferry Boat Inn, Felixstowe Ferry, is reached after 30 kms. It closes from 3 to 5.30 in the week but opens all afternoon and evenings at weekends. Food is not served between 2 and 6.30pm. Cosy 15th century inn on the village green facing the sea wall with low-beamed interior and tables outside in summer. Popular for both food and drink. Tel: 01394 284203. www.ferryboatinn.org.uk
Ferry Café, Felixstowe Ferry. Tel: 01394 276305. Open 9-5 each day. All is not lost if the Ferry Boat Inn is closed. This old portakabin is full of character and does some great cakes!
River of Life Coffee Shop , 175 Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, open 10-4, Wednesday to Saturday only. Staffed by volunteers from the local church. Only 300 metres to go!
Jenny’s Coffee Shop and Chuffers Bar and Restaurant, both in the Great Eastern Square arcade by Felixstowe station.
Butley Mills holiday apartments. Self-catering apartments for between 2 and 6 persons. Booked through Suffolk Cottage Holidays for a week or shorter breaks (but not for single nights). http://www.butleymills.co.uk/, or http://www.bighouseholidays.co.uk/property/393/Butley-Mill-Butley
Mill Lane Bed And Breakfast, Mill Lane, Butley, Woodbridge, Suffolk. £80 for a double room or £60 for single occupancy (no twin rooms). Tel: 01394 450994. http://www.milllanebandb.co.uk/
Rose and Apple Shepherd’s Huts. Two restored 19th century shepherd’s huts, one with a double bed and one with two bunks. Self-catering. Must be booked as a complete unit for a minimum of two nights, but according to the booking website it is possible to book the unit for one night only for £100 from April 2015. In Butley village – continue along the B1084, rather than turning left in to Mill Road. Tel: 01728 553099/638962. http://www.bestofsuffolk.co.uk/butleyshepherdhuts.asp
Richmond Hill Bed and Breakfast, Hollesley. Two rooms, a twin and a double. £70 per room or £50 for single occupancy. Tel: 01394 411758
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
May-20 Mike Powell
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
1) Wickham Market station to Tunstall (5.5 kms)
- Wickham Market station is located in the neighbouring village of Campsea Ashe and there is only one platform. Turn left from the station car park on Ashe Road (B1078), passing opposite the Dog and Duck pub in 80 metres. In 70 metres the road turns to the right, but you continue ahead on Mill Lane, following a sign for an East Suffolk Line Walk (ESLW). In 200 metres, turn left between modern houses on Ullswater Road, marked by a footpath sign. In 100 metres ignore a turning to the right and continue ahead on a footway after the last house (there was building development here in 2014). In 50 metres turn right on a path between the hedge and the railway fence, ducking under some very low branches. After 250 metres (at a junction with a path on the right), you cross the line with great care by two stiles either side of a Look and Listen crossing. Continue ahead (South-East) along the edge of a large field with a hedge on your left. Carry straight on in 500 metres at a cross paths marked by a wooden signpost with another ESLW motif (Copperas Barn Farm is to your right) on a grass track, now at the right edge of a field. You pass under overhead wires to re-join the circuitous Ashe Road in 400 metres.
- Cross the road and take the grassy bridleway ahead (East), at an ESLW sign, with a hedge on both sides. In 600 metres you enter woods and in 100 metres the ESLW takes the path to the left (Walk 205 to Aldeburgh also goes left here), but you continue ahead. In 350m turn right on gravel towards a large house (Ash Lodge). In 20 metres turn left in to woods, with the property on your right. In 80 metres turn right on Ivy Lodge Road.
- In 400 metres take the next signed footpath up the drive to Rushground. In 80 metres go through a gate on the right marked by a yellow arrow, then follow the left hand edge of a small pasture to go under a line of telegraph wires in 35 metres. In 70 metres go through a wooden gate on your left, to the right of a field gate, again with a yellow arrow, to follow a winding grassy path through a copse, ignoring any ways off. (!) In 150 metres you pass to the right of a pond and on emerging in the open in 55 metres go over a hidden wooden bridge on your left and continue parallel with the left edge of the next field. In 110 metres, at the corner of the field, turn right, still following the left hand edge. In 60 metres go under more telegraph wires. In 300 metres continue ahead, now on a grassy path between fields. In 250 metres pass a wooden hut and follow a wide path at the edge of the field, with a hedge to your right. In 40 metres pass under another row of telegraph wires. In 250 metres you turn left on the B1069 (Woodbridge Road) just to the left of Sheppards Farm.
- Cross the road and in 100 metres take the unmarked path to the left of a house (Brown’s Farm). In 100 metres at the end of the buildings turn half left (East) between fields on a wide track. In 200 metres turn half left again (North-East) at a path junction (not sharp left, unless you plan to visit the Green Man at Tunstall, in which case you should go this way –you come out on in 200 metres back on the B1069 and turn right, then left in 140 metres at a staggered crossroads; re-join the main route by following the directions for the alternative start from Tunstall below).
- You have a hedge on your left, then overhanging trees, then residential gardens on the left. In 500 metres you reach the B1078 (Orford Road). Turn right on the road (the start from Tunstall joins you here).
- Alternative start from Blaxhall
- From Blaxhall youth hostel (GR 369570) turn left on to the road and in 15 metres turn left again on to the sign-posted restricted byway, past Ship Walk House. At the end of a field in 450 metres, turn right on to a sign-posted bridleway with part of Tunstall Forest on your left and a low wire fence and field to your right. In 400 metres turn right and turn left in 30 metres to follow the edge of the next field, with a hedge on your left. In 350 metres continue in to the next field on a wider path, towards a large white house.
- In 350 metres you cross the B1069 (Snape Road) and take the road ahead, to the right of Tunstall Forest Equestrian Centre, passing a small pond on your right. In 450 metres follow the road as it turns left by Walk Farm and Geaters Barn. In 180 metres the road swings to the right, but you take the sign-posted path ahead. At a T-junction in 250 metres, take the muddy path to the right, marked by a yellow arrow. In 350 metres ignore a public footpath to the right. In 200 metres ignore an unmarked path forking to the right. Cross a path on the left in 10 metres and another in 10 metres, to reach a line of pylons in a further 10 metres. Turn left here on to a wide sandy path, marked by a low Sandlings Walk sign (this route is marked by a sky blue logo featuring a nightjar). In 70 metres turn right at another Sandlings Walk sign. Go under the pylons in 40 metres and in 70 metres cross the B1078 (Orford Road). Take the bridleway to the right of Bracken Farm Livery Yard, joining the main walk as indicated early in Section 2 below.
- Alternative start from Tunstall
- If you get off the bus from Ipswich at Tunstall, turn left (East) on the B1078 (Orford Road) past the Green Man pub. In 50 metres continue ahead at a staggered crossroads. In 200 metres ignore the B1069 on the left and in another 80 metres ignore a path to the right. The main route joins you here, at the start of section 1.
2) Tunstall to Butley Mills (5.1 kms)
- You pass opposite the church in 150 metres and ignore roads to both left and right (Tunstall Baptist Church is to your right) in a further 1.2 kilometres. Ignore another road to the right in 100 metres (signed to Butley and Hollesley).
- In 150 metres take the wide gravel bridleway to the right, just before Bracken Farm Livery Yard (the route from Blaxhall joins you here). In 550 metres you pass houses on your left and continue gently downhill. In 700 metres you pass an open area on your right. In 200 metres re-enter woods. In 400 metres there is a break in the woods and a huge field on the right. In 350 metres ignore a path behind a barrier on your left.
- In 250 metres turn left at a path cross roads (the Sandlings Walk turns right here and the path ahead leads to Chillesford Church) on to a track (Pedlar’s Lane) with trees on both sides. Ignore a public footpath signpost in 450 metres unless you intend to visit the Froize Inn, in which case turn left here and follow the directions below. Continue on Pedlar’s Lane for another 300 metres to the B1084 and turn right.
- For the Froize Inn, take the grassy path to the left across fields. In 150 metres the path turns left, then in 50 metres half right to skirt around the edge of Kiln Wood. It turns to the right again in 300 metres, still with the woods on the right. You pass a brick house in 80 metres and ignore a track and thatched cottages to the left in 120 metres. Continue ahead on an unmade road, now taking the Suffolk Coast Path (SCP), marked by yellow arrows on a blue background, which you follow almost all the way to Felixstowe. You come out on the B1084 (Woodbridge Road) in 300 metres. Turn right to reach the Froize Freehouse opposite in 25 metres. After leaving the pub turn left along the B1084. In 300 metres you pass Pedlar’s Lane on the right, re-joining the main route.
- In 30 metres take Mill Lane just before the bus shelter on the left, signed to Butley Mills (or continue ahead if you are staying in Butley village, e.g. at Rose and Apple Shepherd’s Huts), soon with a stream to your right. In 500 metres you pass a mill on the right which has been converted into holiday apartments.
3) Butley Mills to Butley Low Corner (2.1 kms)
- Continue past more houses. In 100 metres, immediately after Butley Mills Pottery/studios on the left (opposite Mill Lane bed and breakfast), ignore the footpath marked by a yellow arrow on a telegraph pole to your left (the OS map indicates that you could go this way, but the onward route is unclear on the ground). In 250 metres you fork left on a farm lane, as directed by an SCP arrow on a telegraph pole, following the line of telegraph wires at the left hand edge of the sand, with expansive views to the right once the hedge ends. In 350 metres you continue on the wide straight stony track (190 degrees), now with pine trees on your right. In 120 metres you pass farm buildings on the left (Low Farm) and in 250 metres at the end of the pines ignore an unmarked track to the right which leads to Butley church (which is located some way South of the village of Butley). Continue South-West on sand, passing pig sties on the right. In 400 metres you pass an isolated house on the left.
- The track turns to the left at the corner of the field in 220 metres under more telegraph wires by a path on the right to Butley church, with trees to both sides. In 250 metres you have houses on your right. In 130 metres you reach a crossroads at Butley Low Corner, a small hamlet.
4) Butley Low Corner to Butley Ferry (2.3 kms)
- Turn left at the SCP sign, past cottages and bungalows. The lane ends in 240 metres in front of Coulton Farm. Take the signed footpath to the right, a wide sandy track which follows the right edge of a field heading South-East. In 400 metres keep left at a signpost to follow the track alongside the right-hand edge of a wood. Continue past a small break in the trees in 400 metres and a track to the left to pass a second section of woodland. The wood ends in 150 metres and you continue on the wide farm track between fields with Burrow Hill looming ahead.
- In 450 metres go through gates (probably open) and up the hill. From the top in 100 metres you are rewarded by fine views of the Butley River and the Ore estuary beyond. Go through a gap in 100 metres then half right down the hill and through an open gate in 220 metres. Turn left on grass and in 160 metres go through a metal gate, then in 20 metres over a stile to the right of a black hut. The landing stage here hosts the smallest licensed ferry in Europe by rowing boat in the holiday season. Go up the grass bank and in 25 metres turn right (South), with the Butley River to your left and another water channel on your right.
5) Butley Ferry to Hollesley Marshes: water, water everywhere (6.5kms)
- In 60 metres you pass a sluice. In 700 metres you see a brick ruin to the left of the path. In another 100 metres turn sharp left, still on the raised bank, now heading South-East towards the confluence of the Butley and Ore rivers. The castle and church at Orford and the old BBC World Service transmitters at Orford Ness come in to view on your left (North-East). In 650 metres the path turns to the South opposite Havergate Island (an RSPB reserve). Go over a stile in 160 metres and in 200 metres pass above an old concrete defensive structure, with the River Ore to the left. In 250 metres the path swings to the right (South-West) past grazing marshland.
- In 1.4 kilometres go over a stile and turn left, then turn right in 60 metres, parallel with a line of trees. The row of white cottages at Shingle Street is already visible ahead. In 320 metres you pass a concrete pillbox. In 250 metres go round a stile then through a wooden gate, by a sluice and pumping station. In 25 metres you pass a small notice for the Hollesley Marshes Nature Reserve. In 300 metres there is an information board about Simpson’s Saltings (after Francis Simpson, author of Simpson’s Flora of Suffolk) on your left. There is an unconnected stile here, which could be used for a peaceful picnic! Take the grassy track to the right of the bank and pass another pillbox in 450 metres. In 80 metres go back up the bank to the left and through a wooden gate with an SCP arrow. The Young Offender Institution at Hollesley is visible to your right. In 220 metres, go past another concrete defensive structure.
- In 750 metres the path detours away from the sea at Orford Haven, to circumvent a water channel. In 350 metres you pass another Hollesley Marshes information board. In 180 metres go through a wooden kissing gate with an SCP arrow and turn left on a road, ignoring the path opposite (but turn right on the road for Hollesley village which has a pub and accommodation).
6) Hollesley Marshes to Shingle Street (1.8 kms)
- In 60 metres you go over a bridge. In 120 metres take the signed footpath to the left, ignoring the path to the right, back to the raised bank.
- In 600 metres turn sharp right to follow the edge of Oxley Marshes, with shingle away to your left. It is easier to walk on the grass to the left of the bank on this section. In 750 metres you pass three white houses to your left. In 250 metres you cross the shingle to pass the row of white former coastguard cottages (now holiday homes) at Shingle Street on your right (lots of shingle – no streets).
7) Shingle Street to East Lane (3.7 kms)
- (!) The precise route of the SCP after Shingle Street is not clear, but you need to make sure that you turn inland. In 500 metres turn right on a restricted byway, then in 30 metres left at a phone box, following the edge of a residential fence on your left. In 100 metres you pass the first of six Martello towers on the walk. There are many others dotted along the Suffolk coastline and throughout the British Isles, which were constructed as part of the defences against Napoleon.
- 80 metres after the tower and behind a bungalow take a narrow track fenced on both sides, then in 70 metres at a footpath sign take the track to the right that leads diagonally across a meadow towards a raised bank. In 250 metres turn left on the embankment. You continue in a southerly direction along the grassy path passing a rather neglected looking Martello tower in 550 metres, with a pond to your left. You may well see a Stena Line ferry on this section, making its way to or from the port of Harwich. In a kilometre you pass a third Martello tower, with a modern glass top, and another large pond on the left. In 600 metres continue on the bank at the end of the wire fence on the seaward side, soon to be followed by a wooden fence, giving you protection from the rocks below .
- In 400 metres you pass to the left of a large concrete gun battery and observation tower from World War II. In 100 metres you reach steps down to the beach car park at East Lane, Bawdsey, where there is a series of four rectangular ponds next to the road (a short distance beyond the car park is another Martello tower). Because of coastal erosion the SCP has been diverted at this point. Take the steps and follow East Lane inland, ignoring a turning to the left in 200 metres and continuing past East Lane Farm on the left in 450 metres. In 200 metres turn left on to School Lane, with Bawdsey Primary School on the corner (and the church tower visible to the right). Turn left again on to the main road in 200 metres.
8) East Lane to Bawdsey Quay (3 kms by road or 4.1 kms by shingle beach)
- Walk South past High House Farm in 90 metres and Bawdsey Hall in 230 metres. In 180 metres a grassy bridleway leads to the left across fields and back towards the sea. This is the original route of the SCP but it is not for the faint-hearted as it includes a long section of shingle beach where progress is painfully slow – if in doubt stay on the road and refer to the last paragraph of this section.
- In 450 metres there is access down to the shingle beach, but not only have the steps been washed away (in 2014) but the slope that they were built on has also collapsed, so you will need to proceed with great care. Turn right and make your way along the shingle. In 400 metres the wire fence for the Bawdsey estate is above you.
- In 1.2 kilometres you will need to step carefully over wooden groynes; the cliffs to your right are now very steep. In 200 metres ignore the tempting steps to the right (these only lead to a seat). In 300 metres there are signs warning you of the decaying groynes and you will need to walk by the estate fence above the beach along a raised shingle path past foundations and defensive walls. In 350 metres you pass Bawdsey Manor (now a conference centre), which was built in the late 1800s and became the first operational Radar Station, without which the Battle of Britain would probably have been lost.
- Continue close to the fence, which swings round to the right with good views of the manor. As the mouth of the River Deben comes into view, you get clear views of Bawdsey Quay and Felixstowe Ferry. In 300 metres you follow the direction of a yellow footpath arrow to the right and walk alongside the green wire chain fence on easier ground (grass and sand). In 400 metres you cross the car park to Bawdsey Quay from where you can catch a ferry to Felixstowe.
- If you wish to avoid the 3.2 kms of shingle, simply continue along Ferry Road for 2.5 kms to Bawdsey Quay.
9) Felixstowe ferry to Felixstowe station (5.0 kms)
- In 50 metres you pass the Ferry Café on your right, with public toilets to the left and the Ferry Boat Inn ahead. In 100 metres take the concrete steps to the left. Follow the waymarked path to the right (South) along the seawall. In 300 metres you pass the long closed Victoria at the Ferry and a row of elegant terraced houses before another Martello tower, reached in 200 metres. There are fine views back to the River Deben and Bawdsey Manor. In 150 metres you reach a golf course on the right, behind a paling fence. In 650 metres you pass the final Martello tower on this stretch. In 450 metres ignore a public footpath sign immediately before a line of beach huts pointing up steps to the right (but you could go this way for a 76 bus in to Felixstowe; at the top of the steps you pass to the right of the Armada Beacon - erected to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the sighting of the Armada - and the bus stop is nearby on Golf Road).
- Walk along the sea wall promenade path, past the beach huts. In 500 metres you pass below a yellow coastguard hut and in 50 metres turn right immediately after The Dip (ice cream kiosk). Continue on grass to the left of the road, past several seats and above more beach huts. Cut across the car park in 340 metres and aim for the far right hand corner of the lawn, i.e the end of the row of trees. In 250 metres cross another car park and continue on grass, parallel with Golf Road. In 200 metres go through a gap in the fence and turn left on the road (opposite Marcus Road).
- In 250 metres you cross Maybush Lane to Foxgrove Lane ahead. In 550 metres continue on Brook Lane. In 120 metres turn left in to Quilter Road and in 30 metres right on Constable Road. In 100 metres you pass public gardens on your right. In 50 metres turn right in to St Andrew’s Road. In 250 metres you pass St Andrew’s Church on your right.
- In 150 metres you reach the junction with Hamilton Road; the River of Life coffee shop is opposite. Cross the road, turn right and pass the Co-op in 80 metres. In 40 metres turn left through the Great Eastern Square arcade. You pass Jenny’s Coffee Shop on your left and Chuffer’s Bar and Restaurant on your right. In 40 metres exit the arcade in to the car park. Felixstowe station, which has one platform, is ahead of you in 120 metres.