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Fish and Ships by the Felixstowe Ferry

See another side to this busy coastal resort on a pleasant walk along the Deben Estuary.

Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 164ft (50m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field and riverside paths, country lanes, farm tracks, sea wall, 4 stiles

Landscape Farmland, estuary and coast

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 197 Ipswich, Felixstowe & Harwich

Start/finish TM 328376

Dog friendliness Mostly off lead except across farmland

Parking Ferry Café car park, Felixstowe Ferry

Public toilets At Felixstowe Ferry

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1 Take the tarmac path along an embankment behind the Ferry Café car park. The path passes the boatyard and follows the river wall as you look down on abandoned boats lying moored in muddy flats. Turn right across a stile to walk beside the Deben Estuary. After ½ mile (800m) the path swings left and then right across an inlet at the entrance to King's Fleet.

2 Turn left to descend the embankment and walk along a broad track. You pass an old wind pump and stay on this track as it winds its way between farmland and King's Fleet. After 1 mile (1.6km) the track bends right and climbs to a farm where it becomes a tarmac lane. Continue until you reach a T-junction.

3 Turn left across the field to climb to a ridge then drop down through the next field to The Wilderness, a belt of trees beside Falkenham Brook. Turn left through the trees and follow this path alongside the stream, then bend right to cross a meadow. Make for the corner of a hedge opposite and bear right alongside a fence to cross a footbridge and continue on a grassy path between the fields. When you get to the end of a field, turn left and continue to the end of a hedge, then turn right to climb a track to Brick Kiln Cottages.

4 At the top of the track, turn left along a lane and stay on this lane past Gulpher Hall and its duck pond. As the road bends right, walk past the entrance to The Brook and turn left on a field-edge path. The path ascends then turns right around a field and cuts straight across the next field, unless it's diverted by crops. Pass through a gate and keep straight on along the lane, then turn left in 150yds (137m) on another path that runs between fields.

5 When you reach a pill box, turn right on to Ferry Road down to the sea. Cross Cliff Road and turn left, walking past the clubhouse and turning half-right across the golf course on a signposted path to reach the sea wall. Turn left and walk along the wall, passing two Martello towers and a row of beach huts. Continue to the mouth of the estuary and turn left just before the jetty to return to the Ferry Café.

Felixstowe, whose name means 'happy place', is a large Edwardian seaside resort that continues to provide thousands of families with buckets of summer fun. The English beach holiday may be in terminal decline thanks to cheap flights to the Mediterranean, but Felixstowe still embodies the carefree, kiss-me-quick atmosphere of an earlier age. Children ride bumper boats, go fishing for crabs and buy sticks of rock from kiosks on the pier. Pensioners stroll along the promenade and drink tea at seafront cafés. At the same time, Felixstowe has grown to become Britain's largest container port.

This walk shows you another side of Felixstowe, well away from the arcades and the sandcastles on the beach. It starts in the small hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry, with its boatyard, fishing huts and ferry across the river. The café here serves some of the freshest fish and chips you will find, but if that is still not fresh enough you can buy fish straight off the fishing boat at the huts down by the quay.

The walk leads along the estuary of the River Deben and beside the King's Fleet, a peaceful stream that takes its name from the fleet of ships assembled here by Edward III ready to sail to France. The King's Fleet is no longer navigable but back in the 13th century it was regularly used by trading ships.

Returning to the sea, you pass two Martello towers, rare survivors of a chain of defensive outposts built between 1805 and 1812 to protect the English coastline against a threatened invasion by Napoleon of France. These round towers were 30ft (9m) tall and had walls up to 13ft (4m) thick in order to withstand incoming cannonballs. Ironically, they were based on a tower at Mortella Point in Corsica, Napoleon's birthplace, which the British Navy had tried unsuccessfully to bombard. The towers were three storeys high and contained living quarters for one officer and 24 men, together with gunpowder stores, provisions and a gun tower on the roof.

By 1815 Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo and the Martello towers were redundant. The promised invasion never took place and none of the towers ever fired a shot in anger. Many of them have disappeared without trace into the sea but a few of the towers remain, like a line of follies decorating the East Anglian coast. One of the towers at Felixstowe was used for some time by the coastguard, and another at Felixstowe Ferry is now a private house. They stand above the beach as lonely reminders of the time when England faced the real threat of foreign invasion.

Where to eat and drink

The Ferry Café is little more than a beach hut but it has established a dedicated following for its fish and chips and all-day breakfasts. There are also two popular pubs at Felixstowe Ferry, the Victoria and the Ferry Boat Inn.

While you're there

Spend some time in Felixstowe, with its beaches, pier, amusement arcades, promenade, seafront gardens, crazy golf and Punch and Judy shows. The kids will love it and adults can enjoy some gentle nostalgia. Another fun thing to do in summer is to take the foot ferry across the river from Felixstowe Ferry to Bawdsey and back again.

What to look for

As you walk back along the sea wall, look across the river to see Bawdsey Manor, a Victorian pile built by Sir Cuthbert Quilter in 1886. The manor was taken over by the government in the 1930s and it was here that Sir Robert Watson-Watt (1892-1973) perfected the science of radar following his early experiments on Orford Ness. A radar mast can still be seen above the trees.

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