A wild walk to the very edge of Suffolk, with views over Felixstowe docks.
Distance 2 miles (3.2km)
Minimum time 1hr
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Sand and shingle beach, grass, concrete lanes, some steps
Landscape Shingle, grassland, sea and docks
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 197 Ipswich, Felixstowe & Harwich
Start/finish TM 289325
Dog friendliness Dogs must be kept on lead in Landguard Reserve
Parking Manor Terrace car park (free), Felixstowe
Public toilets At car park
1 From the car park in Manor Terrace you can walk straight into Landguard Reserve, pausing to look at the interpretation board on the way. Take the gravel path ahead of you to climb an embankment. Walk along the top of the bank for about 200yds (183m) then drop down some steps and climb up on the other side to a second embankment with good views of Felixstowe and its beach. The path drops down to a concrete track. After passing an information board, bear left across the grass and shingle towards the beach.
2 Walk right along the beach towards the jetty at Landguard Point. Turn right and walk away from the jetty beside a fenced-off area, following the fence round to the left past a group of concrete blocks. After passing a red house, bear slightly right and continue beside another fenced-off area. Behind the fence is the Bird Observatory.
3 Turn left at the end of the fence to leave the nature reserve through a kissing gate. On your left is Landguard Fort, begun in the 18th century but with recent additions up to 1950. It was from an earlier fortress on this site that one of the last attempted invasions of England, by the Dutch fleet in 1667, was repelled. Walk around the fort to the right and you will come to the John Bradfield viewing area.
4 Return to the fort and continue straight ahead beside the road, passing some concrete defence structures to your right. At the end of the fence, bear right to return to the nature reserve. Climb the steps on the left to reach another embankment. Walk along this, then descend some steps and return across the left-hand side of the reserve with a caravan site in the distance and the shiny glass structure of Felixstowe customs house to your left.
This is a walk for people who find beauty in bleak landscapes and charm in the most unexpected places. You won't find any meadows or fields of wheat, just a shingle beach and a lonely spit where Suffolk dips its toe into the sea. You won't see country cottages or half-timbered farmhouses, but you will see gantries and cranes. If you're looking for a rural ramble, don't say you weren't warned!
Landguard Point is Suffolk's southernmost point, a wild and windswept place where fishermen can sometimes be seen casting their rods into the sea. Beneath the groyne there are views of Harwich across the river.
It lies within the Landguard Reserve, a small nature reserve containing at least one per cent of all Britain's vegetated shingle, a delicate ecosystem that is constantly under threat. The shingle spit here has been formed by the action of the tides over millions of years and has been colonised by rare plants such as the seakale and yellow-horned poppy. At the same time there are also reminders of human presence in the form of earthworks and anti-invasion defences at this strategic spot at the mouth of the Orwell and Stour rivers.
In spring and summer, you will notice that parts of the beach have been roped off to prevent any disturbance to nesting birds. Little tern return here each spring after wintering in Africa and ringed plover arrive from the nearby estuaries to lay their eggs in the shingle, cleverly camouflaged to resemble pebbles.
The reserve also contains the Bird Observatory, where 8,000 birds are trapped, ringed and released each year in an effort to understand migratory patterns and population trends. A board outside the observatory lists recent sightings and describes the annual migrations of birds like wood pigeon who travel south to Africa in winter and brent geese who arrive from Siberia to benefit from the warmer climes that the pigeons are leaving behind.
Towards the end of the walk, you'll reach the John Bradfield viewing area overlooking Felixstowe Docks. On most days you will find a surprising number of people here, admiring the ferries and cruise ships and watching the dockers at work bringing shiploads of containers ashore. This is the largest container port in England, the fourth largest in Europe and the thirteenth largest in the world. The statistics are staggering. At its two terminals, the Port of Felixstowe operates 20 ship-to-shore cranes and manages to deal with more than two million containers each year. In contrast to all these big ships, a foot ferry crosses the river from here to Shotley and Harwich in summer.
The unpleasant stinking goosefoot, named after its smell of rotting fish, grows at only three sites in Britain and one of them is the Landguard Reserve. The plant flowers between July and October and its flowers are said to resemble miniature broccoli florets.
There is usually a van in the dock viewing area serving coffee, cold drinks and bacon sandwiches to the ship-watchers. There are numerous choices along the seafront in Felixstowe.
Landguard Fort is maintained by English Heritage and you can visit the fort to wander around its walkways and see the 18th-century casemates and 19th-century gun batteries. The opening hours are complicated but they are listed at the entrance. A separate building, once used as a mine storage depot, houses the Felixstowe Museum, which is open on Sunday and Wednesday afternoons in summer and features displays of military and naval history along with exhibits on the history of Felixstowe.