The River Deben

This page provides links to information for people who want to find out more, enjoy and help safeguard the River Deben and its valley. Clicking on the blue text will take you to relevant pages on other websites – these hyperlinks are provided in good faith but the RDA is not responsible for information on other websites.

The Deben Estuary is designated under various national and local schemes as a Site of Special Scientific Interest; Special Protection Area; under the Ramsar International Convention on Wetlands and as part of the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Over the 12 km covering the tidal stretch of the Deben between Felixstowe Ferry at the mouth of the river and Wilford Bridge north of Woodbridge,  the landscape of the estuary ranges through coastal levels, saltmarsh and intertidal flats to estate sandlands.  Use the “+” feature on the interactive map of landscape types in Suffolk to zoom in on the Deben.

The Estuary is relatively narrow and sheltered, and has limited amounts of freshwater input. The estuary mouth is the narrowest section and is protected by the presence of shifting shingle banks or knolls. The intertidal areas are constrained by sea walls.

The saltmarsh and intertidal mudflats that occupy the majority of the area display the most complete range of saltmarsh plants in Suffolk (suffolk saltmarsh).

A range of freshwater marsh communities fringe the estuary, and occasionally form larger stands. In general, these are dominated by Common Reed.

The estuary is important for its wintering wading and waterbirds.  For more information see Deben Estuary SPA Review, Suffolk Ornithologists, Wetland Bird Survey and Deben estuary birds.

A partnership of local voluntary and statutory organisations, the Deben Estuary Partnership, has been set up to create management partnerships to safeguard the estuary from degradation – see information about what they are doing to develop the Deben Estuary Plan and in DEP newsletters.

There are footpaths along much of the Deben Valley from Felixstowe Ferry to Ufford.  Details are on OS Explorer 197.   Most of the footpaths are along river walls.   Access is reasonably easy but apart from the path between Kyson Point and Wilford Bridge north of Woodbridge, paths are often quite muddy especially at high tide – most are not suitable for wheelchairs or buggies.   When you are walking in the area please follow the countryside code.

You can find information on suggested walks on various websites including:

Some walks in the Deben valley are accessible from stations on the East Suffolk line.  Suggested routes from Trimley, Felixstowe, Woodbridge and Melton are given in East Suffolk Line walks and Woodbridge and the River Deben.

There is a River Users Code providing an over view of the River Deben and a useful river code.

The Library, Tourist Information Centre and numerous bookshops (new and second hand) in Woodbridge stock books and maps covering the local area.

At the mouth of the estuary you can cross the river using a seasonal ferry that runs between Felixstowe Ferry and Bawdsey Quay – foot passenger ferry.

The extent of the muddy foreshore and strong currents at the river mouth mean that the estuary is not particularly suitable for swimming or for land-based fishing.

On the water

The river is navigable as far as Wilford Bridge.  For large craft access to the upper reaches is best at high water spring tides. The best source of information for mariners is in local pilot books; East Coast Rivers is probably the best known and is a well-illustrated book.  For up to date information it is also worth visiting the Deben Estuary Pilot website.

The river entrance is not the easiest with strong currents and a shingle bar which constantly changes – a sketch map of the entrance is regularly updated.  Navigation beyond the entrance is not difficult provided you watch your depth.

Other resources of general interest to mariners, with some material on the Deben, are the East Coast Pilot website and the East Coast Sailing online magazine.

There is a huge amount of local information about the entrance and the navigable river on  It includes where mariners can get provisions, fuel and water as well as some detail about the many attractive pubs and cafes near to the riverside.   The river north of Felixstowe Ferry is rarely used by commercial traffic but all river users should be aware that speed restrictions and international rules for prevention of collisions at sea (ColRegs) still apply.  During the summer there are often dinghy races and water sport training courses especially at weekends.

Tides and currents are clearly shown on Admiralty and other charts.  You can buy a local chart from Imray; it covers the river as far as the Ramsholt Arms.  There are other suppliers, such as the Admiralty itself; their Leisure charts 6a and b of the Thames Estuary, Essex and Suffolk coasts set are specific to the Deben.  Charity and Taylor stock a wide range of charts and pilot books.

Information about launching sites, moorings, boatbuilding, repair and other facilities is available from the various clubs and boatyards – see Links.

 Additional information is available from various clubs and from the Fairways Committees that are responsible for managing buoys and moorings on the river – see list in Links.

The nearest substantial chandlery is Seamark Nunn at Trimley.

The content on this page will be reviewed from time to time but please contact us if any of the information is inaccurate or out of date.