Deben Fish Survey August 2022

By Richard Verrill

It is well recognised that estuaries provide essential breeding grounds and nurseries for many fish species. They also provide corridors for migratory species. Estuaries provide a very dynamic environment with constant changes in tide, temperature and salinity. Intertidal areas provide particularly important refuge and feeding grounds for small fish.The variety of the shoreline in the Deben provides an abundance of different nursery environments with sandy beaches, shingle beaches, mudflats and salt marsh. Continue reading

A walk through the landscape of the Upper Deben Valley – Brandeston, Monewden and Cretingham

By Sue Ryder-Richardson

Download Walk

Map: OS Explorer 212 TM 251604. Start: Bridleway on Kettleburgh Road at east end of Brandeston village. Distance approx 6.5 miles.

The Upper Deben Valley in August 2022 is biscuit dry. The small rills, the source of this beautiful river above Debenham, are dried, fords and water splashes empty, yet further downstream in the heart of the farming countryside of Brandeston*, Cretingham, Monewden, as if by magic, the Deben has gathered some water, and flows gently through its green, tree lined valley.

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News from the Noughties, Part II

by Bertie Wheen

This is the second part of the second post in a series (in which I’ve been sharing a few of the things I’ve been finding while I’ve been going through our magazine archives). The first post was Once Upon a Time… (which covered the 1990s), and the first part of this post was News from the Noughties, Part I (which included roughly the first half of the 2000s). I’d recommend reading those before this (which, unsurprisingly, will feature the rest of the 2000s), but much more than reading any of these, I’d like to recommend going directly to the source, and having a leaf through some of the old editions (available on our magazine page).

This is what the RDA Newsletter cover looked like between 2004-2010. The font choice is a bit questionable, but I’m a fan of the drawing – though I’m not honestly sure which stretch of the Deben it is… looking upriver from the Rocks, or perhaps the Tips? Anyway, I do know that it was drawn by Ron Wragg, thanks to Nick Wright’s inaugural editorial in Spring 2004 (#28, the last issue mentioned in the previous part of this post):

“I would like to make a special mention of Ron Wragg who has donated the art-work which decorates the cover and punctuates this Newsletter. I hope that contributors will forgive me for occasionally replacing their excellent photographs (which do not reproduce well) with his sketches, some of which are based upon them. This represents a lot of work for Ron. I appreciate it very much.”
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News from the Noughties, Part I

by Bertie Wheen

If you haven’t read the first post in this series, may I direct you to Once Upon a Time…? What follows will make much more sense with its context, but the TL;DR is that I’ve been improving the accessibility of our Magazine page (which hosts digital versions of our biannual magazine, née newsletter) by indexing the old editions – or, more accurately, contentsing, but that somehow doesn’t have the same ring to it. Last time I had indexed the 1990s, and I’ve now done the same for the 2000s. I’d like to recommend that, better than reading these accompanying posts, you read the magazines/newsletters themselves. (I promise it’s a more interesting thing to do than you might imagine!)

To the uninitiated, The Deben might appear to be an unassuming little publication, but it has been consistently produced since 1990 (which was, though I’m sure you won’t want to hear it, over 30 years ago), and from the start it has been filled with articles that were not only interesting to contemporary readers, but – as I have been discovering by going through the back catalogue – still are today! Many are presciently relevant, and others are historically significant; there are contributions from then that read like they were written now, and there are others that could only have been written then, including reminiscences from those who had known the Deben the longest, and who shared some of their memories of it from deep time – from times that now few, if any, are old enough to remember. I’m incredibly glad that the latter are preserved in our archives, and I think the former speaks to the environmental consciousness that we have as a community, which we have had since long before the recent general awareness of such issues. I should add that there are still more articles that don’t necessarily fit into either of these categories, but that are worth a modern reader’s time. One of the joys of The Deben, or the RDA Newsletter as it was then, is the strange, quirky pieces that appear in it. Perhaps they might not be everyone’s style, but they don’t need to be. They are the variety and flavour that turned what could otherwise have been a dry document containing nothing but committee meeting minutes and end-of-year accounts (both of which were included in the Newsletter days) into something rather charming. There are some wonderful weirdos on this river, and it would be worse without them.
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The Curlew

by Sally Westwood

Curlew (Numenius arquata)

The tide was ebbing, almost at low tide, it was about an hour before sunset. The Deben was embellished with a clear, magical light that appears just before sunset and sunrise. Such a light produces enhanced clarity of detail in everything visible to the eye. Two Curlews1 landed on the mudflat, one each side of a gully of water draining into the shallow channel of the river.  Curlews are the largest waders in the UK, with a streaked and barred plumage, long legs and a distinctive down curved bill2, see image above. In flight, it shows a white section on the rump. The Whimbrel3 by comparison, is a similar bird to the Curlew, except it has a shorter, thicker bill, with a narrow stripe on the crown and is smaller than the Curlew, see image below. In flight, it shows a white section on the tail and back. I was alerted to the Curlew’s presence from their distinctive “Curlew, Curlew’’ calls made when they were flying. It is a call I regard as haunting in the cold, overcast days of winter. They also have a trembling, evocative bubbling call, that ends with what may be described as “dude” which carries some distance. One Curlew joined the other, on the other side of the gully. They immediately started squabbling, poking their long slender, down curved bills at each other, raising their wings slightly. Moments later, the set too ended when one returned to the other side of the gully and started searching for food, poking its bill, deep into the mud. The other Curlew started bathing and shaking out feathers, as in the image above. They may have been a pair, or an adult and youngster, however, research on Curlews has indicated that the latter relationship may be unlikely4. Since Curlews in England and Wales are in decline and such decline is driven by factors occurring during the annual breeding season.
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Plants of the Deben – a plea for help

by Julia Jones


Louisa and Ned, Visiting from Berlin

It was June 4th the Saturday of the Platinum Jubilee Central Weekend – a bright but extremely blowy day on the River.  My brother and I had hoped to take his seven year old daughter out to sea on Peter Duck but it would have been her first time and we didn’t want to put her off. So, while we waiting to go ashore and join the Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club celebrations we went for a walk to Bawdsey beach. We followed the path from the dinghy park, behind the bushes and through the dry, shrubby area where rabbits nibble and wild flowers spread. Continue reading

WSC Cadet Development Squad 2022

by Frank Thorogood

The Waldringfield Sailing Club Cadet Squadron has long been a source of pride for the river. As well as giving a lot of young people a great deal of fun over the 70+ years of its existence, it has also launched many into lifelong sailing careers and underpinned success for some at international level. Former Waldringfield Cadet sailor Daisy Collingridge is currently part of the British Olympic squad sailing a Laser Radial. Six of the ten boats who will be competing in the Cadet World Championships in Australia this winter will be from Waldringfield.

Cadet sailing is age-dependent. Its essential feature is two young people sailing together: a ‘helm’, typically aged 12-17, and a ‘crew’ who may be as young as 7. It’s obviously important to keep the youngest children coming in but also to support the transition period between crew and helm. Here, RDA and WSC member Frank Thorogood describes the Cadet Development Squad programme, which was conceived as a response to the impact of the pandemic on this process, and which has also succeeded in reaching out to a group of new sailors and bringing them in to the Cadet ‘family’.

The pandemic only saw relatively short periods of the cadet sailors at WSC being completely kept off the water. With a mix of single handing, sibling sailing and “Better than Nothing” racing we kept going whenever the rules allowed and had some great competitions along the way. The 2021 Nationals in Brixham got by with minimal covid impact and will be long remembered by everyone there, especially for the two days of big wave sailing when easterlies piled into Tor Bay. Continue reading

You Too Can Go To Sea: River Deben support for Suffolk and the Sea Day

by Julia Jones

I was sitting on a bench overlooking Suffolk Yacht Harbour at Levington and the River Orwell beyond. It was a lovely afternoon with a breeze just getting up and some classic sailing vessels on the river, contrasting with the more modern yachts moored near me and the towering cranes of Port of Felixstowe downriver. I was trying to explain to a friendly cameraman the ways in which I felt there had been such a profound shift in Britain’s attitude to her maritime heritage during my lifetime. His name’s Jon Swallow and he’s volunteered to come and record some of the sessions at the forthcoming Suffolk and the Sea Day (Felixstowe Book Festival ‘fringe’ sessions at Trimley St Mary, June 25th). We had met to discuss developing the 5th session, entitled You Too Can Go To Sea, into a film which the organisations supporting Suffolk and the Sea day could send out to schools, youth organisations, clubs, support groups. It would aim to explain that sailing and sea faring is not an exclusive activity but can be enjoyed at many levels. We want to kindle an interest and excitement in sea-going opportunities, remind people that we are not only land dwellers.

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Suffolk and The Sea – Sailors, Artists And Anglo-Saxons

by Claudia Myatt

Every spring and early summer there is a conversation between River Deben sailors that goes something like this:

‘Have you been over the bar yet?’
‘No, but I’ve got the chartlet, hoping to go round to the Orwell next weekend’
‘What’s it like this year?’
‘Shifted a bit in that storm I hear – quite narrow now.  Wouldn’t risk it until after half tide with my draft’
‘Deepest water is usually close to the beach but the tide runs hard there….’

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Is sediment increasing in the River Deben?

by Robin Whittle

Low tide adjacent to Sutton marshes

The Deben became tidal at Felixstowe Ferry about 6000 years ago.  Today the river is tidal up to Ufford, two miles upstream of Woodbridge.  During this period sea borne sediment has built up the saltmarsh in the lower reaches to a depth of 12m.

Over the last 500 years river walls of mud and clay have been built along both sides of the tidal estuary to create arable land and grazing marshes.  Since then, sediment has continued to build up the saltmarshes and mud flats lying in front of the river walls. However, saltmarsh is now under increasing attack from wave action and shore crab burrowing. Continue reading