Family Activities 2020

Summer Holiday ideas and contacts for students at Farlingaye & Woodbridge schools and their families

Prepared by the River Deben Association (July 2020)

Summer 2020 is a summer where it’s going to be hard to make plans. The country’s opening up from Covid-19 lockdown but there’s always a fear that this might not last. Maybe too easy to get negative and resign yourself to being bored for the next two months. But don’t. We live in a beautiful area and there’ve been worse things that have happened here in the past. Think of the Black Death!

The River Deben Association (RDA) is a local interest group which was formed to represent all concerned with the future of the Deben. Obviously that means you. We have over 800 members and links with many local organisations as well as individual knowledge. This summer we feel – like many other people – that we want to begin to do things a bit differently. We’ve therefore introduced a new category of Household Membership and we’d be glad if you’d think about joining us. We know you’ll have a lot to offer, especially when we’re thinking about the environment.

This long letter (it ought to be a leaflet really!) is to make a start offering ideas from us to you. But as soon as you have ideas of your own to recommend, please share them so we can improve this list in future. Emailing our magazine editor at [email protected] is a good way to start but you’ll find other contacts at the end. We often use Facebook for updates.

So – two months until September – what are you going to do? And who’s going to organise it? At the time of writing most of the clubs up and down the river still unable to facilitate group activities due to Covid-19 social distancing restrictions. We’re listing as many as we can and suggest you keep checking their websites. When they feel able to open up safely, they will. Nevertheless, as one canoe instructor said, it’s very difficult to rescue someone without breaking social distancing rules! This is a major reason why clubs at this stage do not feel able to arrange non-member and beginner sessions where a lot of close-up help might be required. You and your family might have to get creative this summer, deciding your own activity – and taking responsibility for your own safety. At the end of this document we’ve included some advice from a local coastguard but the most important message is to respect the power of the river and its tides, even when it looks like a calm and sunny day.

The best piece of advice we can give you if you’re on or near the river is get a tide table and learn how to use it. In every 24-hour period there are two flood tides (going up) and two ebb tides (coming down), changing the water-level 2-4 metres. This can make a big difference to your progress if you are on the river and to your access if you are beside it.

You can buy tide tables or download them from

You can buy tide tables or download them from which has a 7-day view ahead. With a 30-day view is

You need to be aware (if you aren’t already) that high water at the top of the river (Woodbridge, for instance) will be later than it is at Bawdsey. (Water comes in from the sea so it takes longer to get up there – obvious really!) You’ll need to check whether times are in UT (Universal time) or BST (British Summer time = one hour later). Swimming is best on the last hour of the flood tide.

If you go to the Met Office site you can check the weather at the same time. Or try a specialist wind-finder site like Windguru if you’re thinking about kite-flying on the beach. (And if you are on the beach, just don’t forget how easily a wind blowing OFF the shore can blow you off it too…)

For many people the River Deben is a source of inspiration – for writing, painting, collecting things, making music. This year, for the first time, we’re running an under-18s photography competition. Details at the end.

Around the River

We have structured our specific suggestions beginning at Bawdsey, on the east side of the River Deben entrance. Then we follow the river in a generally northerly direction and cross at Wilford Bridge, (Melton) before turning roughly south again via Woodbridge, Martlesham and Waldringfield to Felixstowe Ferry – where foot passengers and cycles can cross back to Bawdsey, 10 am to 6 pm. As the ferry is public transport you may be asked to wear a face mask. The ferry also operates a river taxi service. For more information call 01394 282173.

Entering the Deben by boat

Sailors coming into the river often use this website: It’ll give you tide times for that day and weather information, and even if you’re on shore you might find it interesting to look at the GPS coordinates and work out what the boats are doing. You’ll see from the notes on the chart that the River Deben entrance can be a dangerous place. Don’t swim in the river here.

If you plan to stay to explore the Deben staying on land we suggest you use Ordnance Survey map OS 197: Ipswich Felixstowe & Harwich.


In broad terms, you can walk without trespassing from the Ramsholt Arms to Martlesham Creek along footpaths, although you will be taken inland between Methersgate Quay and Ferry Cliff just south of Sutton Hoo, and will have to walk on the pavement from Sutton Hoo to Wilford Bridge.

From Wilford Bridge, you can walk all the way to the south side of Martlesham Creek, then you have to walk along Waldringfield Road (designated a quiet lane) to get to Waldringfield. After a short walk along the river path, you have to turn into White Hall, then Hemley, before returning to the river path at Kirton Creek. From there you can walk all the way to Felixstowe Ferry.

The RDA member who wrote these notes says she walked the whole path in two consecutive days and each day took just under 6 hours of walking.

Currently walking from Bawdsey to Ramsholt is only possible by road (and not recommended). The River Deben Association is monitoring progress to be made by Natural England as they finalise the England Coast Path route.

The RDA magazine (The Deben) regularly includes walks and there are several books on the subject. A new one is due on July 31st 2020 from Nick Cottam at (expected cost £9.95).

General Advice for Walkers

When you are walking alongside the river, you are walking through someone else’s home. Many varieties of wildlife live here – especially birds – and some will be raising their young through the summer months. Please be thoughtful and if you’re walking with a dog, keep it under control. If you’re quiet enough to get close to the birds you’ll be surprised how many species you’ll see. A camera is a big plus if you want to check your identifications later.

The River Deben Association is an environmental organisation. We’re concerned about the state of the river walls which protect the countryside from flooding and we’re also interested in the state of the salt marshes which are part of the river eco-system. We can’t fix things ourselves but we’re working to find Citizen Science ways in which we can all use our observations to keep up the pressure. We have an Instagram account (@riverdebenassociation) on which you can post a photo if you notice a change that seems worrying and obviously we’re all trying to keep the river plastic-free so, if you have a litter bag with you, please do your bit to help the wildlife.

If photography interests you, we recommend Suffolk photographer Gill Moon’s recent book Take Only Photos, Leave Only Footprints. She’s offering some free photography walks this summer and also does workshops currently for very small numbers to maintain social distance. You’ll need to book via her website (

And don’t forget our competition!

If someone in your family thinks walking’s boring, you might be able to get them out and about by introducing them to Geocaching. It’s only a suggestion – we’ve got no special expertise – but if you sign up to a platform like (free) you’ll find plenty of locations in the area of the river. Someone in the family will need to carry a smart phone. The site’s terms of use state: ‘Although individuals under 16 are welcome to geocache, their parents or guardians must own and manage their accounts.’

If cycling’s your preferred form of exercise you’ll have to stick to the tracks and lanes. The paths along the river walls are narrow and in some places erosion is a problem – and, as with any other footpath, cyclists aren’t allowed. But don’t worry, use the map (OS 197) and you’ll find plenty of good routes which will enable you to cycle down to the river for a refreshing stop-off.


Bawdsey Beach (coast): We’re short of sandy beaches in this part of Suffolk so make the most of the pebbles and shells and go beachcombing. In normal times organises events. It might not happen this summer but we hope to be featuring her work in the next RDA magazine and get news of her Bawdsey Beachcomb for Christmas.

You can search for fossils at Bawdsey (and other beaches up the river). These are more likely to be found on the foreshore, not the cliff (

Suffolk coastguards have recently issued a warning asking people to stay away from the cliffs where erosion and heavy sandfalls have recently increased (

If you’re coming by car there’s sometimes parking on Bawdsey Quay or beside the road. There’s also a free council carpark with WC (but not regularly open, unfortunately!)

Bawdsey Manor – is currently the site for PGL holidays. In normal times they take a range of reservations (including groups and families) but currently they are only accepting children reservations (free) and are not optimistic about these holidays actually happening (

Bawdsey Manor is famous for being the place where radar was invented and for its continuing role in UK defence from World War 2 until the end of the Cold War. Liz Trenow has written Under a Wartime Sky a WW2 romantic novel based there. Julia Jones’s Pebble is a 21st century Young Adult novel set mainly at Bawdsey and Martlesham.

Bawdsey Radar Museum ( is not opening just yet but hopes to accept pre-booked visits later in the summer.

The Boathouse Café at Bawdsey Quay plans to re-open on July 4th ( There’s also a small beach up-river from the Quay which may be good for crabbing, paddling or picnicking when the tide is in.

Bawdsey Haven Yacht Club is a non-racing club offering boat storage and a launching slipway for its members (currently open) plus sailing barge and coach trips and lecture meetings held throughout the year in normal times (not this year). Families welcome. Contact [email protected].


If you don’t already know Ramsholt it’s a lovely place with a small beach (check your tides), crabbing and local circular walks via the church and the old school house. Park at the top of the hill if you’re coming by car and not a pub customer.

Ramsholt Arms pub, reopening July 4th. Taking bookings for small groups only. Information via their website ( and social media.

Sutton Hoo

Currently the estate walks and the Keeper’s café are opening but must be booked in advance via their website (

Wilford Bridge (and up-river)

There’s a pub here (currently doing takeaways but planning to re-open after July 4th) and there’s also a picnic site. You definitely need to plan your tides if you’re hoping to go under the bridge in a canoe or a rowing dinghy (don’t try it with a mast). This is where the Deben changes from being tidal to non-tidal, though you can still see a difference in water levels for a while as you explore upstream. You’ll notice that the wild life is different as you move from salt to fresh water.

We apologise for not including many suggestions for activities on this non-tidal stretch. Our magazine editor says she would especially enjoy your upper Deben ideas or photos all the way to Debenham and Aspall. (She says one of her favourite places is Valley Farm, Wickham Market, where the UK’s only herd of Camargue ponies live beside the Deben tributary streams.) The Life on the Deben DVD ( has some scenes that may inspire you.

Here are two links for the above Wilford Bridge section sent by an RDA member:
The first is Melton to Campsea Ashe: train one way, walk the other, which is a great way to do it (see

The other is 3 circular walks around Wickham Market. I have done these over the past few weeks – again recommended, and the leaflet is very good (see


If you’re on your feet you’ll see how the character of the river really changes on this side. You seem to pass boatyard after boatyard. There are three (Melton Boatyard, Larkman’s, Robertson’s) They are all established businesses with different specialisms and some able to offer apprenticeships and employment opportunities. There are associated business like engineering workshops and a sailmakers.

If you watch your tides this is a popular part of the river for canoeing (either side of high water).

Steve Sinclair at MBC Marine, New Quay Lane offers storage facilities for canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards.

Robertson’s Boatyard also offer storage and launching facilities.

The RDA regularly publishes boatyard news in its magazine and hopes to persuade some of the boatyards to offer insight sessions into their work. Robertson’s Boatyard regularly runs tours and also has free monthly sessions on boat maintenance techniques in its Sprat Shed ( Worth keeping a look out if you’re interested in practical applications of design technology. Group activities won’t be happening at the moment but here’s their contact for the future:

While you’re still in Melton, you might want to check out the Deben Café ( on HMS Vale, a former Swedish navy gun boat, so a bit unique on the Deben. They can’t open just yet as they’ve got swallows who moved in during lockdown and are now nesting!


As you walk this stretch of river you’ll notice so many different types of boat. You may want to stop and look at them more carefully. Take photos or sketch them, maybe? Some are liveaboards – which means what it says. When you get as far as the Longshed, on the former Whisstock’s Boatyard site you might be getting a feeling how much boatbuilding has mattered to the history of the town. One of their current projects is a full-scale rebuild of the Sutton Hoo ship, with much of the work by volunteers. It’s looking a bit ghostly at the moment but they’ve built a new website during lockdown ( and you could check to see what activities you might want to get involved with in the future.

The Tide Mill ( is reopening from July 4th.

The 5th Woodbridge Sea Scouts are based in Tidemill Way. They’re a popular group and have exciting plans for developing their scout hut and their facilities. BUT they have a problem – not enough parents willing to help. The River Deben Association strongly supports the Sea Scouts. SO, parents, if you’re reading this, and might be able to help, get in touch at 5-7 Tidemill Way, Woodbridge (or via Facebook).

The Woodbridge Boatyard ( is another established river business that’s making a conscious effort to preserve heritage but is also trying to open up and develop new ideas and employment. Thinking outside the box, they have ideas for informal concerts, though maybe not until the autumn.

Boat Clubs. As you walk on down the river wall you’ll find cafes beginning to open up after lock down and you’ll find clubs just starting to do the same. At the time of writing, however, there wasn’t much that club secretaries could tell us. Individual sailing, rowing, canoeing have begun (when people have their own boats) but the social distancing rules and ban on group activities are making it difficult for clubs to offer tuition or taster sessions. The best we can suggest is that you keep an eye on their websites. All of them, understandably, said they would be prioritising their existing members this year.

Woodbridge Cruising Club (

Deben Rowing Club ( They are only open to a limited extent for existing senior members in single boats. They don’t have junior members on the water unless there’s a safety launch and this isn’t possible without compromising the 2m (or even 1m rule). Rowing is such great exercise — a club to consider for the future.

Deben Canoe Club ( has similar problems. In normal times they run courses through the year (including indoors – when the Deben Pool is open). Some of their existing family members are doing some social paddling trips at the moment.

Woodbridge Model Boat Club ( Here’s a truly all-age club which organises competitive racing events. But, as you probably know already – you don’t have to be a member to use the Boat Pond. Perhaps this is the summer that you build your own boat to sail there. But it’s not as easy as it looks!

Deben Yacht Club ( hope to start limited members’ activities from mid-July. They are a family-friendly club with dinghy storage facilities and, in normal times, they run sail training courses at least twice a year (for members only).


There’s another boatyard here, the setting for RDA member Julia Jones’s adventure story The Lion of Sole Bay (which, she needs you to understand is totally fictitious!). The Lion is real however – it’s the pub sign at Martlesham Red Lion. In the 17th century it was the figurehead of a Dutch ship at the Battle of Sole Bay. The maps are of real places, the names have been changed. You could possibly use this idea to make your own stories about the River Deben – mixing what might have happened with what actually has.

Or you could develop other creative skills this summer. Artist Claudia Myatt has a studio at Martlesham. Normally she’s busy teaching, painting, illustrating but during lockdown she had time on her hands which she’s used to write One Line at a Time: why drawing is good for you and how to do it. Easy to follow instruction and inspiration for older teenagers and adults (£12.99, publication date July 31st). For young children she’s produced the Suffolk Coast Colouring book (£3.50, She’s not able to start classes in her studio again but is very much hoping that the Suffolk Sketch Fest planned for Sept 4-6 will go ahead (



Classic location for family days out with a beach and a pub (The Maybush), crabbing, walking, messing about in boats (if you have one) or maybe finding a quiet space to do something like sketching. Flood tide always better for water activies. If you’re not certain how to work this out, stand on the beach and look at the moored boats. The tide will be trying to pull them away from their moorings, so if their sterns are upstream (your left hand side, Woodbridge direction) that means they’re trying to go upstream – so it’s flooding, which is usually helpful as that’s the cleaner water coming up river. Pollution is one of the issues that worries the RDA.

Waldringfield Boatyard ( No Jahan trips possible this year BUT the boatyard is hoping to become a stockist for Stand-Up Paddle Boards.

Waldringfield Sailing Club ( has a really competitive Cadet section. This, for those who don’t know, is a two person sailing dinghy for 8-17 year olds, mainly for racing, where the club is internationally successful. It also runs junior sailing sessions which are very popular (usually a waiting list) but (you guessed it) unlikely to happen this year.

Felixstowe Ferry

There’s usually a bit of a buzz around Felixstowe Ferry with the art projects, the fishing boats coming in, the cafes – and the ferry itself. It’s not a good place to swim, however – or for inexperienced sailors or canoeists. Because the river entrance is narrow the tides are very strong here.

John White, Felixstowe Ferry harbourmaster, runs regular one-hour river trips to Ramsholt throughout the summer for up to 12 passengers at a time. Longer trips can also be arranged. Contact him on 07803 476621 or 01394 270106. This is private contract hire and depends on John’s availability and the tides.

Tracy Jane boat trips offer private hire for fishing groups. Contact via Facebook (

Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club has a strong youth section as well as being family-friendly. Like the other clubs they are limited in what they can do at the moment but want to send a very positive message: “We would certainly be able to do ‘Taster sessions’ when we reopen. We plan to hold a ‘Push the Boat out’ day when we are fully operational. Perhaps you could ask your contacts to see this link below and get their name down at least and then we can contact them when we are back up and running?” (

Also for lovers of canoes, kayaks and (possibly) SUPs (Stand-Up Paddleboards), you might want to check out:

Ipswich Canoe Club ( is a local club offering a wide mix of paddling for all ages (8+) and abilities.

Paddle It Now (contact [email protected]) offers 1:1 up to 1:5 coaching and tuition for BC Start, Discover and Explore levels in both kayaks and canoes or river trips with up to 5 people.

Nomad Sea Kayaking (–kayaking-trip—traljic.html) a national franchise with a strong local presence.

Enjoying the river doesn’t have to be full of physical activity.

It’s a peaceful place and we hope to keep it that way. When you look back on the summer of 2020 perhaps you’ll have built a summer music playlist – maybe adding one piece of music per day and noting down where you were and how you were feeling when you listened to it. Collectors can choose to save one item each day and label it with the date and the place. It could be a shell, a pebble with a hole, a mermaid’s purse, a piece of driftwood, a shark’s tooth. Maybe you’ll make some wildlife observations?

River Code

Safety message from a local coastguard (this was sent to a canoe group but makes sense for many river users):

Could I just put a little request out to ensure you all have lots of fun and remain safe:

  • Can you all wear life jackets / buoyancy aids
  • Always tell people where you are going and roughly you what time you will be returning
  • Carry a mobile phone in a waterproof case or a VHF radio
  • Please have your contact details on your craft as either a pen mark or a sticker
  • Think about an EPIRB, as these really do save lives
  • Most of all enjoy and help each other out
  • Remember if you get in trouble or see anyone in trouble, call 999 and ask for the coastguard

The River Deben Association

Joining the River Deben Association ( The RDA is an environmentally concerned organisation and one of the activities we had planned for our members this summer was helping to check the river’s fish stocks, which are low. Currently the plan has been postponed, but not cancelled. We hope you may like to join our association and help us develop our new Household Membership category so that we continue to safeguard our river as well as enjoying it. It costs £12 pa. Contact us via our website (, Facebook ( or Instagram (@riverdebenassociation).

We would be very glad if you decide to enter our photo competition. The details are below:


The River Deben is in an area of outstanding natural beauty – but that’s an idea that will mean different things to different people. Take a photo on or near the river which you consider expresses the river’s outstanding natural beauty and enter it into the River Deben Association’s competition.

Here are the competition details:

Send your photo to our Instagram (@riverdebenassociation). In your message write Competition Entry, specifying your age (as of August 31st) and contact details.

You can submit up to 3 photos – the closing date is August 31st, 2020.

There are 3 age groups (using your age the closing date):

  • 9 and under – £10 prize for the winner, £5 for the runner up
  • 10 to 14 – £20 prize for the winner, £10 for the runner up
  • 15 to 18 – £30 prize for the winner, £15 for the runner up

All winners and runners-up will also receive a year’s free Household Membership of the River Deben Association.

The panel of judges will make their decision by 15th September and winners will be notified using the contact details they supply.

By submitting your photo, you give the River Deben Association consent to use the photo for its own purposes, including publishing on its website and in its magazine.

Have a lovely summer – do let us know what activities worked best for you and what you would recommend to others.

Special thanks go to RDA member Claudia Myatt for the illustrations (