Prepared by the River Deben Association (July 2021)
Summer 2021 is another summer where it’s going to be hard for families to make plans. Government restrictions have been removed but Covid 19 infections are rising again and everyone has been asked to behave responsibly and with consideration for others. Many people will already have decided to enjoy their holidays in the UK rather than go abroad. Spending as much time as possible out of doors is likely to be a good choice though we’ll need to be extra-sensitive to pressure on the river environment.
Earlier this year we marked areas of the river where it’s especially important to avoid disturbing the birds. That applies all the year round and the saltmarsh plants are fragile too. The advice is for anyone who might not realise the importance of giving quiet space to our feathery neighbours. https://www.riverdeben.org/news/wildlife/protecting-wildlife-when-canoeing-kayaking-and-paddleboarding-on-the-deben/
Who are we? The River Deben Association (RDA) is a local interest group which was formed to represent all concerned with the future of the Deben. We have over 800 members and links with many local organisations. We celebrate the river, do our best to protect it for the future and are interested in developing opportunities for environmental volunteering. We’d be glad if you’d think about joining us as family or household members. Here’s the contact for the membership secretary [email protected]. We have an Instagram account @riverdebenassociation and we also use Facebook for updates
Weather & Tides
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 need to be aware that high water at the top of the river – eg Woodbridge – 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 also 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 as the tides. You might want to know sunrise and sunset too. 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, don’t forget how easily a wind blowing OFF the shore can blow you off it too…
Celebrating the River
For many people the River Deben is a source of inspiration – for writing, painting, collecting things, making music. We welcome contributions to our magazine (send to [email protected]) This year we’re also running our second under-18s photography competition. Details at the end.
NEW THIS SUMMER! DEBEN SUMMER FESTIVAL!
Activities 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 you can cross back to Bawdsey.
- 1st May to 30th September – The Ferry will run from 10.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs every day.
- October – 10.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs weekends only.
- Foot passengers – £3.00 Single. £5.00 Return
- Children – £2.00 Return or Single
- Cyclists – £4.00 Single. £6.00 Return
- River Taxi Service – £3.00 each way
Call Felixstowe Ferry Boatyard for more information 01394 282173
Entering the Deben by boat
Sailors coming into the river often use this website: debenestuarypilot.co.uk 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. Or take a look at the drone footage on this essential site.
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.
Walking by the river
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.
Walking the upper Deben. We recommend walks around Wickham Market https://www.visitwickhammarket.co.uk/walking.
The RDA magazine (The Deben) and the RDA Journal also regularly include walks. Here’s an example of a walk around the Upper Deben with a focus on history https://www.riverdeben.org/rda-journal/an-historical-walk-around-easton/ and there are several books on the subject eg lifeonthedeben.com.
More than just walking
When you are walking alongside the river, you are part of the river environment. 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. Obviously we’re all trying to keep the river plastic-free so, if you have a litter bag with you, please use it!
If you see a water pollution incident such as a sewage or oil spill, or dead fish, please report it to the Environment Agency. https://www.gov.uk/report-an-environmental-incident. Incident hotline telephone: 0800 80 70 60 24-hour service
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’re looking out for invasive species like Himalayan Balsam and also pollution from sewage overflow.
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. 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.
If photography interests you, we recommend Gill Moon’s book Take Only Photos, Leave Only Footprints. gillmoon.com She’ll be judging our photo competition.
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. Here’s an introduction to some items you might find https://www.riverdeben.org/rda-journal/a-virtual-beachcomb/
Have a look at the beachbonkers.org.uk site.
Take litter or sea glass from the beach but don’t remove anything that’s part of the environment. Many creatures depend on each other and the deep-rooted plants hold the shingle together. The more you know, the more fascinating it becomes. You can search for sharks teeth and fossils at Bawdsey and other beaches up the river. These are more likely to be found on the foreshore, not the cliff (ukfossils.co.uk/2012/01/24/bawdsey). Erosion and sandfalls can make the cliffs dangerous. Best to keep your distance.
If you’re coming by car there’s sometimes parking on Bawdsey Quay or beside the road. There’s a free council carpark with WC facilities.
Bawdsey Manor – site for PGL holidays. https://www.pgl.co.uk/en-gb/adventure-holidays/centres/bawdsey-manor It’s famous for being the place where radar was invented and for its continuing role in UK defence from World War 2
Bawdsey Radar Museum (bawdseyradar.org.uk) is open on Thursdays and Sundays for pre-booked visits.
The Boathouse Café at Bawdsey Quay is open every day during the school summer holidays 11am – 5pm (They suggest you ring in advance if the weather’s bad.) https://www.boathousecafebawdsey.co.uk/
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. 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 you’re not a pub customer.
Ramsholt Arms pub, is open again but isn’t taking bookings. Information via their website http://www.theramsholtarms.com/ and social media.
The National Trust site is open but is asking people to book their visits in advance. Please check their website for latest information https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-hoo
Wilford Bridge (and up-river)
The Wilford Bridge pub is part of the Deben Inns group https://www.debeninns.co.uk/wilfordbridge/. These have recently arranged a discount for River Deben Association members. You will need to show your membership card. Email [email protected] for more information on joining. 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 as you explore upstream. You’ll notice that the wildlife is different as you move from salt to fresh water.
If you’re walking you’ll see how the character of the river changes on this side. It’s much busier. You seem to pass boatyard after boatyard. There are three (Melton Boatyard, Larkman’s, Robertson’s) They are all established businesses with different specialisms. Some offer apprenticeships and employment opportunities. Woodbridge has been a port since the c16th and the river still provides jobs as well as pleasure. You’ll notice several associated river businesses like an engineering workshop and a sailmaker.
While you’re still in Melton, you might want to check out the Deben Café (facebook.com/debencafe) on HMS Vale, a former Swedish navy gun boat.
This is a popular part of the river for canoeing though you must take notice of the tides.
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 for canoes as does the Woodbridge Boatyard.
Robertson’s Boatyard regularly runs tours and has free monthly sessions on boat maintenance techniques in its Sprat Shed (robertsons-boatyard.co.uk/sprat-shed).
As you walk this stretch of the river you’ll notice 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. This means what it says – they’re people’s homes. They are often old and have interesting past histories. Look out for Tijdstrom, for instance. She’s Dutch and still has bullet holes from WW2. These days she’s home to an eco-business.
Not all the former boatyards have survived as river businesses. The former Whisstock’s Boatyard has been redeveloped with a café and a restaurant and the Longshed.
The Woodbridge Museum is now open 1030 – 1630. Admission Free https://woodbridgemuseum.com/
The Tide Mill is a reminder of the days when the river was a source of power. Currently visits need to be pre-booked but this is likely to change. Check website woodbridgetidemill.org.uk.
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 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).
If you’re feeling hungry there’s the caravan café on the Ferry Quay and The Tea Hut between the Woodbridge Boatyard and the Model Yacht Pond. There are public conveniences there.
The Woodbridge Boatyard (woodbridgeboatyard.com) is an established river business that’s making a conscious effort to preserve local heritage while also developing new ideas and employment opportunities. Around August bank holiday they are offering taster session in Venetian Rowing boats https://www.woodbridgeboatyard.com/events
Woodbridge Cruising Club https://www.woodbridgecruisingclub.org/ For members who enjoy sailing together. Also runs RYA training courses and social events.
Deben Rowing Club https://debenrowingclub.com is very popular so often has a waiting list. Sections for both juniors (14-18) and seniors (18+) Worth trying to book a taster session if you’ve not rowed before.
Deben Canoe Club (debencanoeclub.org.uk) offers paddling opportunities and runs courses through the year, including indoors – when the Deben Pool is open.
Woodbridge Model Boat Club (woodbridgemodelboatclub.org.uk). Here’s a truly all-age club which organises competitive racing events. But you don’t have to be a member to use the Boat Pond.
Deben Yacht Club (debenyachtclub.co.uk) is a family-friendly club – mainly focussed on dinghies and dinghy racing. They have dinghy storage and launching facilities and, in normal times, they run training courses at least twice a year for their members.
Martlesham Creek Boatyard offers moorings storage and repairs in this secluded location https://martleshamboatyard.co.uk/
Artist Claudia Myatt has a studio at Martlesham though she also works with Art Safari on Ferry Quay. There are free sessions as well as virtual and local sketching tuition and holidays. Try Claudia’s books eg 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). For young children she’s produced the Suffolk Coast Colouring book (£3.50, claudiamyatt.co.uk).
If you need artist supplies or want to frame your work, Frames by Robert is a specialist shop in New Street Woodbridge which offers discounts to RDA members with membership card.
Classic location for family days out with a beach and a pub (The Maybush – also part pf the Deben Inns group, offering discounts to RDA members), crabbing, walking, messing about in boats of all sizes or maybe finding a quiet space to do something like sketching.
The flood tide is always better for water activities such as swimming. 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.
Waldringfield Boatyard (waldringfieldboatyard.co.uk). In addition to normal boatyard facilities they offer river trips on Jahan trips and stock Stand-Up Paddle Boards.
Waldringfield Sailing Club (waldringfieldsc.com/junior-sailing-club) is 100 years old this year. It has a 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.
There’s usually a bit of a buzz around Felixstowe Ferry with art projects, fishing boats, cafes, the boatyard – 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.
John White, Felixstowe Ferry harbourmaster, runs regular one-hour river trips to Ramsholt throughout the summer for up to 12 passengers at a time. 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.
Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club has a strong youth section as well as being family-friendly. Here’s their contact page https://ffsc.co.uk/contact/
Ipswich Canoe Club (ipswichcanoeclub.org.uk) 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 https://www.nomadseakayaking.co.uk/adventures a national franchise with a strong local presence.
Enjoying the river doesn’t have to be full of physical activity. Why not build a summer music play list, keep a diary, express yourself in poetry? Contact the RDA magazine editor with your creative ideas or observations. [email protected]
The theme is the River Deben and the age group categories are 11-14 and 15-18. The closing date is 14 Aug. Judging will take place by 1 September and the winners, with their parent or guardians’ consent, may be presented in the Deben Magazine but notified in advance.Entries should be accompanied with a short explanation (say 2 sentences) of what inspired each particular shot. Judging criteria will include composition, aesthetics, exposure, with the River Deben being in the shot somewhere!
Prizes for the two winners will include a half day course with the professional photographer – Gill Moon and the runners up will have their winning entries professionally framed.
Entries must be accompanied by the name and age of the entrant and contact details of their parent/carer. Entrants can post their entries to the RDA Instagram page @riverdebenassociation or the following email: [email protected].
And Keep Safe
Safety message from a local coastguard (this was sent to a canoe group but makes sense for many river users):
- Wear life jackets / buoyancy aids
- Always tell people where you are going and roughly 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
Have a lovely summer – let us know what activities worked best for you and what you would recommend to others. Contact [email protected]
Special thanks go to RDA member Claudia Myatt for the illustrations claudiamyatt.co.uk
DON’T FORGET THE DEBEN SUMMER FESTIVAL Aug 7th-15th
JUST KEEP CHECKING THE WEBSITE