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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Walk 31 Stutton to Chelmondiston (Suffolk)

Walk 31  Stutton to Chelmondiston (Suffolk)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R169
Distance: about 13 miles
Difficulty: quite easy, mostly flat
Terrain: paths which can be muddy
Access: Parking in the road at both ends
Public transport: Just about possible. The 92 from Ipswich goes to Stutton every 2 hours or so (Mon-Sat) and the 202 runs every 2/3 hours back to Ipswich from Chelmondiston. As always, check before departing.

This is a quiet walk around the Shotley Peninsula which can feel quite remote at times. It takes in the north of the River Stour, Harwich Harbour and the southern bank of the River Orwell.

Leave the peaceful village of Stutton and take the road then path which goes east and slightly south to Stutton Ho. On the left are the impressive buildings of the Royal Hospital School. The school moved from Greenwich in 1933 and was founded for the sons of seafarers in 1694. It is now a large independent school for students aged 11-18.

Continue around Holbrook Bay where there are a number of small boats moored. This part of the river was famous for Anglo-Saxon fish traps which are evidently visible at low tide. Baskets were placed in wooden 'V' like structures and the fish trapped. The walk from here to Shotley Gate is quiet with very few people around, however the bustling ports of Harwich and Felixstowe are only a few miles away and are clearly visible in the distance.

Shotley Gate is at the end of the peninsula. Look out for the signalling tower and green water tower which stand on the remains of a Martello Tower. There is a notice referring to HMS Ganges along the front and a museum which tells its story. It was a wooden ship berthed here from 1899 and used as a cadet training ship for the Royal Navy. When it was removed from here in 1905 the training was moved on land but still called HMS Ganges. This was closed in 1976. Some of the area is now a Eurosport educational and residential centre. Walk round past the marina to Shotley Point where the Rivers Orwell and Stour. King Alfred defeated the Danes at this point in 885, since then there have been many battles here against France, Germany, Holland, Spain and Germany. The point is also known as Bloody Point as it is commonly thought to have been the location of Viking landings.

The path follows the Orwell inland past Shotley Marshes and around to Pin Mill and the Butt and Oyster. This pub provides a roaring fire and good beer especially welcome on a cold day. It is named after the oysters which were caught in abundance from the River Orwell and the barrels they were stored in. The pub was built in the 17th century and was used by water bailiffs and burgesses from the port at Ipswich for their courts. The tide was out when I sat in the lounge and the green algae and small boats which dominated the scene made it easy to imagine how it was once a smugglers haven. Near to the pub is Cat House which was also connected with smuggling. The silhouette of a cat was placed in a window to tell smugglers it was safe to land. The smugglers were known as ‘owlers’ because they used to communicate with owl noises. The area was also one of the settings for Arthur Ransome’s book ‘We didn’t mean to go to sea’.

Walk out of Pin Mill and there is a footpath on the right into Chelmondiston.

Snaps show: The Royal Hospital School near Stutton from the River Stour; Holbbrook Bay on the River Stour; Bath and Oyster Pub; the river near the pub.

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