Walking is fantastic for your mental health, and where better to start than the area around our university. Ipswich Waterfront is always changing, from historic urban decay to expensive modern renovation. This short walk around the overlooked ‘island’ gives you a taste of both, as well as fantastic views and a whole-lotta-yacht-spotting!
Waterfront Wander Walk
Time: 25-45 minutes
Distance: 2 miles / 3.1km
Starting Point: University Question Mark, next to the Waterfront Building
Terrain: All tarmacked paths – fully accessible for wheelchairs/scooters/buggies
Refreshments & Toilets: Last Anchor Bar & Restaurant
A: Begin at the Question Mark sculpture outside the University Waterfront building. Maybe meet with friends or grab a coffee-to-go from Paddy & Scott’s.
Head down to the water’s edge and turn right. Each section of the waterfront is named after the company who used it, or the type of traffic which frequented it. You are now walking along Wherry Quay, named after the old Wherry boats, often still moored outside the Old Custom House.
Past Pizza Express, you are on Albion Wharf, passing the recently completed ‘Winerack’ building. Look out for an ever-changing display window on your right, all about the history of the Waterfront. When you reach the Jerwood Dance centre, above you is The Mill, the tallest building in Suffolk; Left unfinished due to the economic crash in 2008, largely hollow and still unoccupied, the frontage was blown loose in a storm in 2013 and has not yet been replaced.
B: Turn left and head along the footpath, through an intimidating looking gate towards a large green buoy painted “Ipswich Haven Marina”. You are now on ‘Island Haven,’ surrounded by water, with the Wet Dock on your left, and the River Orwell on your right. Island Haven has a public footpath, but is not public land, so please stay on the footpath (at this point, painted green). On your left you will see a sundial installed by the Ipswich Rotary Society, and then pass to the left of the main Marina Office.
The footpath changes to red tarmac as you walk along Tovell’s Wharf, named after a cement factory that once stood near here. Soon you reach the Last Anchor, home to a huge black anchor from a long-forgotten ship. Feel free to break your walk here, have a drink and take in the views.
C: Continuing the walk, the area on your right was once a wet-dock used to store timber but was filled to create over-winter storage for yachts. Check out the homeports painted on the sterns. I have seen yachts from as far away as Canada. Follow the footpath round the corner onto End Quay, the last to be constructed over 100 years ago. Below your feet you can see ghostly remains of the railway lines which criss-crossed the port.
By the yacht-lifting-crane is the first of the ship building companies resident on ‘the island.’ Fairline Yachts build luxury motor yachts. You may see ready for delivery with furniture still in shrink wrap. Follow the old railway lines to reach the second boat builders, Spirit Yachts, who build classic wooden-masted yachts. Their boats have been featured in James Bond movies, and can also be found waiting for collection.
The towering pair of eerie, abandoned, and overgrown blue Babcock cranes once plied the rails up and down this area of the dockside known as Ballast Wharf. This was once a popular promenade for citizens of Ipswich, who would stroll between a double row of lime trees to sheltered seats with views over the River Orwell. Sadly, that area is now off-limits to the public.
D: The marina toilets mark the turning-point of the walk. There is a public bench where you can rest by the water’s edge with views back up along the waterfront to where you began and the best view of the swing-bridge; you may be lucky enough to see a Large boat navigating through the ‘New-Cut’ lock.
After re-passing Spirit Yachts, look out on your left for the dilapidated, brown-brick Harbour Master’s cottage, and the white-painted row of lockkeepers’ cottages. The old lock gates were situated near this site but there is no visible sign of them today.
If you have enjoyed yacht-spotting, why not look in the window of Burton Water’s Boat Sales on your way back (next to The Last Anchor) and pick out your dream yacht. Turn right back onto Albion Wharf at Jerwood Dance Centre and retrace your steps back to the starting point.
Let us know in the comments if you do this walk!