A Long-Distance ‘relationship’.
One of the best features of Ipswich, is how easy it can be to get away from it all. Although the parks and open spaces in the town are fantastic, they cannot compare to the serene beauty and variety of the Suffolk coast and countryside. One of my favourite ways to explore is to jump on a train or bus with a rucksack and walk along some of the long-distance footpaths with friends or relations.
You don’t need to do it all in one go. You can easily walk a stretch between two bus-stops or railway stations. There are even some footpaths that can be broken up using foot-ferries around the Shotley Peninsula and Felixstowe. Or you can pack a pop-up tent and camp over-night at one of Suffolk’s inexpensive and well facilitated campsites.
There are four long-distance footpaths to choose from, and sadly, none can be done in a weekend, but each offers a fascinating insight into our county.
Suffolk Coast Path - 60 miles
As its name suggests, this path hugs the shingly shore of Suffolk, from Felixstowe up to Lowestoft. This route starts with the foot-passenger ferry from Old-Felixstowe to the former experimental radar-station at Bawdsey with its beach bestrewn with fossils. After passing the controversial power station of Sizewell and the concert halls of Snape Maltings, the path winds though the wildlife of RSPB Minsmere, along the scalloped shores of artisanal Aldburgh and the family friendly seaside resort of Southwold before reaching the long sandy beaches of Lowestoft.
Sandlings Walk - 59 miles
Expect lots of sand underfoot and wildlife surprises around every corner. This pathway winds through the lung-cleansing forests and ancient Saxon heathland of Suffolk, home of badgers, red deer, glow-worms and the rare nightjar which can be heard chirping on warm summers evenings. True peace and serenity awaits on the well way-marked paths through isolated woodland, some of which may have once been visited by creatures from another world (if you believe the UFO stories that came out of Rendlesham Forest in the late 1980s). This footpath begins in Southwold and continues right into the heart of Ipswich.
Stour and Orwell Walk - 40 miles
Probably the easiest route to try as it passes right by the University! This route begins at the river Stour, close to Manningtree train station, on the border of Essex. It then skirts around the maritime Shotley Peninsula, passing through the grounds of the Royal Hospital School and the former naval training centre known as HMS Ganges. The area near Shotley Gate give stunning panoramic views of Felixstowe docks before the route passes ancient wild-fowl wetlands and an array of residential barges near the famous smuggling inn, The Butt and Oyster. The route passes under the Orwell Bridge and into Ipswich where it takes in our beloved waterfront. Then it heads out to sea again, through stunning farmland and bustling marinas all the way to Felixstowe. The path ends at the quaint settlement known as Felixstowe Ferry, where the Suffolk Coastal path (above) begins, so you could combine these two into a 100 mile marathon – if that’s your thing! Or you could try…
The Suffolk Way - 113 miles
This path leaves nothing out, traversing the rural heart of the county, from Constable’s Flatford Mill, past Ed Sheeram’s famous #Castle-on-the-hill# at Framlingham. The path skirts through the medieval wool-town of Lavenham and splashes through the famous ford in Kersey. It is worth noting that the route passes through the village of Halesworth, whose railway station gives access to the area known as High Suffolk, and it ends at Lowestoft after taking in perhaps the most spectacular stretch of our counties coast.
Especially for this final route, which is less well way-marked, it is essential to take a map - or a reliable and well-charged phone – as well as the usual precautions, such as sun/rain protection, sturdy shoes, and snacks. Remember to stick to the routes, check the bus/train timetables and have a wonderful time.