The Shotley Peninsula lies east of Ipswich on the Suffolk Coast, a tongue of low-lying farmland that separates the broad estuaries of Stour and Orwell.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Down at Pin Mill this cold and frosty morning the full tide of the Orwell slapped the wall of the Butt & Oyster, putting me in mind of summer days in its dark, atmospheric bar, idly watching sunlit ripples reflecting on the ceiling. A great pub for being lazy and watching the boaters scooting around in the shallows outside, or strolling down to inspect the tottery old barges, fishing smacks, houseboats and coasters that have found their long home down here, moored deep in Suffolk mud.
Up across the Shotley road we walked the margins of flat winter wheat-fields under a huge mackerel sky. Boats and rain pools were skinned with thin ice, and hoar frost whitened the few dried leaves still trembling on the big field oaks. By Broomfield Covert the headland was crowded with soft prickly sweet chestnut shells, each one neatly eviscerated by squirrels. Every so often a far and faint bleep! bleep! came across the Orwell from the east, where Felixstowe container port lay hidden by the slight roll of the peninsula fields.
A beautiful sight greeted us at the road – the mellow brick arch and pinnacles of Erwarton Hall’s gateway, with the square red face and mullioned windows of the hall itself rising beyond. Anne Boleyn’s uncle Sir Philip Calthorpe lived here, and stories say that King Henry VIII would have himself rowed round here from London to dally with his red-haired temptress while the royal bargeman waited patiently in the River Stour below.
Nobbled and gnomish oaks lined Erwarton Walk, all ancient and weather-blasted like a procession of gnarled old Ents with skinny arms akimbo. We passed half-timbered Shotley Hall hidden behind trees, and came to the cottages and church at Church End on their knoll overlooking the Orwell. Now the port of Felixstowe stood in full view, its cranes hump-backed like skeleton camels, a giant vessel the size of a city block moored alongside.
St Mary’s Church is an extraordinary gem in a very remote setting, a mish-mash of medieval styles with brick, ragstone and knapped flint, its tall and dignified interior covered with a beautiful hammerbeam roof, its chancel a shock of pure 18th century baroque with dark panelling and dramatic altarpiece. Ranks of wartime submariners and seamen lie in its graveyard, German and British side by side.
Down on the seawall we turned upriver. Brent geese and swans, pochard and tufted ducks, lapwings and curlew, turnstones and dunlin – a cornucopia of winter wildfowl.
Start: Pin Mill pay-and-display car park, Chelmondiston,
Suffolk, IP9 1JW (OS ref TM 205379)
Travel: Road – A14, A137 (‘Ipswich Docks’); B1456 (‘Shotley’); Pin Mill signed to left in Chelmondiston.
Bus – Ipswich Buses (0800-919390; www.ipswichbuses.co.uk) Service 202
Walk (8 miles, easy grade, OS Explorer 197): From car park, right up lane; in 30 m right over 2 stiles; diagonally left up field, then lane. Facing church (204373), right to cross B1456. Down right side of former Red Lion PH, now closed (fingerpost); follow field edge for ¼ mile to 3-finger post (204368); right (‘footpath’). At next post, left. In 30 m, ahead past next fingerpost, following line of oaks to corner of Broomfield Covert (209365). Right (‘bridleway’) along wood edge to Crouch House (211361). Left along drive; in 50 m at right bend, ahead through wicket gate; pass New Covert and follow Warren Lane to Erwarton Gateway and Hall (223352). Sharp left up Erwarton Walk (unnamed; fingerpost) to B1456 (225356). Cross (take care!); left up field edge; at top, right, and follow yellow arrows. Dogleg right and left; in another 150 m, ahead at 3-finger post (229359) to path T-junction (232359). Left to road; right to Church End. Pass church (237360); ahead down lane to T-junction (239362); right (‘footpath’) to sea wall (245361), left for 3½ miles to Pin Mill.
More info on Shotley Peninsula Tours: http://www.shotleypeninsulartours.com
Refreshments: Butt & Oyster PH, Pin Mill (01473-780764;
– famous, characterful waterside pub
Accommodation: Hill House, Wades Lane, Shotley, Ipswich IP9
1EW (01473-787318; www.wrinchfarmstay.co.uk)
– extremely helpful and welcoming B&B.