The Suffolk Coastal Cycle Route offers an alternative to parts of the main Hull to Harwich route or it forms, with parts of route 1, an 88-mile circular route in its own right. A route pack can be obtained by sending a cheque for £3.50 made payable to Suffolk County Council to Economic Development Division, St Edmund House, County Hall, Rope Walk, Ipswich IP4 1LZ or from the Sustrans shop.
The year after I completed the Hull to Harwich route I returned to explore the delights of the Suffolk Coastal route variation. I joined it at Bruisyard, near Saxmundham, where it leaves the Hull to Harwich route. It starts with a gentle run along the valley of the River Alde through Sweffling to Stratford St Andrew. The crossing of the busy A12 here is somewhat difficult, and there are plans to divert the route north through Farnham where a better crossing can be provided.
From Stratford St Andrew the route crosses almost level countryside through Blaxhall to Snape, with its famous riverside maltings, the largest of which was converted by Sir Benjamin Britten into a concert hall for the Aldeburgh Festival. The remainder is now a popular complex of shops, restaurants, and galleries. Snape marks the tidal limit of the River Alde – the sea is only 5 miles as the crow flies, but the river's mouth is 20 miles away!
From Snape the route turns off onto quiet lanes across the level countryside to Orford, dominated by its 12th century Norman castle keep. Between the town and the sea is Orford Ness, Europe's largest vegetated shingle spit. Until a few years ago this was a top secret military site, but it has now been handed over to the National Trust, and it is open to the public. A ferry runs from the quay to take you there.
When I did the ride there were two ways of heading south from Orford, of which the shorter and more interesting (or possibly intrepid) was by the tiny ferry over the Butley Creek. This was approached along a stretch of footpath with a style, which was a little difficult to negotiate, but it was good practice for trying to load my bike onto the little rowing boat!
The ferry service was run by Bryan Rogers, who restarted it after a gap of 80 years. However, it seems that Bryan is no longer running it, and I read a report that it no longer carries bikes. The alternative is to take to road route through Butley village, which is a pity. I enjoyed the ferry crossing!
Update: as of 2006 it seems that the Butley Ferry has been taken over by volunteers and once again takes bikes (not tandems) but some sources say that prior booking is needed. Try one of these numbers if you want to use it: 07913 672399 or David Andren on 01394 450374 or 01394 450843 or 01394 411767.
However, if you like ferry crossings, don't despair. There's another one a few miles further south. The route continues through Boyton, and then does a curious diversion around the village of Hollesley, opting to pass the Young Offenders Institution at Hollesley Bay instead. Then it passes through the small villages of Alderton (where, unknown to me at the time, one of my great, great grandmothers was born) and Bawdsey on its way to the ferry across the River Deben.
The Bawdsey Ferry runs from 10.00 to 18.00 from April to October, but if you want to be sure it's running, call 01394 270106 or 07803 476621. It costs £2 for cyclists. It drops you off at Felixstowe Ferry, the northern tip of the Felixstowe peninsula. Here you'll find The Ferry Boat Inn, a curiously unchurchlike church, and a small fishing and boating community, seemingly detached rom the rest of Felixstowe.
From the ferry the route crosses the golf course and then approaches the surprisingly hilly Old Felixstowe. The Suffolk Coastal route turns off to the right just as the built-up area is reached. I rode this section from Waldringfield on my Hull to Harwich journey, so this time I continued on into Felixstowe, where I ended my journey.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable ride, helped by the fact that the weather was excellent when I tried it! I could imagine it being a bit bleak in poor weather though! Allow yourself plenty of time to explore Orford and maybe to visit the Ness – I had cycled to Bruisyard from near Norwich, which left me a little too short of time, bearing in mind that I had to get the ferry over to Felixstowe by the end of the afternoon. The ride is well signposted, but the guide would be well worth getting as an additional aid.
You can either follow through the pages in sequence or go back to pick another route from the list of the NCN routes I've used.
Updated: 8 June 2003
Minor update: 15 August 2006