5 Suffolk rivers where you can use your canoe
- Credit: Archant
Lockdown, and a desire to be outside, have seen sales of inflatable canoes soar in recent weeks. Here are just a few spots across the county where you can enjoy your new purchase.
Looking to avoid the crowds at the beach this summer?
A family day out on the water could be the perfect alternative.
With beaches prone to overcrowding, Suffolk’s rivers, estuaries and waterways provide the ideal, active day out – without hordes of people in close proximity.
Here’s fives places that you can dock from that are great for helping you safely see the sights of Suffolk this summer – and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of some incredible wildlife.
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Park up at The Granary car park, just off Quay Lane in Sudbury where you will be able to cast off your kayak, canoe or paddleboard and venture down the River Stour. Listed as one of Britain’s earliest commercial waterways, only certain parts of the Stour are suitable for motorboats, making it the perfect route for paddlers. As you gently meander down the river, you’ll see an abundance of landmarks and locks including Great Cornard Lock and Bures Mill, a beautiful Grade II-listed building.
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As you continue down the Stour, you’ll eventually make your way through to Dedham Vale, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty affectionately dubbed ‘Constable Country’ due its association with the titular artist who painted many of his greatest works in the area.
Break up your journey by docking at The Anchor pub in Nayland to enjoy a well-earned rest, where you can tuck into a variety of freshly-cooked meals, light bites and cask ales. For those more adventurous, why not turn your voyage into an overnight camping trip and head further down the river where you will end up crossing county lines, making your way to Mistley in Essex.
Park up for free at Bawdsey Quay where from there you can traverse up the Deben, and through to Woodbridge. This eight-mile route is famed for canoeing and kayaking as the waterway is wide, and as this stretch of water is actually an estuary rather than river, you won’t need a river licence.
Recommended for the more experienced watersport enthusiasts, those who take on this route are advised to keep an eye on any change in tides, currents and wind. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of some local wildlife including curlews, oyster catchers and gulls – and maybe even a seal or two.
En-route are a couple of select pubs including The Ramsholt Arms, where you can stop off and enjoy a selection of freshly caught local seafood, and the Maybush Inn which is a great spot to go crabbing and enjoy the panoramic Suffolk views.
An alternative place to launch on the Deben is to start your journey at Waldringfield, making your way up the past Woodbridge and towards Wilford Bridge. Simply park at the pay & display behind the Maybush Inn pub before beginning your journey.
Once on the water, gently paddle upstream and birdwatch as you float along – where you will see a fantastic range of wild birds including avocets, redshanks and curlews. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Tide Mill as you approach Woodbridge – one of only a handful of tide mills whose water wheel still turns.
Along this stretch of the Deben you will also find a small beach just adjacent to Woodbridge Railway Station, perfect for docking up to have a rest before carrying on up to Wilford Bridge. Once you reach the bridge, pass under it before heading back.
Jam-packed with stunning panoramic views for miles, why not explore the River Alde this summer? Start your journey at Snape Maltings, an arts complex sat next to the river, where you can park for free and launch your craft from.
As you take to the water, head downstream and pass through Snape Marshes, a nature reserve that’s beautifully picturesque. Teeming with reeds, this marshland hosts a diverse range of wildlife, including four species of reptiles found here in Suffolk – slow worms, adders, common lizards and grass snakes – as well as barn owls, kingfishers and gently grazing cattle.
Carry on further downstream where you will eventually pass through the village of Iken - be sure to keep an eye out for the stunning Iken St Botolph church which sits on a low spit of land jutting out into the Alde. Paddlers can choose to either continue down the Alde, where the river widens and eventually passes through Slaughden and Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, or turn back around for a well-deserved rest at the Plough & Sail pub.
Head to Beccles and traverse down the River Waveney, where north Suffolk meets south Norfolk in this 6.5-mile return tidal trip. Starting your journey near Beccles Lido on Puddingmoor, you will be able park up at Beccles Quay for free and launch from the lido’s slipway. Alternatively, you can launch from the Beccles Canoe Centre.
Float down towards Geldeston and you will eventually arrive at The Locks, a pub built around a centuries-old lock keeper’s cottage where you can enjoy a range of keg and cask beers as you unwind and take in your surroundings. To this day, the pub’s main bar is lit by candlelight after dusk, creating the cosiest of atmospheres.
As you spend a sunny summer’s afternoon paddling down the Waveney, be sure to look out for local wildlife such as otters, marsh harriers, kestrels and even Chinese water deer – the dragonflies hovering above the water are especially beautiful.
Unless stated (such as for estuaries), the majority of waterways in Suffolk require a licence in order to canoe, kayak or paddleboard on – and there are two ways to do this.
Registering your craft can be done via the Environmental Agency. The Environmental Agency covers the section of the River Stour that runs from Brundon Mill (upstream of Sudbury) all the way down to Cattawade near Manningtree. A weekly pass is £10.50 and an annual pass is £44.20. Failure to register your craft will result in a penalty fine.
Alternatively, becoming a British Canoeing member will grant a person licencing, rather than the craft, and will allow you to paddle on over 4,500km of British waterways. A British Canoeing membership will cover all paddlers within a registered member’s canoe or kayak, but if a group intends to use more than one boat, another licenced member will be required. An annual licence costs £45.