Back in August 2016 we shared a guest blog by fundraiser Peter. He was just starting an ambitious fundraising challenge:
“Through the use of my walking BOOTS, a BOAT or two, and a certain amount of BIKE use, I intend to travel 250 miles, focussing on these three wonderful places, in 5 or 10 mile stints over that 25 month period. As much as possible, I shall be using coastal, canal and riverside pathways.”
Peter’s adventures came to an end this summer and we’re very happy to share the two penultimate updates from his travels…
Sudbury to Manningtree
28 Miles – 23-25 May 2018
With a quiet flourish, Philip and I slipped adventurously away from the quayside at Sudbury. Our two-man canoe (courtesy of the excellent Gordon Hardy at outdoorhirecentres.com) was going to be our sole means of transport for the next two days of my Boots, Boats and Bikes (BBB) Journey.
That morning, we were aiming to paddle for 3 hours downstream to Bures for lunch. And a very pleasant activity it was too! As planned, the Eight Bells at Bures came up right on cue and Phil and I revived our flagging energy levels in the customary way.
But we had another 3-hour stretch to complete that afternoon so dallying was not an option. We were soon back on the water and enjoying what the peaceful surrounding countryside had to offer. We were in no hurry and were pleased to share the superb early-summer weather with the ducks a-dabbling and (carefully!) many swans a-nesting.
Our overnight accommodation plans had been amended that morning due to the riverside camping field at Lower Dairy Farm being silaged that week! But comfy beds at Nayland were a very acceptable alternative to mats and bags!
The next day was warm and sunny again as we entered the glorious rural surroundings of Constable Country in the Dedham Vale. The tranquil mill locks at Stratford St Mary, Dedham and Flatford ideally complimented their picturesque settings.
It had all been a thoroughly worthwhile experience, but a word from the wise to those contemplating this undertaking. The journey is 26.2 miles long (apparently!) and certainly not for the faint-hearted. Some of the upper stretches were not easy-going due to reedbeds and fallen trees. And at the end of the river navigation at Cattawade, and as a confirmed boat lover, I have never in my life (for reasons of comfort) been so happy to get out of that canoe!
The next day I walked the relatively uninspiring couple of miles past the large sluice gates and along the tidal banks of the upper Stour Estuary into Manningtree & Mistley before celebrating Phil’s Big 3O on the following day. I could never have completed this section of my BBB Journey without him.
Manningtree & Mistley to Woodbridge (incl. Walton Backwaters)
52 Miles – 30 July – 2 August 2018
Since the beginning of my BBB Journey, I had always intended that my sailing boat would feature strongly in the latter stages of this project.
‘Gentle Breeze’ is based on a traditional design called a Cornish Shrimper, of which there are many on the East Anglian coast. She is 19ft from stem to stern, gaff-rigged with a bowsprit extending forward, a tan mainsail and cream foresail, dark blue hull (red below the white boot line) and cream decking over a small cabin. A thoroughly pretty little boat and a veritable sight to behold, even if I say so myself!
So, sailing singlehandedly, I decided to join the East Coast Rally of the Shrimper Association for the final stage of my BBB Journey. And what an excellent bunch of sailing people they all were! Twelve boats were participating in a week-long exploration of the Stour, Orwell and Deben Estuaries. And a visit to Walton Backwaters also formed part of our cruise.
After earlier visiting the Butt & Oyster pub in the lovely setting of Pin Mill on the Orwell Estuary, we sailed in heavy squalls, strong winds and pouring rain round Shotley Point and up to the end of the Stour Estuary, reaching the quay at Mistley & Manningtree as the weather thankfully started to improve. And the next stage of my BBB Journey began from this point.
Lunchtime the next day at the historic Alma Inn at Old Harwich Quay was delightful and the following sail round and two-day visit to Walton Backwaters was thoroughly worthwhile. This tidal area of creeks and islands was the setting for Arthur Ransome’s book ‘Secret Water’ which was part of his famous ‘Swallows and Amazons’ series. These days, it is also home to a large colony of seals, some of whom popped up and swam charmingly around our boats in the warm sunshine. What a privilege!
But the Deben was still beckoning. So, sailing northwards along the Suffolk coast, my final day found us all navigating in the strong tidal currents over the shallow bar and through the shingle banks (potentially treacherous in strong easterly onshore winds!) at the narrow channel entrance between Bawdsey and Felixstowe Ferry, and into the calmer stretches of the Deben.
The tidal Deben is where “the countryside meets the sea”, a beautiful 12-mile stretch of wide navigable water curving its way through fields, woods and rolling hills all the way up to Woodbridge. It also benefits from having two attractive waterside pubs (the Ramsholt Arms and the Maybush Inn) along its reaches!
Later that afternoon, ‘Gentle Breeze’ and I found ourselves back in our home port and safely mooring up again in the lee of the white-weatherboarded, working Tidemill with the historic grounds of anglo-saxon Sutton Hoo overlooking this warm and sunny Woodbridge scene from the opposite bank of the river.
And so, a spot of general reflection: I feel a genuine sense of personal achievement for a project successfully accomplished, but mixed with a large tinge of regret that my very enjoyable water-orientated BBB Journey from Whitstable to Welwyn to Woodbridge, covering 330 miles in 25 sections over the previous 32 months (virtually a half-marathon a month on average!), has finally come to an end. So, whatever next, I wonder?!!!….
Huge thanks to Peter and all his supporters over the last two years. You can find out more about his travels on his fundraising page.
We’d also like to send lots of luck to Peter’s son Phil who has been selected for the GB Team to swim the 25m and 50m Breaststroke in the World Special Olympic Games in in Abu Dhabi in March next year. Here he is with the two gold medals that he won at the National Special Olympic Games at Sheffield in 2017: