Sandlings Walk: Woodbridge to Tangham

Notes

General Data

The initial stretch of this walk is a very pleasant amble along the western bank of the River Deben to Wilford Bridge, with good views across the tidal river past moored houseboats. Form there a long walk along quiet local roads leads past the small hamlet of Bromeswell and past a golf course on Bromeswell Heath and skirts the western end of RAF Woodbridge. After this the going becomes more rural as it heads along sandy paths across Sutton Common, well to the south of the airfield. It finally passes the superbly-named Gobblecock Cottage and heads through Rendlesham Forest to the east of the airfield to reach the forest’s visitor’s centre at Tangham.

Distance 9.2 miles
Ascent 249 feet
Descent 190 feet
Est. time 3 hours 17 minutes
Difficulty easy

Map of the leg


Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.

Directions

This leg starts at Woodbridge railway station. Leave the station and cross the line using the level crossing is reached on the left. Turn right to follow the promenade around past a quayside. When a road is reached near to the tide mill, turn left towards the level crossing, and before it is reached turn right along a footpath with a railway line on the left. The path eventually merges with the floodbank, and this can be followed curving around north-northeastwards for 1.3 miles until Wilford Bridge is reached at TM291501.

Turn right to cross the bridge, and on the other side turn left to descend down to a footpath that runs on a causey through reed beds. It emerges out from the beds to meet Common Lane at TM294501. Turn left and follow this road as it heads northeastwards, curving around into Bromeswell. As the road curves to the left, turn right and follow the road southwards until the A1152 road is reached. Turn left along this road, and after a few yards turn right along a track that starts to ascend. As the track starts to curve to the left, turn right to head straight on along a footpath that crosses a golf course.

Just before a building called Lion's Den is reached, turn left along a bridleway that heads east-southeastwards, eventually leaving the golf course and running with trees on the right. When a T-junction with another track is reached at TM313493, turn right and follow this new track southwards for two-thirds of a mile. The westernmost fence of RAF Woodbridge is followed on the left before the trail reaches a road at TM310483.

Cross the road and continue on, following a sandy track south-southwestwards for a quarter of a mile, At a crossroads in the tracks, turn left to join another track. Initially this crosses heathland, before passing through trees and then fields. It descends into a low valley to pass a small sewage works on the right, then ascends and continues for another two-thirds of a mile to another junction at TM323463. Turn left and follow another track northeastwards for three-quarters of a mile; it passes through a deer fence and then past Gobblecock cottage before reaching the road once more, very near to the car park.

Turn right along the road, passing two bridleways off to the left. Just before the entrance to the car park is reached, turn left up another track. This heads northeastwards for half a mile; the path then takes a more easterly course as it heads towards Tangham Cottages. Go through a gate to join a surfaced track; keep the cottage on the left as you head eastwards. When four red-and-white wooden posts are reached, turn left to join a path that heads northwards for a couple of hundred yards through the trees. Turn right along another track to pass a toilet block and enter the car park of a forest visitors' centre. Continue eastwards along the access track until a road is reached at TM354484.

 
 

Locations

Woodbridge

Woodbridge is a pretty town situated on the banks of the tidal Deben. The entire settlement seems focussed on the river, which can only be accessed by crossing the railway line that runs alongside. The river is often lined with boats, as is the marina. Additionally, it is well known for the high-quality food served at many of its establishments. The Fynn Valley Walk and the Sandlings Walk both follow the river through the town. It is the last settlement of any size directly on the Sandlings Walk before it ends at Southwold (although Aldeburgh is a short distance to the south of the trail).

It is home to a picturesque tidal mill, clad in white Suffolk boarding and with a Dutch roof. A mill was on this site in at least 1170; the current building probably dates from the 17th century. After falling derelict after closure in 1957, it was restored from 1968 - a massive job that took five years. It is open to the public.

River Deben

The River Deben rises near Debenham in Suffolk before making a slightly circuitous route towards the sea. It becomes tidal to the northeast of Woodbridge before flowing past the town and widening as it heads south towards the sea. It flows out into the North Sea immediately to the north of Felixstowe. The tidal sections of the river are very popular with boaters, and the river bank between Woodbridge and Melton are often filled with moored boats. A foot ferry operates across the mouth of the river to Felixstowe Ferry.

Bromeswell and Bromeswell Heath

Bromeswell is a small village situated a short distance from the eastern bank of the River Deben. It is centred around a beautiful 15th-Century flint-towered church. A short distance to the south, and across the main road, is Bromeswell Heath that borders the western end of Rendlesham Forest. It is home to a golf course; the Sandlings Walk passes through the village and the edge of the heath.

The village seems a quiet place, but it has not always been so. In 1803 a camp was formed to garrison soldiers preparing to fight in the Napoleonic Wars.

Bromeswell and Bromeswell Heath

Bromeswell is a small village situated a short distance from the eastern bank of the River Deben. It is centred around a beautiful 15th-Century flint-towered church. A short distance to the south, and across the main road, is Bromeswell Heath that borders the western end of Rendlesham Forest. It is home to a golf course; the Sandlings Walk passes through the village and the edge of the heath.

The village seems a quiet place, but it has not always been so. In 1803 a camp was formed to garrison soldiers preparing to fight in the Napoleonic Wars.

RAF Woodbridge

RAF Woodbridge was one of two large airfields built in Rendlesham Forest during World War II (the other being RAF Bentwaters). Over a million trees were cut down to make the base. It was built with an exceptionally wide runway of five times the usual width to allow damaged bombers returning from Germany to land safely. Because the complex had been cut out of the forest, it was often bedevilled by fog. For this reason a system called FIDO was introduced. This burnt up to 100,000 gallons of fuel per hour along the sides of the runway to lift the fog.

In 1952 the USAF took over the base, and from 1958 they used it in conjunction with Bentwaters as part of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing. Both bases were closed by the USAF in 1993 after the conclusion of the Cold War. Whereas Bentwaters is now in civilian use, in 2005 the MOD started used the airfield as an army base.

Rendlesham Forest and aliens

Rendlesham Forest is the largest of the three forests in the Sandlings area of Suffolk.

An incident at the end of 1980 led to the forest’s biggest claim to fame. In what has become known as the ‘Rendlesham Forest Incident’, strange lights were seen within the forest by staff at the Bentwaters airbase. Fearing a crashed plane, they investigated the lights and failed to find a cause. The lights were seen for three nights in total and UFOs have widely been blamed. Extra credence has been placed on the reports because the phenomena were seen by trained air force personnel.

No explanation has been accepted for the lights, but it is perhaps coincidental that the period of the flashes corresponds with that of a lighthouse on the coast, a relatively short distance away. Changes to the shape of the forest and lines-of-sight since that date probably mean that determining the cause of the lights is now impossible. Not being a UFO believer, I think that a number of men on cold nights let their imaginations run away with them. You may well disagree, so it may be worth keeping your eyes and ears peeled for any strangeness amongst the trees.

Rendlesham Forest lost nearly a million trees in the 1987 storm, the area being rendered virtually unrecognisable by the time the storm abated on the 16th October. The forest has slowly recovered and there are several trails (including a UFO trail) through the trees. There is also a visitors centre and a camping site in the forest.

 
 

Transport

There is no bus stop near Tangham; it may be best if this leg were combined with the next walk to get to Snape Maltings, from where there are hourly busses on Anglian Bus’s route 165 to Ipswich station via Woodbridge; however this would be a 21-mile day. This could be shortened by a couple of miles by starting at Melton instead of Woodbridge.

Map information

Landranger (1:50,000)   Explorer (1:25,000)
Landranger 169 (Ipswich & The Naze, Clacton-on-sea)
and
Landranger 156 (Saxmundham, Aldeburgh & Southwold)
or
Explorer 197 (Ipswich, Felixstowe & Harwich)
 
 

Photos of this leg

Woodbridge.Woodbridge tide mill.A houseboat moored on the river.An old hulk in the Deben.The remains of a hulk in the river.An old hulk in the Deben.The view upstream towards Wilford Bridge.The path through the reed beds near Wilford Bridge.Wall art on a house in Bromeswell.The path leading towards Rendlesham Forest.An archery sign.The path beside the fence of RAF Woodbridge.The view across to bunkers at RAF Woodbridge.The track to the east of Tangham Cottages.

Accommodation information

tents
Forest Camping Tangham Campsite
Tangham Campsite
Butley
Woodbridge
Suffolk
IP12 3NF
P: 01394 450707
W: www.forestcamping.co.uk

Grid ref: TM356484 (52.083389,1.437857)
4463
tents
Caravan
Staverton camping park
Wantisden
Woodbridge
Suffolk
IP12 3PJ
P: 01394 460783
W: www.ukcampsitesearch.co.uk

Grid ref: TM354515 (52.111717,1.43716)
4465
B&B
Deben House Bed and Breakfast
29 Ipswich Road
Woodbridge
Suffolk
IP12 4BS
P: 01394 386644
W: http://www.debenhouse.co.uk/

Grid ref: TM267486 (52.089046,1.30711)
8134
 
B&B
The Quay House
1 Station Road
Woodbridge
Suffolk
IP12 4AU
P: 01394 388756
W: www.quayhousewoodbridge.co.uk
E: bookings@quayhousewoodbridge.co.uk

Grid ref: TM273488 (52.090963,1.31735)
8135
inn
The Crown
Thoroughfare
Woodbridge
Suffolk
IP12 1AD
P: 01394 384242
W: www.thecrownatwoodbridge.co.uk
E: info@thecrownatwoodbridge.co.uk

Grid ref: TM273490 (52.092444,1.31646)
8136
Hotel
The Bull Hotel
Market Hill
Woodbridge
Suffolk
IP12 4LR
P: 01394 382089
W: http://www.bullhotel.co.uk/
E: reception@bullhotel.co.uk

Grid ref: TM271491 (52.093867,1.314449)
8137
 
tents
Caravan
Swann's Nursery caravan park
Eyke Road
Bromeswell
Woodbridge
Suffolk
IP12 2PN
P: 01394 460127
W: www.swannsnursery.co.uk

Grid ref: TM309506 (52.105487,1.370276)
8160
tents
Caravan
Low Farm Cottages and Campsite
Ipswich Road
Waldringfield
Woodbridge
Suffolk
IP12 4QU
P: 01473 736387
W: http://www.stayatlowfarm.com/
E: stayatlowfarm@aol.com

Grid ref: TM275449 (52.056152,1.316439)
8166
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