Local pubs, restaurants, attractions and places to stay
Things to do on the peninsula
Pitching It Just Right At Alton Water Park
Wednesday, June 6,
Alton Water’s campsite is up and running.
With 88 camping and caravan pitches, and a modern toilet and shower block, the site is bound to prove popular with those who love the outdoor life.
Based within a 400-acre water park the site is ideal for walkers, sailors, cyclists, angling, birdwatchers and those who just love wildlife and peace and quiet.
Close by is a recently refurbished tea room, offering a range of hot snacks and yummy cakes, and a lovely outdoor patio where you can safely watch your youngsters playing on the new play area and sandpit.
A short stroll away is the watersports and sailing centre where you can try out windsurfing, canoeing or just gently row a boat.
If you are something of a land lubber, but want to go exploring, then Alton Water’s cycle centre is ideal for all the family, there is even a three-wheeled kart for hire and if your own bike needs a quick fix, Dean Baptistte and his team can help.
A three-mile nature trail takes you close, without disturbing, an array of birds, including nightingales, butterflies, and through woodland, wildflower meadows and ponds.
Carp, bream and pike will test anglers day or night, at the coarse fishing lakes.
For those that like to explore further afield Shotley is a Walkers Are Welcome accredited village with an excellent Arthur Ransome trail to Pin Mill, or walks to Erwarton and Harkstead, while there are also many public rights of way criss-crossing the peninsula.
Visitors can explore a variety of pubs, close by or travel through the peninsula to the Bakers Arms at Harkstead, which has has a lovely garden, and is a short walk to the beach.
Shotley is home to three top pubs with the Rose Inn, also offering camping, The Bristol Arms looks out down the Stour while The Shipwreck bar and restaurant overlooks the estuary to Harwich and Felixstowe and based in Shotley marina, which houses the harbour ferry and HMS Ganges Museum.
Prices start at £24 a pitch, book here…
Peninsula's Royal Connections
When Harry met Meghan little did they think romance would lead to a royal wedding but love conquers all, as we know on the peninsula.
Chelmondiston boasts its very own real life common girl, the daughter of a soldier, meets a prince and marries, while there are other wonderful royal love stories connected to the peninsula.
A modest house on Church Road (below) was home to the mother of King Abdullah II, the current ruler of Jordan, where she she lived with her family.
Back then Princess Muna El Hussein was called Antionette Avril Gardiner, more commonly known as Toni Gardiner. While her relatives of old included a shepherd, haymaker and dock worker, her father was a senior military officer.
It was while her father Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Gardiner was posted in Jordan a 19-year-old Toni first met King Hussein (above) at a diplomatic reception. Their love grew while she worked as an assistant on the epic film Lawrence of Arabia, in which the king was closely associated with.
The king loved her for her unpretentious and plain-speaking manner and the coupled were married in 1961, where she declined the title of Queen, preferring instead to be called Princess Muna. This was the the title she kept even after their divorce following 10 years of marriage and four children.
Relatives of Avril Gardiner remain on the peninsula, so the next time you are watching a ladies dart team locally, she could well be royally related.
Even in the days before the paparazzi and gossip magazines, tongues would wag about royal visitors, especially those on clandestine romantic assignations.
The Shotley peninsula has a long tradition in royalty enjoying the beautiful area and engaging with lovely women in secluded bliss.
The most well known is King Henry VIII’s frequent trips, usually by ship, up the River Stour to enjoy secret liaisons with Anne Boleyn, who lost her heart, and eventually her head, to the randy royal.
Anne Boleyn was a regular visitor to her uncle Sir Phillip Calthorpe’s home in, what was then called Arwarton, and the magnificent Elizabethan Erwarton Hall, hosted King Henry during part of their courtship and Anne described her time there as the happiest in her life.
Henry and Anne’s marriage was a significant event in English history as their union brought about the Church of England and our royal family’s disassociation with the Catholic church, when the portly king’s first marriage to Catherine of Aragon ended in dissolution.
Sadly, the royal romance with Anne did not last, due in the main to her inability to bear him a son, instead she had a daughter and later a miscarriage, which led to allegations of infidelity and incest circulating the royal place, and Anne was eventually beheaded leaving Henry free to marry Jane Seymour the third of his six wives.
The story goes that Anne Boleyn loved her time spent at Erwarton so much she asked for her heart to be buried there, and that wish was granted with another uncle, Sir Philip Parker, who buried it in the church.
In the 1800s while renovation work was going on builders found a heart-shaped casket filled with dust, which is believed to have been Anne’s heart.
The royal heart is now buried under the organ in Erwarton church.
Due to its relative proximity to London and its discreet location, the peninsula also proved popular with the Duke of Windsor as he carried on an affair with Mrs Wallace Simpson,
The couple regularly stayed at Felixstowe but loved nipping across the river from Levington for a clandestine evening in the Butt & Oyster in Pin Mill.
Going back a lot further and we know the Plantagenet Kings, Edward II, and III, and later on the young Black Prince, regularly conducted business along the Suffolk coast, including staying at Shotley where they used to berth alongside a public house, which used to be next to St Mary’s church in Shotley before sea defences were built and the Orwell river kept at bay.
These visits are recorded, not just by the trail of Champagne bottles, but by official correspondence known as Patent or Close letters.
The presence of the Royal Navy’s Training Establishment at HMS Ganges meant the Royal family were frequent visitors to the area, where they too were thrilled to watch the mast-manning.
The Queen sailed into the Stour estuary on the Riyal Yacht Britannia and disembarked onto Admiralty pier, before visiting Ganges and then driving along the B1456 to Ipswich, in 1961.
Staying on a sailing theme, Prince Philip is currently the Patron of the Royal Harwich Yacht Club, based at Woolverstone marina.
Let us know how are you celebrating or watching the Royal Wedding between Harry and Meghan? Contact us here firstname.lastname@example.org
Churches Offer Solace, History, Fascinating Legends and Outstanding Views
Our churches on the peninsula offer not just spiritual guidance, but also pastoral peace, and in many cases, community embracement.
Given the area’s natural beauty with bountiful crop bearing fields and flowing rivers, the churches are also placed with outstanding views on the outside and lovingly protected interiors.
Thought provoking memorials, beautiful views, peaceful surroundings and fascinating tales going back a thousand years, add to the usual spiritual experience of visiting a church.
Most of the churches on the peninsula welcome pilgrims and travellers alike, to enjoy a quiet contemplation all week, and all welcome holiday-makers to join with them in a Sunday service.
Displays by primary school children depicting scenes of Easter, Christmas, harvest festivals and remembrance can generally be found at Holbrook, Brantham, Stutton, Holbrook, Chelmondiston and Shotley.
All churches usually have a story to tell and the 10 peninsula churches, some named in the Domesday Book, are no different:
Going back almost 1,000 years, St Mary’s Church, Shotley is not the prettiest building externally but sitting atop a hill overlooking the Orwell, she has an inner beauty to go with the stunning views.
There is an added poignancy with four graveyards, two dedicated Royal Navy war graves from both World Wars, looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, nestled behind the church, overlooking a vineyard, and with the cranes of Felixstowe port in the background.
The legend of Anne Boleyn’s heart is just one reason to want to visit the small but perfectly formed St Mary’s Church, Erwarton.
The remains of what is widely believed to be the royal heart is buried below the organ at the church, marked by a Holbein print of Queen Anne’s portrait.
Take time after quite reflection to wander around the back of the church and enjoy the awesome view down to the Stour and beyond.
Medieval graffiti and delicately pretty glass tiles help make St Mary’s Church in Harksteadsuch an attractive place to visit and enjoy splendid peace and quiet.
Most of St Andrew’s Church, Chelmondiston, was destroyed in 1944 when it was hit, along with the school next door, by a Doodlebug. This Anglican church is open during the day and ideal for a peaceful break, with picturesque Pin Mill a short walk away.
So much activity goes on at St Michael’s Church, Woolverstone it is regarded as the community hub. Sitting neatly alongside
Woolverstone Hall, the former seat of the Berners family but what is now a private school for girls, St Andrews is a short walk from Woolverstone marina.
In addition to a monthly market, a Death café is regularly held, along with the occasional coffee morning, or afternoon tea.
Legend has it that Woolverstone got its name from Viking chieftain Wulf, who sacrificed a village maiden on a glacial stone, which was on the site of the current church. Things are bit more welcoming these days with tea and coffee facilities available for casual visitors.
Holbrook, All Saints is a friendly church with a wide range of interesting architectural features. Among the memorial stones in the church lies Sir John Clenche an infamous judge during the reformation, who sentenced Saint Margaret Clitherow to be crushed to death for being a catholic.
An eclectic mix of ancient and modern stained glass windows provide a wow factor at St Peter’s Church, Stutton. An ideal place to reflect and rest after walking along the nearby river bank and pubic footpath which runs along the back the playing fields of the Royal Hospital School.
There are also a colourful range of leaded windows at St Mary’s church, Tattingstone, which also houses the Western family tomb.
St Edmund is a notable presence at Wherstead’s St Mary’s church, and its mixture of Victorian and Norman makes for an interesting visit, when open. A key holder’s number is displayed. Sitting on the banks of the Orwell here are excellent views down the river and over the icon Orwell Bridge.
St Peter at Freston has an interesting war memorial in the churchyardand is close to the woods where nature provides bluebells and wild garlic.
To learn more about these churches and other places of interest, take your group on a guided trip of the area with a Shotley Peninsula Tour. www.shotleypeninsulartours.com
This feature first appeared in the Shotley Tourism Magazine 2016. Write For You
Bloody Battle At Shotley Gate
Look out over the harbour from the B&Bs, bar and restaurant at the Shipwreck Lofts and you will see the cranes of Felixstowe docks on one side, and the spires of Harwich church and Trinity Tower on the other.
The bustle of boats, ferries and container ships belies the fascinating past this estuary has witnessed.
Close your eyes and let you mind take you back to 885AD and the days of regular Viking raids down the rivers Orwell and Stour.
Fed up with these Danish raiders raping and pillaging along the east coast King Alfred the Great, yes he who is reputed to have burnt the cakes, decided it was time to give these long-horned blaggards a good old-fashioned bloody nose.
While these piratical long boats had a good time in Ipswich, or Gypeswick as it would have been known then, King Alfred of Wessex assembled his fleet in the Stour, just off Shotley cliffs and the beaches of Erwarton and Harkstead, and lay in wait.
As the Danes cruised back up the Orwell, looking to take their wealthy trove back to Guthrum, King of Danes, they faced a shocking reception just off Shotley Point, which can be seen from the old HMS Ganges, and now Shotley marina.
The two fleets collided, but Alfred had smaller more agile ships and he was able to use speed, surprise and strength to overcome the fierce pirates.
Despite a brave defence the Vikings lost 16 ships to Alfred’s sailors who gave no quarter and they landed ashore at Shotley victorious, taking what loot they could from the surviving ships.
The watery grave became known as Bloody Point (pictured above) and King Alfred suffered defeat by the Vikings when they came back and caught the fleet, which had reduced in numbers after many had returned to Kent.
The only battles taking place in the area these days are the races between yachts, including the annual sailing regatta where a member of the crew runs ashore and has pint, as can been seen when they land near Admiralty pier and run through the dinghy park area for a quick one in the Bristol Arms.
Messing About On The Water With Nancy Blackett
World famous author Arthur Ransome's lasting legacy on the Shotley peninsula can be found on land and sea.
The Arthur Ransome Trail has been set up and marked out by the volunteer Shotley Open Spaces group and follows the coastal path from the Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill to the Bristol Arms in Shotley Gate, with marker points telling the story of 'We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea' along the way.
On the river, Ransome’s Nancy Blackett has become a familiar sight sailing on the Orwell in recent years. Her presence there now – she’s based at Woolverstone Marina – is the result of her being discovered near-derelict in Scarborough Harbour, brought back to Fox’s boatyard, restored, and then bought by the Nancy Blackett Trust, which was set up to preserve her, and sail her for the benefit of Ransome fans from all over the world.
Although she was built away down south in Littlehampton, Sussex, by the Hillyard company in 1931, her true home is here on the Shotley Peninsula, as close as practical to Pin Mill, where the author of Swallows and Amazons decided to keep his newly-bought, and freshly renamed, yacht in 1935.
Arthur Ransome had made a success of his Lake District sailing stories, and fancied moving to the East Coast to get some sea-sailing. He and his Russian wife Evgenia selected the Shotley Peninsula by sticking a pin in a map, and it turned out to suit them very well, though their first home in the area was across the river in Levington.
But it was in Pin Mill that he kept his yacht, and it was here, “down the deep green lane that ended in the river itself… this happy place where almost everybody wore seaboots, and land, in comparison with water, seemed hardly to matter at all,” that he set the opening of the book that she inspired: We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea…
In the book, Nancy becomes the Goblin, “a little white cutter with red sails” that we meet right at the beginning, coming up the river. Her mooring is Nancy’s, off Harry King’s yard. Her skipper, Jim Brading, is planning to have “breakfast’’ (it’s evening) at the Butt and Oyster. The four children, the “Swallows” from Swallows and Amazons, who have just met him and helped moor the boat, are staying, with their mother and younger sister, at Alma Cottage, next door.
Alma Cottage is still there, though nowadays the name is attached only to the upper part of the terrace. In Ransome’s day the whole building, formerly the Alma pub, made up Alma Cottage and Miss Powell’s dining room was at the end nearest the river. There was a real Miss Powell – she had to learn to make omelettes after the book came out. Her brother John, “sailmaker and practical chandler” worked in the lean-to, now a shop, at the end.
There are in fact two pubs in We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea. Jim, the Goblin’s skipper doesn’t actually make it to The Butt and Oyster (never named but easily identified) though Ransome certainly did. He records returning from a cruise “In time for a sausage and shanty supper at the Butt”. The other pub is the one at Shotley, the Bristol Arms, where the Goblin’s crew come ashore to buy “Grog” (actually ginger pop) and to phone mother, after their first sail down the river.
Shotley (HMS Ganges, but again, not named) is the Naval base to which their father, Commander Walker, expected daily on the Flushing-Harwich ferry, has been posted.
As for Ransome, he eventually moved over the river, and rented Harkstead Hall to be nearer Pin Mill. He sold Nancy and had a new, larger boat, Selina King, built at King’s, before the second world war put an end to sailing and he and Evegenia moved back up north. After the war, he came back to King’s to order another boat, Peter Duck, still sailing in the area.
From Pin Mill there is a delightful shoreside walk upriver, of about a mile, through woods, and a few muddy patches, to Woolverstone, and there, if she’s not out and about, you might find Nancy Blackett.
She’s 28ft 6in long, plus the 10ft bowsprit. She’s been painstakingly restored to make sure she is just as Ransome would have known her, and as the Goblin is described in the book.
“ I say, just look down,” said Titty. They looked down into the cabin of the little ship, at blue mattresses on bunks on either side, at a little table with a chart tied down on it with string… a little white sink opposite the tiny galley where a saucepan of water was simmering on one of the two burners of a little cooking stove.
Why not visit her – she’ll have various open days throughout the summer, including the RYA’s ‘Push the Boat Out” weekend, May 14-15 – and hear more about how this humble Hillyard 7-tonner became one of the most famous boats in fiction.
- more details on the website nancyblackett.org, or phone 01394 387907.
Words Of Wisdom From Peninsula Inspired Writers
It is no surprise that the enchanting beauty of the rivers, woodlands and meadows of the beautiful Shotley Peninsula should provide such inspiration for artists and writers alike.
Julia Jones, encapsulates superbly just why authors have used the area in many of their works of fiction. Her Strong Winds trilogy is proving popular among young and old alike.
Arthur Ransome is arguably the most famous writer to glean ideas while imbibing in pubs by the riverside and discovering all manner of places for his characters to explore.
'We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is the most renowned, although he is also known to have written Secret Water and Big Six while living at Harkstead Hall.
A trail from Pin Mill to Shotley has been created to honour the 80th anniversary of Ransome’s death, and 80 years since ‘We Didn’t Mean To Go to Sea’ was published. While the Nancy Blackett can regularly be seen sailing on the Orwell.
The famous Suffolk's river gave the Eric Blair his pseudonym George Orwell, who holidayed on the peninsula.
Although very much non-fiction, Charles Darwin’s Theory of Vegetable Mould and Earthworms was partially written while a a guest of F Barnham Zincke at the Wherstead vicarage.
Whether Rudyard Kipling ever actually visited HMS Ganges or not is open to debate, but what is known is Captain William Ford in 1927 was inspired by the writer/poet.
The Ganges motto ‘Wisdom Is Strength’ is derived from the bull elephant Hathi in Jungle book by Kipling, as he represents learning and not forgetting, leadership, wisdom and of course, strength.
While Kipling’s poem ‘If’ was learnt by all boys passing through the Royal Navy’s renowned training establishment.
Finally, Alan Peck found the derelict HMS Ganges site an ideal setting for a classic whodunit with The Shotley Incident incorporating lots of local landmarks and history.
Freston Tower Is No Folly
Standing proudly some six-storeys high, Freston Tower is an impressive sight whether from the river Orwell or the fields of Freston and beyond as Joe Harvey discovered.
No one really knows why Thomas Gooding built such a monument of wealth but perceived wisdom suggest it was to wow Queen Elizabeth 1 as she travelled down river to visit Ipswich in 1579.
Eye-catching from the outside, and perfect as an early warning system to let dock workers know of returning trading ships winding their way down river on the final leg of their journey.
Legend also has it that the next owner, Edmund Latimer merchant's daughter, Ellen used the building as a home school, as was the norm for wealthy young women in those days, and each level was used daily to study, literature, maths, music, painting, needlework and astronomy on the top floor.
It is known that small pox victims were isolated in the building as they were nursed back to health and as a lookout post during World War II, especially when American serviceman were based at nearby Woolverstone and Pin Mill.
The views from the 26 windows become more awe-inspiring the higher you go either looking as far up the Orwell to the cranes at Felixstowe, or down to the modern Orwell Bridge, which a beauty of its own.
Surrounded by woodland and open fields, Freston Tower is an ideal base for walkers milking in tranquil fans and flora. The bluebells are spectacular and are swiftly followed by wild garlic in Freston woods, with an amazing aroma couple with sweeping beds of white flowers.
Migrating birds offer a different experience on a daily basis, avocets love the peaceful field when sheep are not grazing, and egrets, curlews and peregrine falcons are all regular visitors.
Each of the rooms, and the red brick exterior has been lovingly restored by the Landmark Trust and it is open to the public a couple of times a year, while it is also possible to stay on a self-catering basis.
Spring Is In The Air and Birds Are Coming Home
From avocets to woodpeckers, the abundant birdlife throughout the peninsula attracts ornithologists, keen twitchers and casual bird-watchers alike, Ian Peters, a lifelong birder and wildlife enthusiast, gave us his eagle-eyed observations.
The Shotley peninsula is unique in that it is bounded on two sides by the rivers Orwell and Stour and at it’s western edge by the Alton reservoir. With this much water about it would be hard to avoid the great numbers of wading birds and waterfowl which abound.
The Orwell which is a relatively narrow, deep channel, has good numbers of diving ducks, including Goldeneye during the winter months with high water roosts of wading birds including Curlew, Redshank, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Grey Plover using Hare’s Creek.
Shotley Marshes are still traditionally grazed during the summer months and there are occasions when they are used by breeding Lapwing, Redshank, Avocet, Gadwall and Shoveler. Gargany have also been seen in the Spring. However, it is during the autumn when hundreds of Dark-bellied Brent Geese arrive from the Taimyr Peninsular in the central Russian Arctic to overwinter on our estuaries.
The marshes also provide important feeding areas for transitory Green Sandpipers, Ruff, and wintering Snipe and Jack Snipe. Short-eared Owl can often be seen during the winter quartering the river wall and marshes and, on occasions, Bearded Tit will accompany the Reed Buntings in the reeds alongside the dykes. Stonechats overwinter and Wheatear and Whinchat can be seen on spring and autumn migration.
Southern migration starts early for some of our waders with Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Whimbrel arriving during late June.
These will be failed or non-breeders which will have passed through on their northern migration just a few months before. However, the estuaries provide a rich feeding area before they move through to their wintering grounds in Africa.
At Shotley Point, good numbers of Turnstone can be seen throughout the winter months and look particularly splendid in their summer plumage before they leave for their breeding areas in Iceland, Greenland or Arctic Russia.
he Marina generally has a few Little Grebe during the winter and breeding pairs use the dykes which criss-cross the marshes in which to breed.
The Stour is a much wider, shallower area and is favoured by thousands of wintering Knot together with Golden Plover, Wigeon and Teal. Great-crested Grebes are regularly seen during the winter and on occasions, Great Northern Diver.
Alton Reservoir has good numbers of summer visitors including several pairs of Nightingale, the males of which can be heard during May. To assist the Common Terns, floating rafts have been installed and this has resulted in a colony where large numbers of young are raised.
The area is also good for Tufted Duck and Great-crested Grebes. On sultry summer days the reservoir can play host to thousands of House Martins, Swallows and Swifts often pursued by a single or pair of Hobby, a small falcon which also winters in Africa but breeds here.
Areas which are good for viewing include The Strand, at Freston where Peregrine Falcon can be seen near the Orwell Bridge where they breed. Numbers of waders, Wigeon and Little Egret can be seen during Autumn, Winter and early Spring.
Pin Mill, on a rising tide, can be good for close views of Black-tailed Godwit and Little Egret.
Shotley Gate and Shotley Marina are good for excellent views of waders and Cormorants.
Alton Reservoir has several car parks and a path and cycle way which encircles the reservoir. There are also bird hides which can be used.
Cattawade Bridge - for wading birds.
Please keep your dog under control, especially where wading birds and wildfowl are at their high water roost. These are normally on the saltings which afford safety at high tide. However, they sometimes roost on agricultural land, especially when the saltings go under water. Since they can only feed when the tide is
low, it is important that they conserve energy whilst at roost. Please do not allow your dog to roam the saltings.
Get off the beaten track
When caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life it is easy to miss what is under our very noses on this beautiful corner of Suffolk.
The peninsula is teeming with history, culture, beautiful vistas and an amazing amount of wonderful buildings with quirky stories.
Standing tall behind woodland back from the main road is the 16th century Freston Tower, which looks out over the River Orwell standing beyond the the old Gate House in Woolverstone Park.
This red brick Tudor building, now owned by the Landmark Trust, was the creation of merchant Thomas Gooding, most probably as an elegant look out for ships arriving with goods to trade, given its 26 windows and open turret atop of its six floors.
Legend has it each floor was also used as a classroom for a different day of the week for his daughter Ellen de Freston, where she studied charity, tapestry music, painting and literature with astronomy at the very top.
Rich landowners commissioning unusual building also accounts for the Tattingstone Wonder, obvious when pointed out, but easy to pass by if you don’t know the story.
From the road it looks for all intents and purposes like a church, but it is actually a façade hiding what was originally three farm workers’ cottages.
Walkers meandering through the Heritage Wood in Shotley could easily miss the Gun Deck, which used to house a Bofor gun used to help defend the harbour. This fascinating walk also encompasses a Quarterdeck, Crow’s Nest and picnic area.
It is known that many tunnels have been burrowed under sections of the peninsula, some leading from the former HMS Ganges to churches and one to the former home of Sir Philip Parker, uncle of Anne Boleyn. Erwarton Hall still remains a majestic home with a wonderfully preserved gate house and gardens and meadows, one of which houses alpacas.
Stories about smugglers were rife in days of yore, and many locals were sympathetic to these duty evaders with many tunnels and hide outs spread along the river banks.
One of these was a home at Woolverstone marina, which became known as the Cat House. The owner used to put a stuffed cat in his front window to warn smugglers when the Excise officers were on the prowl. He later used a silhouette of the cat with a candle behind it as warning.
It is not just those up to no good who enjoy a bit of discretion. Many celebrities prefer to stay completely off the beaten track, living in homes with high walls and secluded secrecy.
It says a lot about Griff Rhys Jones’ determination to keep it real, be involved in peninsula life and contributing to the ecological welfare of the area, with his country home backing on to an unimpeded right of way.
His gardens and wild meadow field are a pleasure to wander past as countryside meets the Stour.
To find out more about these and other interesting features scattered across the peninsula go to: www.shotley.peninsulartours.com.
This feature written by Write For You, was first published in the 2016 Shotley Peninsula magazine.
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