The Allen Gardiner cruises an area rich in both wildlife and history. Leaving from Ipswich Haven Marina at the Wet Dock on Ipswich’s historic waterfront, she passes through the Prince Philip Lock to join the tidal river on its journey to the North Sea. We are now in the Port of Ipswich, twelve miles from the sea. Ipswich handles general cargoes and has an interesting industrial landscape including the now converted Felaw Maltings and the Tolly Cobbold Brewery at Cliff Quay. It has been the largest grain port in England as well as the largest timber port. Amongst its berths is a RORO (roll on, roll off) vehicle terminal.
We soon pass beneath the landmark Orwell Bridge towering above the river and allowing shipping access to the port. By contrast, the next ten miles is one of the most picturesque river shorelines in East Anglia, wonderfully preserved by several large country estates bordering the river. In previous centuries, the landowners of Wherstead Hall, Freston Park, Orwell Park, Broke Hall and Woolverstone Hall created the beauty of this section of the river. Sailing has always been important to the river, even before King John granted a charter to Ipswich in 1199. Charles the Second upgraded the Naval Dockyard at Harwich to Royal status in 1674, and smuggling has been rife for centuries. Today, it is the home to hundreds of recreational yachtsmen. Picturesque Pin Mill has been renowned as a centre for spritsail (or topsail or Thames) barges, and the banks of the river are the home to marinas at Woolverstone, Levington and Shotley, as well as the Royal Harwich Yacht Club.
Finally, at its confluence with the River Stour, the Orwell enters Harwich Harbour. Here are the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Parkeston Quay. The Port of Felixstowe is the largest container port in Great Britain with its ability to handle the largest container ships in the world. It is an incredible experience to pass close beneath these towering giants while 40 foot containers are unloaded and loaded by some of the largest gantries in the world. At the other side of the harbour, Harwich has an important RNLI station and is the home of the world-respected Trinity House, responsible for navigational aids from buoys to lighthouses throughout Britain.
Winter and summer, there is an ever changing backdrop to accompany your meal aboard the Allen Gardiner. Every cruise includes a detailed commentary on both the fascinating history of the river and the wildlife which inhabits it.