Author: Georgia Roworth
Woodbridge is a historic riverside town with masses of character, located just nine miles from Ipswich, the county town of Suffolk.
Close by are the sites of Sutton Hoo, an Anglo-Saxon burial site, and Rendlesham Forest, famous for its UFO sightings in the nineteen-eighties.
The river Deben is the perfect place to begin exploring the town, featuring long riverside walks that take you from Woodbridge to neighbouring Melton, and even on to the seaside town of Felixstowe. Viewing the river from the benches close to Tide Mill Quay, the flowing water has a calming effect. Boats of all shapes and sizes are moored in the marina, drifting back and forth in the breeze. Artists line the water’s edge in summer months, painting their intricate silhouettes.
The paths are well-maintained and wheelchair accessible, with seats positioned at key viewing points. Wildflowers coat the meadows and there is an array of wildlife; oystercatchers, terns, redshank and even a few local seals!
With both the Deben Rowing Club and Deben Yacht Club situated along the river, the water sees lots of action, yachts racing alongside the swans and geese that drift past peacefully. Speedboats zoom by and gulls land on the ripples they leave behind.
The water glitters with the slightest ray of sun, the fields and forests opposite creating a complimentary green to the river’s blue. The benches are often taken by people enjoying the view and the tranquillity. Children run along the banks and dog walkers enjoy the fresh air.
Further down the banks of the Deben, is the charming Tea Hut, a perfect refreshment stop on a long river walk. Next to the Tea Hut, is a model boat pond, which is enjoyed by families of all ages. Both sites back on to the Kingston Avenue Recreation Ground, which features a children’s play area, playing fields and tennis courts.
Also along the river’s edge is the eye-catching brilliant white building of the Tide Mill. One of only a few working mills left in the country, a mill has stood on the site for the past eight hundred years. The mill has a working water wheel and is now an interactive museum for all the family to enjoy. It still produces stone-ground wholemeal flour to this day, made using wheat grown locally in East Anglia. Nearby bakeries and restaurants including Honey and Harvey and The Cake Shop on Thoroughfare, and The Turks Head pub in Hasketon use flour made at Tide Mill.
Woodbridge museum can also be found on Tide Mill Way. A volunteer run organisation, this small but fascinating museum details the history of the town and surrounding areas, taking a visitor from the Anglo-Saxon settlements, through the middle ages and to the present day.
Moving away from the river and taking the tall metal steps over the railway tracks, you will pass the Riverside Theatre. With a restaurant and cosy cinema, it makes a good venue for an evening out. Deben leisure centre is also nearby, with a swimming pool, sauna room and gym available for use.
You will next pass The Anchor as you head towards the town centre, a traditional quayside pub serving food and drink, including meals made from local ingredients. The pub’s bright exterior is eye-catching, with a courtyard to enjoy on warmer days.
The town centre hosts an assortment of shops including many boutique stores. One popular location is Browser’s Bookshop. Located in the heart of Woodbridge, it is one of the area’s leading independent book stores and has existed since the nineteen-sixties. The shop also hosts and organises a wide range of events, including author visits from children’s writer Michael Morpurgo, and comedian Griff Rhys Jones.
The winding high street has several areas to it, including the fascinatingly named ‘Gobbitts Yard’. Cafes and bakeries line the street, selling homemade sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks.
For those visitors looking to stay in Woodbridge and who would like to be close to all the sights, The Crown, a modern inn and restaurant is situated on Thoroughfare. Quaint cottages are also available to rent, and there is a glamping site a fifteen-minute walk away.
A beautiful feature of Market Hill, a one-minute walk from Gobbitts Yard, is the Shire Hall. Originally built by Thomas Seckford, it has stood for over four hundred years and was used for judicial purposes until recent times. Markets and other events are often held on Market Hill around Shire Hall, bringing a crowd of people to the area.
The Kings Head pub and The Bull Hotel are also both close by, good food and drink destinations. Also nearby on Theatre Street, is The Angel, one of the oldest pubs in Suffolk. Its website states ‘the Angel has always been an Inn, the earliest record of it is listed as ‘well established in 1153’, and the pub definitely has a feel of times gone by. The pub is a gin specialist, with a wide selection of gins and ales, and is a live music venue.
St Mary’s Church is also situated on Market Hill. Historical leaflets are available inside this beautiful building, which tell of the present church, that dates from the fifteenth century, and previous churches that are thought to have existed on the site since the tenth century.
For those visitors with a car, several interesting sites are just a short drive away. Seckford Theatre, which is located on the grounds of Woodbridge School, is a three hundred and fifty seat building. It hosts a variety of arts performances including The Royal Ballet.
Also a short drive is Ufford Park, a hotel, eighteen-hole golf course, health club and spa resort. With various packages available including use of the relaxing thermal suite, there are lots of options for a day of self-care. For younger visitors, Ufford Park also features an extremely fun and interactive adventure golf course called Congo Rapids Lost World. With platforms and ropes to pull yourself across the small ‘river’, giant dinosaur and wild animal statues, and a truly immersive setting, the course is a lot of fun for all the family.
There is a whole host of fascinating historical sites and enjoyable attractions in the town of Woodbridge, perfect for a family day out.
This guide was written by:
Suffolk Writers Group