Up the River Deben

A brief guide to the River Deben from the RYA

A brief guide to the River Deben

The Deben flows for 25 miles from Debenham, nestled in the Suffolk countryside, down to the North Sea. On it’s way it passes through Woodbridege with its famous Tide Mill, past some great watering holes and anchorages to finally wash out at Felixstow Ferry. It has also held it’s fair share of secrets, one of which changed the course of World War 2.

Tide Mill at Woodbridge

The Tide Mill at Woodbridge

The entrance across the bar to the River Deben is liable to change, however there are regular updates available on the internet with local pilotage chartlets so entry is usually straightforward so long as you enter in good conditions and with up to date information. If it’s your first time the Harbour Master at Felixstowe Ferry can offer up to date advice or do your own research to gain up to date pilotage information.

Deben entrance looking NE

Deben entrance looking NE. Bawdsey Manor (left) – Martello Tower (Left) and Deben Bar (Right)


Felixstowe Ferry

Once safely past the bar at Woodbridge Haven and into the mouth of the Deben, Felixstowe Ferry is tucked away behind the spit on the port hand side. It is home to the Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club, a boatyard and the Harbourmaster. The boatyard operate a foot ferry service to Bawdsey on the other side of the river and also offer a water taxi servicing the nearby moorings. There’s a cafe, pub and ice cream stall and the area is usually busy with people launching boats.

Felixstowe Ferry slipway (left) and fishing huts (chart point 1)


Bawdsey Quay is usually reached by the foot ferry. It is home to Bawdsey Manor which from 1936 was the operational and research headquarters for the development of the worlds first Radar system controlling a chain of transmitters along the coast to give prior warning of aerial attack . Today the Bawdsey Manor is privately owned but a Radar museum is in existance and the manor itself is available to visit if contacted beforehand.

Ramsholt Reach

Keep to starboard as you head past Felixstow Ferry to avoid Horse Sand Shoal which is slap bang in the middle of the river. Deeper water is found to the East of the shoal. The river snakes North and North West with the Falkenham marshes to port and the Ramsholt marshes to starboard. The quay at Ramsholt and the distinctive Ramsholt Arms come into view on the Starboard bank. The Pub and the neighbouring All Saints church are well worth a visit. Moorings are sometimes available at Ramsholt or anchor further North near The Rocks and Prettymans point.

Ramsholt Quay

Ramsholt Quay with the Ramsholt Arms in the background (chart point 2)

Ramsholt Arms

The Ramsholt Arms.


After Prettymans Point and The Rocks the channel heads north passing port lateral marks 4 and 6 then North West to starboard lateral marks 1 and 1a. The channel near Walderingfield looks wide at high water but in fact the deep water channel stays close to the Waldringfield bank and the Sailing Club comes into view first closely followed by the Maybush Inn and the Waldringfield Boat Yard. There is a small slipway in between the Inn and the boat yard and there are numerous moorings in the area. If you are picking up a mooring it is wise to contact the Harbourmaster or Boatyard for advice. There are good anchorages at “The Rocks” (between Waldringfield and Ramsholt) and at “The Tips” (upriver of the moorings). Do not anchor in the channel and do not moor to any racing marks.

Waldringfield Sailing Club

Waldringfield Sailing Club (chart point 3)

Maybush Inn

The Maybush Inn (left). Slipway (centre) and the Waldringfield Boat Yard (right) (chart point 4)

Approach to Woodbridge

After Waldringfield the buoyed channel narrows, passing close to Methersgate Quay and entering an area of moorings. When you reach red lateral 14 you enter an area called Troublesome Reach. The channel splits and you have the choice of following the shallow Loders Cut to the North North West marked by posts or the deeper channel which first heads South West towards the green lateral marks before heading North North East and Woodbridge in the distance. Take it slow and easy from here on in and ensure you identify the next mark as some buoyage gets lost behind moored boats.


Moorings on the approach to Woodbridge chart point 5


Whilst shallow, the channel is well buoyed and simple to follow from here onwards. Woodbridge is an unusally large town after the sparsly inhabited banks of the River Deben, with plenty of boats alongside quays giving a glimse back in time. Woodbridge itself dries so anyone wishing to moor up alongside the quays should be capable of taking the ground. Two sailing clubs are located at Woodbridge, the Deben Yacht Club and the Woodbridge Cruising Club. Vistors mooring are available by contacting the Boatyards.

Woodbridge Tide Mill

Woodbridge Tide Mill (chart point 6)

Dating back to 1793 the Woodbridge Tide Mill stands tall and gleaming white, and was the last commercially working tide mill in the UK. It is now a museum and has been restored to working order. Records show a tide mill has operated on the site since 1170 harnessing reliable energy from the tide to drive the mill to produce flour and animal feed. Behind the mill, the Tide Mill Yacht Harbour has a sill providing water at all states of tide within the marina. The Yacht Harbour provide an online tide table giving the times of access across the sill. A tide gauge situated ontop of the sill gives a clear indication of depth over the sill.


Entrance to Tide Mill Yacht Harbour with tide gauge inset (chart point 7)

Further upriver there is the Granary Yacht Harbour which dries at low water but has alongside berthing.

Fact file


Felixstowe Ferry Boat Yard www.felixstoweboats.co.uk
Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club
Waldringfield Boat Yard
Waldringfield Sailing Club
Tide Mill Yacht Harbour
Deben Yacht Club
Woodbridge Cruising Club www.woodbridgecruisingclub.org
Robertsons Boat yard www.robertsons-boatyard.co.uk
Eversons Boats www.eversonboats.co.uk
Granary Yacht Harbour www.granary-yacht-harbour.co.uk



Felixstowe Ferry Harbour Master
Ch 8 or phone 01394 270106
or 0780 3476621
Felixstowe Ferry Boat Yard
01394 282173
Waldringfield Boat Yard
01473 736260
Tide Mill Yacht Harbour
01394 385745





3.6m MHWS 4.0
MLWS 0.4
Neap 2.3m MHWN 3.4
MLWN 1.1




Woodbridge Haven
Range Heights
Spring 3.2m MHWS 3.7
MLWS 0.5
Neap 1.9m MHWN 2.9 MLWN 1.0



Woodbridge Range Heights
Spring 3.6m
MHWS 4.0
MLWS 0.4
Neap 2.2m
MHWN 3.1 MLWN 0.9



There are no set anchorages on the River Deben, if your boat is capable of taking the ground it is possible to anchor along most of the river provided you keep clear of the moorings.



Imray Y16
Admiralty SC5607

Click chart to enlarge




Chart Y16 is reproduced with the kind permission of Imray. www.imray.com

Chart copyright UKHO. www.ukho.gov.uk

Words & pictures By Simon & Vicky Jinks, SeaRegs www.searegs.co.uk
©SeaRegs 2012

© Crown Copyright and/or database rights. Reproduced by permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office and the UK Hydrographic Office (www.ukho.gov.uk).

This material is not for resale, redistribution or copying.
Not to be used for navigation.