Friday, 4 November 2016

Creek Focus - Levington Creek

Entrance to the delightful Levington Creek in the River Orwell, Suffolk, lies on the northern bank of Long Reach 4 miles or so upriver from Harwich Harbour and the open coast of the North Sea.
At just under half a mile in overall length it has a mouth of approximately 250' wide which quickly narrows to half that as you meander in a north-westerly direction to follow its broad and subtly snaking contour. 

 Navigation charts indicate a depth of 2.5 to 3.5 meters above Chart Datum but in all practicality I find it has a small gut of around 5' deep (1.5m) on a high water neap tide which can be picked out with a sounding cane, with shallower margins abutted by mud and saltmarsh and, unlike much of the river, low, grassy seawalls. At high water the creek resembles a mill pond and the holding is as secure as a new baby is snug in a cradle after a bottle of warm milk: ie a sound sleep on good old soft mud is the order of the day.

The head of Levington Creek resembles a mill pond and is typical of many creeks I visit
The surrounding countryside views from the creek are of dense wood interspersed with green carpets of rising ground where sheep graze and a peppering of mature oaks are crowned by the red brick tower of St Peters Church which, sitting as it does on top of a hill overlooking the creek and River Orwell, gives one a sense of bygone days and is on the south-eastern edge of the small, peaceful and rural village of Levington. 

View of St Peters at night
Those who like to step ashore to stretch the legs and wet the throat can make the short climb up to Pilots Way, an unmade footpath once used by ship pilots to reach the river and escort ships up to Ipswich, to the 13th century Ship Inn which has a thatched roof, inglenook fireplace and takes its name from the ship’s beams that were used to build it and is just along from the church. At night the church tower is lit up and makes quite a picture standing out in the blackness of night. The sound of curlews can be heard calling throughout the dark hours and if one anchors lower down the creek, and looks to the south-east, there is a glow of light illuminating ships docked at the Port of Felixtowe. 

Just outside the village, to the west, is Broke Hall, once the home of Rear Admiral Phillip Bowes Vere Broke who commanded the celebrated HMS Shannon in the US-GB war of 1812. And, like many other creeks on this coast, there are one or two worn wooden stumps - likely remains from the days of sail when barges would have typically poked and pulled a way to a small rural farm wharf, like the one near the head of this type of creek, and collect corn and other farm produce to be taken to places like Ipswich six miles upriver or down the coast to London or, on return journeys, deliver horse muck from the city’s streets for use as fertilizer on the surrounding farm fields. Here at Levington it’s possible barges carried another cargo as well for during the early 18th century a local farmer was the first person to dig up coprolite from crag ground and found if spread on poor land the phosphate mineral acted as a kind of super fertilizer thus word spread and many fortunes were made when it became a sort after bulk material near and far.

The beauty of Suffolk Sea-Country; all yours for the taking 
Mornings see godwits feeding on the tide-lines of the incoming flood, and one particular glorious morning I was lucky enough to sit and watch a seal swimming around the boat in two and a half feet of gin-clear water. A short distance downstream and not visible from inside the creek is a marina – Suffolk Yacht Harbour - home to 550 moorings and a forest of yacht masts where you can pay for a visitor mooring. However, this classic East Coast creek anchorage will likely be all yours alone, bar curlews, godwits and seals, free for the taking… Happy cruising, Tony - Creeksailor

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