3km of newly opened towpath alongside the river has recently been opened to the public. A 1km stretch at Claydon, probably impassable for 15 years. A 1km permissive path stretch at Baylham over a new footbridge closed to the public for around 100 years. And a 1km stretch between Needham Market and Stowmarket that forced the path away from the river bank has been restored. All opened this year and all done by Trust volunteers.
The footpath along the River Gipping (The Gipping Valley River Path) is based mainly on the old towing path used by the barge men and their horses. It was adopted by Suffolk County Council in the 1970s and became an official Long Distance path. But there are many sections of the path that are not alongside the river and therefore don’t follow the original towpath line. The Trust aim to restore more riverside towpath later this year and next (outside the bird nesting season).
This Years (2023) Towpath Restoration Work
Claydon Towpath - Now Open
Trust volunteers have reinstated the towpath between the two road bridges at Claydon, thought to have been closed for 15 years, and have made improvements to the footpath leading to it. Tree branches overhanging the path have been cut back and brambles and nettles cleared. Volunteers will mow the path once per month during the growing season.
Baylham Permissive Path - Now Open
Trust volunteers have been working on this permissive path and footbridge for the past 2 years, reinstating the old towpath line lost some 100 years ago. The path will be maintained by Trust volunteers with a mow once per month during the growing season. We are confident that this will also assist greatly with the eradication of Himalayan Balsam, which is very prevalent along this stretch of the river.
Hawkes Mill Towpath - Now Open
Trust volunteers have cleared the overgrowth between the river and the footpath allowing the path to migrate back alongside the river bank where it initially was. The plan is to continue this further upstream later this year and early 2024 between the bird nesting season. The path and overgrowth will then be cut once per month during the growing season.
Restoring the Towpath
Trust volunteers will, through 2023, strive to keep the footpath between Bramford Mill and Badley lock (above Needham) clear of nettles and brambles with a once per month cut, allowing walkers to walk in shorts without being stung or cut. Originally constructed to allow horses to tow barges along the canalised river between Ipswich and Stowmarket. The towpath was immediately adjacent to the river with no trees or any obstructions in between. Many parts of the current footpath have trees, nettle and weed growth between the path and the river, which in the height of summer grow above head height, blocking views and making sections of the path impassable, and thus reducing the walking experience of a riverside walk. Keeping the path adjacent to the river will also dramatically reduce the growth of Himalayan Balsam and the known bankside erosion it causes. It has been established that constant cutting and mowing areas of Himalayan Balsam can completely eradicate the invasive plant after a two year period. With sufficient volunteer resources the plan is to expand this further up and downstream in 2024. Future Towpath Restoration Plans here
If you are aware of any footpath obstructions between Paper Mill and Badley please drop us an email and we will do our best to clear it Ian Petchey Unfortunately our limited resources limit us to area. We would love to do more and with more volunteers we could. If you are interested in volunteering, see more here