The Trust aim to restore as much as possible of the original line of the tow path alongside the river, and improve the walking experience by ensuring the path can be walked in summer without being attacked by nettles and brambles. With the upcoming completion of the permissive path and footbridge at Baylham, restoration of the towpath at Claydon and above Hawkes Mill around 2 miles of the original tow path route adjacent to the river will have been restored this year (2023). But there are still many more areas where the path deviates away from the river and where walkers loose sight of the river. Originally the tow path hugged the navigation all the way from Ipswich to Stowmarket, without any trees or vegetation between it and the waterway. It had to be like this in order for the horses to pull the barges along without obstructions.
The Trust Plan to improve the footpath
With 3km of towpath reinstated within phase 1 in 2023, the Trust plan to work on phase 2 and 3 next year (2024).
Many parts of the current footpath have 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.
Restoring the footpath to the original Towpath line
The photos below, taken just above Needham lock and Alder Carr Farm, are a good example of nettle and weed growth between the path and river. At various locations this can be just a few feet wide, but often 20 feet or more. Cutting areas like this once per month, every month will almost totally eradicate the Himalayan Balsam between path and river, which is where it does most damage. Likely the newly mown area will become the natural footpath, and the tow path route will be restored back to where it originally was. With the Trust’s new Footbridge now open, and phase 1 complete volunteers will start on phase 2 and 3 restoration work late in 2023, after the bird nesting season.