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Ipswich & Stowmarket Navigation

Ipswich & Stowmarket Navigation

The River Gipping Trust aims to restore limited navigation between Ipswich and Stowmarket in Suffolk. 

The navigation is believed to be John Rennie’s first-ever completed canal project, opening to navigation in 1793 with 15 locks over the 16-mile length, and suitable for 14ft-wide and 55ft-long barges. Fourteen of the 15 lock chambers remain, with water flowing through them all, but none has lock gates and water levels drop significantly during summer, with some places drying up completely. 

The trust has recently installed a new footbridge over the river above Baylham, replacing one lost some 100 years ago. Its new platform has been built on existing 230-year-old brick bridge abutments, restored using around 500 original bricks recovered from the bottom of the riverbed. Without the towpath footbridge, around 1km of footpath was lost alongside the river. The new footpath gives walkers a much-improved walking experience between Baylham and Needham Market, along the old towpath route.

The trust plans to open a 3km length of the navigation between the popular Needham Lakes visitor centre and Baylham Rare Breeds Farm suitable for an electric trip-boat and canoes. Three lock chambers have been restored: Bosmere, Creeting and Baylham, with Pipps Ford Lock very nearly restored with a new bywash. All four locks await lock gates. Following two pre-feasibility studies in 2019, the trust is now progressing with an Ecological Scoping study of the 3km stretch, which it is hoped will provide evidence that biodiversity can be improved with the introduction of boats and a sustained water level depth. With a successful scoping study, the trust will apply for grant funding for a full feasibility study, which will establish in detail all the implications involved in restoring the 3km section of navigation, together with estimated costs.

The trust aims to improve the towpath along the river to provide a more pleasurable experience for walkers and to make improvements along the course of the river to enhance biodiversity and to deliver a beautiful and natural place to take exercise and enjoy leisure pursuits. The trust has recently planted over 350 trees alongside the old towpath, away from the river but close enough to give some shade from the sun in years to come. Over the last two years over 700 trees have been planted by trust volunteers, with thanks to I-Dig-Trees which supplied the trees.

Top picture: Vegetation clearance around old brick abutments on the Ipswich & Stowmarket Navigation

March 2022

Reestablishing the towpath on the Stowmarket Navigation
Reestablishing the towpath on the Stowmarket Navigation.

Navigation Authority


East Anglian Waterways Association

River Gipping Trust