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  • janenewaudby

The River Deben

Technically speaking, Temptress (the boat) is Temptress of Deben, so the Deben (in Suffolk) is her spiritual home. Its hard to appreciate this incredible river from the land. For a start, getting into it requires some planning. The entrance to the Deben is guarded by dangerous shifting shingle banks. Most boats can only get over these banks for a few hours either side of high water. To get in, you have to follow a narrow channel in between the largest banks, while ensuring that the South going tide doesn't run you aground. At the last marker, only tens of metres from the shore, you hang a sharp right and follow the shingle beach Northwards to the mouth of the river. It feels quite dramatic because of the proximity of the shore. You could hold a conversation with the dog walkers on the beach if it wasn't for the speed of the inward rushing tide. Whoaaaa! Pretty soon the flood tide sucks you in past the ramshackle collection of huts and boats at Felixstowe Ferry on the left. On the North bank is a row of Ministry of Defence houses with old Bawdsey Manor behind. This was where radar was developed during WWII.

All of a sudden, the pace of life slows. Fields, woods, mud banks and salt marsh open up around you, all underneath the huge Suffolk skies. A few boats may follow you in but eventually, as the tide turns, the door to the Deben "shuts". All this and the cries of the wading birds emphasise this river's sense of peace. Sunsets here are spectacular. Park yourself opposite the Ramsholt Arms (unfortunately smartened up of late) and row ashore. Enjoy a pint in the setting sun. Maybe walk up to the Church across the water meadow teaming with butterflies. If you follow the sea wall Northwards all the way around the corner you will find a muddy beach called "The Rocks" where you can search for fossils. Coprolite used to be harvested here to make fertiliser for Suffolk fields, and you can still find this and fossilised sharks' teeth in abundance. This River is marked all along by its ancient past. In 625 King Raedwald, the first King of East Anglia was buried in his 90 foot longship on a hill overlooking the Deben at Sutton Hoo. The discovery of his burial mound full of treasure was one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century.

The River even has relevance to us potters. Annie Turner makes all her work inspired by the Deben. I have a notion to collect some Deben mud to incorporate this in some work....

All this and the fossils and the timelessness of the landscape make the Deben a worm hole to another place. Its mood changes through the seasons. Try it on a cool September or October morning with the mists rolling in, or a September late evening when the water is still warm and sparks with phosphorescence. Try it on a blue and breezy Summer day with the children playing on the sandy beach by the Ramsholt Arms, or on a winter afternoon when it feels about as bleak and grey as its possible to be (though you might see a seal). If you want to go somewhere that is the same as it was 500 years ago and will be the same in about 500 years from now, go say hello to the Deben.

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