Orwell Country Park has three main sites, all of which are the hinterland to the Orwell Estuary:
Bridge Wood is an area of 74 acres, designated as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR), County Wildlife Site (CWS) and Ancient Woodland. The woodland is predominantly made of native broad-leaved woodland, pine and sycamore plantation. It is thought that Bridge Wood could have got its name from an old Roman crossing point known as a bridge. This path was made up of shale and stone and allowed people to cross the river at low tide. A band of shale can still be seen today at low tide near the present Orwell Bridge.
Pond Hall Farm is a Grade II listed building which lies between Bridge Wood and Pipers Vale. In the Middle Ages it was part of the Manor de Alnesbourne et Ponds. It has been suggested that here ponds does not refer to a small pool, but comes from the Latin meaning bridge. As it is a busy working farm, please keep to the footpaths around the farm and ensure dogs are under control and on a lead.
Braziers Wood is designated as an Ancient Woodland with the adjacent meadow also designated as a County Wildlife Site, covering a total area of 30 hectares. Currently, the woodland is predominantly made up of birch, oak, hazel and alder. Braziers Wood consists largely of a central valley with a small spring-fed brook. There are a wide variety of habitats and species to be found in and immediately around this small valley. On the steeper slopes there are areas of ancient woodland made up of mature oak and silver birch trees. In the valley bottom unimproved grassland grades into wet marsh and alder carr woodland. These wet areas are dominated in spring by opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, moschatel and marsh marigolds. Braziers Meadow joins the Ravenswood estate with Braziers Wood, connecting local wildlife sites for the movement of wildlife across the former Ipswich Airfield.
Known locally as ‘The Lairs’, a dialect word meaning a piece of rough recreational land, Piper’s Vale Local Nature Reserve and County Wildlife Site covers an area of 37 acres located on the south-eastern edge of Ipswich. A remnant of the Suffolk coastal Sandlings that once stretched from Ipswich to Lowestoft, Piper’s Vale boasts a variety of habitats spread across the adjoined sites of Elm Hill, Pond Hall Carr and Pond Hall Meadow, including lowland acid grassland, heathland, scrub, reedbed, alder carr and deciduous woodland. More than 100 species of birds have been recorded in the alder carr and deciduous woodland area alone, including linnet, bullfinch and nightingale. In recent years efforts have been made to revert some areas of scrub back to heathland to help rare heathland species.
Orwell Country Park has six pedestrian entrances and two entrances with car parks. Find out where each of them are located and get directions.