~I will build my house in the house wood
Within a walk of the sea
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Shall sit and drink with me~
The small community of Pin Mill lies as near to the river as can be. Somehow it has managed to retain a delightful reminder of days past, when those workhorses of the water, barges, were built here, just as they were in almost every salt water creek of the south and east of England. It is now one of the few places where men with the old skills of the shipwright can be found to repair and prolong the lives of these beautiful craft. As a result, we are fortunate to see more than our fair share sailing to and from Pin Mill, and the sight of one beating her way along the ever changing Ipswich river certainly adds a dimension to any cruise. 1973 saw the last of the commercially operated barges, but, thanks to far sighted enthusiasts, approximately 30 of them have been salvaged from a rotting death and they collect at Buttermans Bay early in July each year for the Pin Mill Barge Match. That really is a sight to warm the hearts of all who can appreciate the skill and loving care that went into the building of every one of them.
There is a pub at Pin Mill which typically has been built with the water actually lapping around its foundations; it is called the ~Butt and Oyster~ and if only its old stones could talk! At high water yachtsmen could be served whilst still aboard from the windows of the pub and it is reputed to have been a secret rendezvous for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor when he was Prince of Wales and she was Mrs Simpson, awaiting her degree nisi in Felixstowe.
The very name ~Butt and Oyster~ indicates connections going back to mediaeval times when every able man was required to spend two weeks a year practising the art of archery, the better to defend his local community from foreign invaders. The field where the archery practice took place was called the butts, and until comparatively recent times, oysters were to be found in nearly all the lovely reaches of the River Orwell.
The charm of this region is its simplicity and lack of so-called sophistication. Pin Mill is a happy example of this, and its name refers to the fact that mills for the grinding of locally grown corn were situated here.
A ferry used to leave from the hard at Pin Mill carrying folk across the river to land by the picture postcard thatched cottage on the opposite bank until the end of the 19th century.
The pleasure boats that carried large numbers of people between Ipswich, Harwich and Felixstowe when the L.N.E.R. operated the service, landed passengers and took them aboard just off Pin Mill, and what a lovely picture it conjures. Excited children out for the day, clambering aboard from the tiny tender that rowed them out to the deeper draft boats for a day, or shopping in Ipswich. Elderly matrons being heaved and pushed helpfully to and from the ~Queens of the River~. The Orwell was in those days a far quicker, smoother and reliable highway than the roads.
.........and so we now leave Orwell Lady to continue her journey down the river, taking in several more places of interest. Then, weather permitting, viewing the two Ports of Felixstowe and Harwich from Harwich Harbour before turning homewards for Ipswich.
We hope that you have enjoyed your little ~cyber cruise~ and that perhaps one day we will have the opportunity of welcoming you aboard Orwell Lady.
© 2010 Orwell River Cruises Limited
March 16, 2015