River Orwell
The River Orwell flows through the county
A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain modern nations. Historically in mainland Europe, the original French term, comté, and its equivalents in other languages denoted a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain...

 of Suffolk
Suffolk is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east...

 in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. Its source river, above the tidal limit at Stoke Bridge, is known as the River Gipping
River Gipping
The River Gipping is the source river for the River Orwell in the county of Suffolk in East Anglia, England, which gave its name to the former Gipping Rural District and the village of Gipping....

. It broadens into an estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 at Ipswich
Ipswich is a large town and a non-metropolitan district. It is the county town of Suffolk, England. Ipswich is located on the estuary of the River Orwell...

 where the Ipswich dock
Ipswich dock
The Ipswich Dock, is the area of land around the dock in the town of Ipswich at a bend of the River Orwell which has been used for trade since at least the 8th Century. A wet dock was constructed in 1842 which was 'the biggest enclosed dock in the kingdom' at the time...

 has operated since the 7th century and then flows into the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 at Felixstowe
Felixstowe is a seaside town on the North Sea coast of Suffolk, England. The town gives its name to the nearby Port of Felixstowe, which is the largest container port in the United Kingdom and is owned by Hutchinson Ports UK...

 after joining with the River Stour
River Stour, Suffolk
The River Stour is a river in East Anglia, England. It is 76 km long and forms most of the county boundary between Suffolk to the north, and Essex to the south. It rises in eastern Cambridgeshire, passes to the east of Haverhill, through Cavendish, Sudbury and the Dedham Vale, and joins the...

 at Shotley
Shotley, Suffolk
Shotley is the parish giving its name to the peninsula between the River Orwell and the River Stour in Suffolk. The village of the same name is located about a mile northwest from the tip of the peninsula where the larger Shotley Gate village is...

. The large Orwell Bridge
Orwell Bridge
The Orwell Bridge was opened to road traffic in 1982 and carries the A14 over the River Orwell just south of Ipswich in Suffolk, England....

 carries the A14 trunk road over the estuary just east of Ipswich.


In the name Orwell, Or- comes from an ancient river-name — probably pre-Celtic; but -well probably indicates an Anglo-Saxon naming. In A tour through England and Wales written in 1722, Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe , born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, and pamphleteer, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain and along with others such as Richardson,...

 calls the river "Orwel" (though does this inconsistently). He also mentions that "a traveller will hardly understand me, especially a seaman, when I speak of the River Stour and the River Orwell at Harwich, for they know them by no other names than those of Maningtre-Water, and Ipswich-Water". The writer Eric Blair chose the pen name under which he would later become famous, "George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

", because of his love for the river.


The Orwell provides a popular venue for sailing
Sailing is the propulsion of a vehicle and the control of its movement with large foils called sails. By changing the rigging, rudder, and sometimes the keel or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to move the boat relative to its surrounding medium and...

. Interest originally centred on the hamlet of Pin Mill (featured in two children's novels by Arthur Ransome
Arthur Ransome
Arthur Michell Ransome was an English author and journalist, best known for writing the Swallows and Amazons series of children's books. These tell of school-holiday adventures of children, mostly in the Lake District and the Norfolk Broads. Many of the books involve sailing; other common subjects...

: We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea
We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea
We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea is the seventh book in Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series of children's books. It was published in 1937. In this book, the Swallows are the only recurring characters...

and Secret Water
Secret Water
Secret Water is the eighth book in Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series of children's books. It was published in 1939.This book is set in and around Hamford Water in Essex, close to the resort town of Walton-on-the-Naze. It brings the Swallows and the Amazons together and introduces a new...

) and its "hard", and is home to the Pin Mill Sailing Club. A charming film, "Ha'penny Breeze," was made in Pin Mill, featuring a yacht that was based in the area. For many years Pin Mill was a centre for the repair of Thames sailing barges. During World War II, Pin Mill was home to Royal Navy MLs (Motor Launch
Motor Launch
A Motor Launch is a small military vessel in British navy service. It was designed for harbour defence and submarine chasing or for armed high speed air-sea rescue....

es) and to a degaussing
Degaussing is the process of decreasing or eliminating an unwanted magnetic field. It is named after Carl Friedrich Gauss, an early researcher in the field of magnetism...

 vessel created from a herring drifter, and prior to the Normandy invasion in 1944 was also home port, with Woolverstone
Woolverstone is a village and civil parish in the Babergh district of Suffolk in eastern England. In 2005 it had a population of 240.The village is situated close to the southern shore of the Orwell estuary in Suffolk, England...

, to many LCTs (Landing Craft, Tanks
Landing craft tank
The Landing Craft, Tank was an amphibious assault ship for landing tanks on beachheads. They were initially developed by the British Royal Navy and later by the United States Navy during World War II in a series of versions. Initially known as the "Tank Landing Craft" by the British, they later...

) used in the invasion.

Since the 1970s marinas have opened at Levington
Levington is a small village in the Suffolk Coastal District, in the county of Suffolk. Levington has a church called St Peters Church and a pub. It is near the large town of Ipswich and the village of Nacton. A viking ship was once found in Levington....

 (Suffolk Yacht Harbour, pictured), Woolverstone, Fox's (just outside Ipswich), and two marinas in the old Ipswich Wet Dock
Ipswich dock
The Ipswich Dock, is the area of land around the dock in the town of Ipswich at a bend of the River Orwell which has been used for trade since at least the 8th Century. A wet dock was constructed in 1842 which was 'the biggest enclosed dock in the kingdom' at the time...

. Woolverstone is home to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club that was for many years host to the Swordfish 15-foot racing dinghy built by Fairey Marine
Fairey marine
Fairey Marine Ltd was a boat building company based on the River Hamble, Southampton, England. The company was created in the late 1940s by Sir Charles Richard Fairey and Fairey Aviation's Managing Director, Mr. Chichester-Smith. Both were avid sailing enthusiasts along with Chichester-Smith's good...

, in addition to its 12-foot Firefly, a derivative of the National 12-foot dinghy, both designed by the great sailor Uffa Fox
Uffa Fox
Uffa Fox CBE was an English boat designer and sailing enthusiast.-Life:Uffa Fox was born on the Isle of Wight and was raised in East Cowes. He lived for a while in Puckaster on the Isle of Wight.-Work:...



On 1 September 2011 6 members from the Royal Harwich Yacht Club set out to become the first to swim across the Orwell at high water. Spring tides meant a fast flowing current but two were successful.
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