River Orwell: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the River Orwell.

  • The River Orwell flows entirely within the county of Suffolk. It is about 20 km long and flows from the River Gipping to the River Stour estuary.
  • The Orwell enters the North Sea at Harwich, near the port of Felixstowe. The port is Britain’s busiest container port, and even has its own police force.
  • The writer of 1984, George Orwell, was born Eric Blair, and took his new name from the river. Orwell got much of his inspiration from walking along the river banks.
  • A 1957 film, Yangtze Incident, set in China, was filmed on the River Orwell. The nearby naval base was also used as a stand in for a Chinese gun emplacement.
  • The Orwell Bridge, opened in 1982 and is one of only two bridges over the river. When it opened, the 190 metre long bridge was one of the world’s longest concrete bridges.
  • Part of the Stour estuary is now a nature conservation area, home to rare birds, sponges and algae. Thousands of birds nest on the Orwell’s mud flats during the winter.
  • The River Orwell flows through Ipswich, which was once an important trading port with the Baltic area of Europe. It is said to be England’s oldest continually inhabited town.
  • Harwich is an important port, offering ferry service to the Netherlands. For many centuries it was the only safe place to anchor between the Humber and Thames Rivers and was once home to a Royal Naval base.
  • Sailing is popular on the River Orwell, and there are several sailing clubs and marinas. During World War II, many landing craft used in the D-Day invasion were stored in the area.
  • The village of Pin Mill features in two children’s books about sailing, by the popular writer Arthur Ransome. The 1950 film, ‘Ha’penny Breeze’ was also filmed in the area.

What next? Discover more river facts by visiting our river resources page.

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