Busy summer ahead for the Orwell Lady

Orwell Lady, ready for the new season, at Ipswich Waterfront

Orwell Lady, ready for the new season, at Ipswich Waterfront - Credit: Archant

From school groups to 90th birthday parties and WI day trips

Afternoon tea aboard the Orwell Lady

Afternoon tea aboard the Orwell Lady - Credit: Archant

A busy summer season of cruising, from Ipswich Waterfront, has begun for the Orwell Lady with parties from the local area, and tourists taking the opportunity to see the River Orwell from on the water.

I met up with Emma Lightfoot and head of operations Carl Webb to find out how the new season is going.

The Orwell Lady is attracting people to the Waterfront and Ipswich from near and far.

In recent weeks there have been parties from London and Manchester out on the Orwell.

Carl Webb said: “The surprising thing is, that a lot of local people, when they come out on the lady. it is their first time on the river.

“They have never seen it, so it is really special.

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“We have had our first breakfast cruise, and we have a wedding reception booked which will be another first.

“We have a lot of anniversaries and special occasions and had a family 90th birthday group the other day. They asked for a cake, but we didn’t know it was that special birthday until they came on board.”

That breakfast cruise, with a continental breakfast, was for a party from Tate London, whose were also visiting Ipswich in order to see the giant John Constable painting on display at Christchurch Mansion.

Carl added: “It was a lovely morning on the Orwell and we saw a lot of wildlife, the seals (off Clif Quay) and the peregrine falcons.

“The seals sometimes come up to the lock gates. There were also the swans and cygnets.

“It was really successful.”

The Ipswich-based Orwell Lady does private charters and a variety of public cruises, down river to Pin Mill, or Harwich and Felixstowe.

It departs from Orwell Quay several times a week.

Emma Lightfoot said: “It is amazing to see Felixstowe from the water, one of the biggest container ports the world.

“Every year, there are new people who find out about us and come out on the lady.

“We get quite a lot of coach parties, including WIs. We even had a Dutch WI party on board the other day.”

There are private charters for companies and local schools.

“The schools really enjoy it,” added Emma.

“Especially when they see the wildlife... and the seals.

“It is absolutely beautiful out on the water.”

There are daytime cruises and night musical cruises, some with live bands, and some with discos in summer. There is even a Nat King Cole tribute night.

“It is a really special atmosphere and everybody seems to enjoy it,” she said. “Sometimes I just love to sit up on top and look at the sky. I can still hear the music from below. It is amazing.

“I think there is no nicer place to be than out on the river at sunset.”

And Carl added: “It is lovely coming back up to Ipswich at sunset.

“The sun sets right behind the Orwell Bridge, It is absolutely lovely.”

Although the cruises are usually just on board, recently a party of train enthusiasts wanted to get off at Harwich and continue their journy from there.

“We came back with 29 less passengers than we took.”

Now they are thinking about having day trips where the passengers could get off, explore, and then return, he added.

Advance tickets for cruises are available from the Ipswich Tourist Information Centre and Coffeelink cafe.

Or email: info:orwellrivercruises.com