DSCN1319The Pickerel Project is an environmental group seeking to bring about improvements to the Stowmarket river corridors for the benefit of all.

We wish to see greater public access to our rivers and an enhancement to the natural landscape where wildlife can flourish and people can spend leisure time.

The Project helps to maintain and promote the 17-mile Gipping Valley River Path, promotes community projects and runs active volunteer groups, which meet regularly to carry out a range of practical nature conservation and countryside management tasks.

We hold regular meetings at Milton House, Milton Road South and on the first Sunday of each month we get together to clean up stretches of the River Gipping. We are always on the look-out for new people, either to join our Committee or to help us with the clear-ups. If you have a few hours to spare, we would love to hear from you, for further details phone Michael Marriott on 01449 612060 or send an email to pickerelproject@stowmarket.org.


The Events Programme for 2019 can be found below.

2019 events

Regeneration of the River Corridors in Stowmarket

The Pickerel Project has embarked on an ambitious project to breath new life into the river corridors in the town and has produced the following vision statement.


History of the River Gipping

1920sThe River Gipping is a river of contrasts, from quiet backwaters to industrial dock-land. A walk along its banks will reveal an abundance of plants, birds, fish and insects associated with fresh water. You will also encounter historic features including old water mills and navigation locks.

From Stowmarket the 17 mile river path meanders south east to Ipswich, passing through many villages from where it is possible to catch a return bus. The path also takes you past Needham Market and Ipswich Stations from which return trains can be caught.

A series of circular walks extend out into the countryside from the river path. These are maintained by the Gipping Valley Countryside Project, which has also developed a series of leaflets to accompany these walks.

The River Gipping (Also shown as the River Orwell on early maps) has a rich and varied history, passing through areas that show many different aspects of the valley’s character.

Although the Gipping Valley was formed by glacial action during the Ice Age, it was made navigable by man. The industrial revolution caused many physical changes to our environment and the use of waterways for transporting goods was just one aspect of this. It took 200 men three years to complete the canalisation of the river, which opened for commercial use in 1793. There were 15 locks along the 17-mile length of the route between Stowmarket and Ipswich docks, and at its height, carried up to 30 barges transporting malt, coal and timber. It was along the River Gipping that much of the stone that was used in the Abbey at Bury St Edmunds was transported.

The age of steam trains really took over the business from the canals, which were a slow method of transportation, and the last commercial barge used the river in the early 1900s. During the middle of the 20th century the river fell into disuse, agricultural practices and local industries along the valley were affecting the water quality and much of the wildlife disappeared.

As our understanding of the environment improved toward the end of the 20th Century, laws were passed minimising water pollution; environmental conservation groups were set up and the river became recognised as an important environmental asset.

The Gipping River Path was formerly the Ipswich and Stowmarket Navigation towpath. The Navigation was opened in 1793 but closed in 1932 and became impassable sometime afterwards after years of neglect. The tow path has been recorded as a public footpath since the 1950s.