The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) is a voluntary organisation set up in 1994 to restore a visual watch along UK shores after many small Coastguard stations had been closed.
- We are the Coastguard's 'Eyes along the Coast' helping to ensure that our local beaches and inshore waters are a safe place to be and are one of fifty stations belonging to the National Coastwatch Institution.
- Since 1994 we have been keeping a visual watch over ...
- Felixstowe's beaches from Cobbold's Point to the North and Martello Park to the South
- the sea from the Woodbridge Haven buoy to the North, out to Rough Towers to the East and round to Walton on the Naze to the South.
- We monitor radio channels 0, 16, 65, 67 and 71.
- When we see an incident that could be life threatening we call HM Coastguard or the appropriate emergency service. In the case of HM Coastguard we act as their eyes while they co-ordinate the emergency services attending the incident.
- We have 'Declared Facility Status' which means that we are fully recognised in search and rescue operations with the same status as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboats and the Search and Rescue helicopters.
Looking North from our lookout ...
Looking south from our lookout ...
Inside the lookout ...
Where we do it
Our lookout is on top of Martello tower P.
Here are three great shots taken by one of our neighbours ...
Our address is ...
Martello Tower P
Old Fort Road
Follow the A14 towards Felixstowe Docks and continue to the roundabout at its very end. Go straight across the roundabout taking the second exit on to the A154 (Walton Avenue). Continue to the traffic lights. Turn right onto Langer Road and take the fourth road on the left. After you have turned off Langer Road you will see Martello Tower P in front of you. Our lookout is on top of the tower.
When we do it
We always fly our flag when we are open unless the wind is above Force 5.
Our current duty hours are ...
- Until 15 February 2020 - 0900 to 1600 every day.
- 16 February 2020 to 24 October 2020 - 0900 to 1700 every day.
What we did in 2019
In 2019 we ...
- spent 7,231 man hours on watch.
During these watches we logged 12,330 vessels ...
- 2,253 commercial vessels.
- 6,411 leisure craft including yachts, motor boats, canoes, kayaks, jet skis, windsurfers and kite surfers.
- 3,920 Harbour Vessels.
- 49 Military Vessels.
- 583 fishing vessels.
We were involved in 7 incidents,
How to contact us
You can call us during our on duty hours on 01394 670808. One of our watch keepers on duty in the lookout will answer your call. We are on duty ...
- Until 2 March 2019 - 09:00 to 16:00 every weekend, Bank Holidays, Mondays and Fridays and 12:30 to 16:00 every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
- 3 March 2019 to 24 May 2019 - 09:00 to 17:00 every day.
- 25 May 2019 to 2 June 2019 - 09:00 to 20:00 every day.
- 3 June 2019 to 24 July 2019 - 09:00 to 17:00 every day.
- 25 July 2019 to 1 September 2019 - 09:00 to 20:00 every day.
- 2 September 2019 to 26 October 2019 - 09:00 to 17:00 every day.
- 27 October 2019 to 29 February 2020 - 09:00 to 16:00 every weekend, Bank Holidays, Mondays and Fridays and 12:30 to 16:00 every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
You can call our station manager, Julian Milsom, on 01394 286671.
You can email our station manager by clicking .
Call us on Channel 65 during our duty hours (see above). Our call sign is 'Felixstowe NCI'.
If you would like to contact us about our website you can email our webmaster, Ian Clarke, by clicking . Please let Ian know if you find any mistakes on the website or if there is any content you would like the website to include. Thank you.
How to visit us
We welcome visitors and would be delighted to show you the lookout. If the flag is flying we are in! However, under the terms of our lease, we are required to keep the outside door locked so please call us and we'll come down and open the door for you.
Here's is the entrance. Please note the staircase. There are even more stairs inside! (15 steps to get into the tower and 33 more steps inside the tower to get up to our lookout.
If you would like to arrange a visit outside of watch hours please contact our station manager, by clicking to send an email or by calling on 01394 286671.
In 1994, when two fishermen lost their lives off the Cornish coast below a recently closed Coastguard lookout, local people decided to open and restore the visual watch. When the first station was opened at Bass Point on the Lizard, the National Coastwatch Institution was born. Today 51 stations keep a visual watch around the coastline of England and Wales.
HM Coastguard built the first lookout on Martello tower P in 1934. The current lookout was built in 1979. With changing priorities and efficiency drives in the 1990s coastal lookouts were closed down and HM Coastguard focused more on the provision of co-ordinated search and rescue services. HM Coastguard closed their Felixstowe lookout in 1994.
In 1995 the Felixstowe Coastwatch station was a caravan which was towed each weekend into position for observations. From there we graduated to a large beach hut mounted on oil drums and concrete which we shared with Alby’s Beach Café and an ice cream kiosk.
On 26 April 1996 we moved into our present home - the recently vacated HM Coastguard lookout on top of Martello tower P. We have a wide view of ...
- Felixstowe's beaches
- Felixstowe's inshore waters
- the Harwich approaches, one of the busiest shipping areas in the UK, with a three lane traffic separation channel for commercial traffic.
- Martello towers were inspired by a round fortress at Mortella Point in Corsica. In 1794 two British warships spent two days unsuccessfully attacking the tower. The design was so impressive it was copied for the English Martello towers.
- Between 1805 and 1812 one hundred and three Martello towers were built along the east and south coast of England as part of the defences against a possible invasion by Napoleon’s forces.
- Twenty nine were built on the east coast starting at St Osyths Point in Essex and going north to Slaughden in Suffolk. The towers were named with letters of the alphabet - A to Z, AA, BB and CC.
- Eight towers were built on the Felixstowe peninsular - N to U. Five of these still remain and our lookout is on top of Martello Tower P.
- Martello tower P is owned by Suffolk Coastal District Council. It was built between 1810 and 1812 using about 750,000 bricks and cost approximately £2,000.
The video below shows a virtual tour of a Martello tower. The video was commissioned by Suffolk Coasts and Heaths Touching the Tide project. The basement of Martello tower P was scanned using lasers to create the interior video scenes.
- Click here to see the ITV video, transmitted on 4 December 2015, reporting the completion of Martello tower P's refurbishment. (You'll need to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the video.)
- Click here to see the 'Martello Tower P Interpretation' - a set of interpretation boards, covering the original design and purpose of the tower, its role in the fight against smuggling, the importance of the Stour and Orwell as a major naval base in World War One and the Tower's final role preparing for the End Of The World.
- Click here to download a pdf version of ‘An Assessment of the East Coast Martello Towers’ written by Jonathan Millward in July 2007 for English Heritage.
- Click here to see the Wikipedia entry on Martello towers.
We regularly give talk to organisations to explain what we do. If your organisation would be interested in having a talk (about an hour) please click to email Julian Milsom, our Station Manager. You can call Julian on 01394 286671.