Tales of the riverbanks

Route of the riverbank walk

Route of the riverbank walk - Credit: Archant

Lotte Sherman explores an unusual estuary

The Old Ship public house and the sea lock at Heybridge

The Old Ship public house and the sea lock at Heybridge

This part of the Essex coastline is a most fascinating area to explore. The two most important Essex rivers, the Chelmer and the Blackwater, unite at Beeleigh for just a couple of miles before discharging their waters into the North Sea. Man, for the benefit to industry, played an important part in managing the watercourse and after much planning 14 miles of canal was constructed and opened in 1790 and managed by Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation Company.

Lots of details can be found on the web, complete with a diagram of the “bi-ovular twin rivers”. Their sources are quite near each other, but they flow their different ways until they are compelled to join up near the tide-line.

To start your journey in a clockwise direction, you need to walk left out of the car park, aiming for the lock gates. Crossing these (unless they happen to be open to let vessels into the lock and the canal entrance), make for the fingerpost near the seawall and follow its direction. It is a leisurely ramble around the large basin which is fed by the estuary. On the way you pass an overgrown peninsula jutting into this pond. At the top end a footpath leads across a marshy area to a new housing estate at the side of the canal. Ignore this, but continue on the defence wall, swinging left at the second path junction. Shortly, a waymarker directs walkers along a perimeter fence of one of Maldon’s industrial estates.

This somewhat neglected footpath is marked as part of a Millennium walk. It emerges near a car park, where you need to walk diagonally across to the far right corner and up a few concrete steps. The exit from this gant on to the B1022 is just visible; walk to the right along the road and past a couple of roundabouts. Look for a bench and small green space next to the pavement – it would be hard to find a less inviting seat to rest awhile, as there seems to be a constant stream of heavy traffic passing by.

Proceed past Hall Road and make your way over the canal via the road bridge. Next to the bridge a fingerpost points to the continuation of the towpath to the right. It is signposted as a bridleway – I wonder when was the last time a horse and rider attempted to use this narrow path, duck underneath the bridges or cross the busy roads, as well as sharing it with pedestrians! The towpath is a very popular route for locals, visitors and tourists.

A short way along, a more recently-built bridge allows access to the housing estate on the opposite side of the canal. The end of your journey is straight ahead to Fish Street, down a few steps to a short green lane and Daisy Lane car park. To partake in refreshments and a closer look around, walk again towards the lock gates.

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