Blackwater Estuary

Blackwater EstuaryBlackwater Estuary

One of the largest estuarine complexes in East Anglia and of international importance

Essex Wildlife Trust

360 view


The largest estuary in Essex and one of the largest estuarine complexes in East Anglia, the Blackwater Estuary is of international conservation importance and home to hundreds of thousands of wetland birds.

The coastal habitats that make it so special are tidal mudflats, saltmarshes and coastal grazing marsh. The costal marshes of Essex are disappearing very rapidly (up to 60% of these marshes have been eroded by the sea in the last 20 years). This has major implications, not only for wildlife but also for flood defence, and affects everyone who lives on, visits or values these wild and beautiful places.




Virtual tour by Mike McFarlane

360 view

What's happening?

In 2000, with the support of several organisations and a large legacy, Essex Wildlife Trust purchased Abbotts Hall Farm situated on the Blackwater Estuary.

It was here we managed a coastal defence and realignment project, the largest of its kind, which resulted in five breaches cut into the sea-wall in 2002. This allowed salt-water irrigation to create new saltmarshes, coastal grazing, reedbeds and saline lagoons.

The remainder of the farm is now devoted to sustainable agriculture methods and habitat improvement, including the reinstatement of hedgerows, ditches, copses and field margins.

This scheme is delivering a range of benefits for wildlife, people and the local economy:

The large realignment project demonstrates what can be done to tackle the problems of rising sea level and coastal squeeze.
Water quality in the estuary  has been improved by using new reedbeds to clean sewerage water.
50 hectares of high tide navigable water have been provided for small craft.
Over 5 km of new public footpaths have been installed.
The opportunity for ecotourism is being explored not only directly at this site, but by joining up with the adjacent landowners.
The site is an important provider of habitat for fish fry, in particular commercial fish such as herring and bass. Research and development is now in place to develop an EU-wide estuary fish monitoring.

  • Start date: 2000
  • Scheme area: 4,000 hectares
  • Trust reserves within the scheme: Abbotts Hall Farm 
  • This scheme is helping species including Brent Geese, Dunlin, Knot, Shelduck and Redshank  
  • Current threats to the landscape include coastal squeeze, agricultural intensification and invasive species (cordgrass)
  • This scheme is also reducing flood risk, encouraging green tourism and producing local food

More information

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Find out more about our farmland conservation work with farmers and landowners, and on our own wildlife-friendly demonstration farms.