A boy jumping into the river from a small wooden pier, Essex.

9 places to wild swim in Essex

In General, Tidal, Wildlife by admin

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1) The Ray

The best swim in Essex is three quarters of a mile off-shore, south of the Westcliff Crowstone, and at the end of its ‘cockle path’. Arrive two hours before the Thames low tide. Caution needed due to currents and incoming tides. We virtually lived out here as kids in the ’70s & ’80s summers. 51.528183, 0.65814972


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2) Cudmore Grove

Dorset has the Jurassic Coast; Essex has Mersea Island. Archaeologists found a mammoth tusk here in March 2017. Swim the Colne Estuary at sunset around the two million-year-old red crag cliffs because the sea turns… well, err, quite reddish; in a Moses sort of way. 51.791145, 0.99553943


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3) Ferry Road Quay

The north banks of the River Crouch are a ramp of wild plants. I’m sure gardeners won’t approve, but wallowing like a contented hippo in the grasses, sea aster and purslane as the herb islands flood at high tide is wonderful. North Fambridge’s Ferry Boat Inn is the place to dry off with strong coffee and a pickled onion. 51.637381, 0.67550361


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4) St Peter’s Flat

A gaggle of students on a 3-day Writing Retreat went wild swimming on this southern section of Blackwater Estuary, in April 2017; and without wet suits. Brrr. Respect. Their enthusiasm was the inspiration for this list of 9. Quite possibly, Essex’s loveliest shell beach. 51.739885, 0.94038248


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5) Wissington Grove

The Stour is the only fresh water entry in this list… which is a shame. Anglian Water, Environment Agency, UK government and others, “You need to work harder; and look towards the German, state-run sewage system.” Moan over. The Stour at Rushbanks Farm, Wissington, provides crystal waters, swimming and camping. 51.964187, 0.83721399


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6) East Beach

Either side of high tide, on a calm day, it’s possible to walk and swim more than 100sq metres of surf that only reaches waist high. This Thames Estuary sand bank is safer for families. Kite surfers like it here too. 51.532095, 0.80387950


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7) The Fleet

Plunging and island hopping on the Blackwater Estuary northside. Tollesbury Fleet looks like a scene from from a 19th Century American, adventure novel, set on the Mississippi delta. Swim or paddle for lunch at the stilted Loft Tea Room, in Woodrolfe Lane as it floods at high tide. 51.760961, 0.85959435


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8) Brimstone Hill

Bronze Age farmers unwittingly created Brimstone Hill. They were harvesting salt from Little Wakering Creek, off the River Roach, with fires and pans. Sounds like hot, thirsty work. Which is why I use the saline creek for something more leisurely. Floating on my back mid summer. Extreme care needed on these saltings due to tides and sinking ground. 51.569254, 0.80436230


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9) Jacques Bay

One of the few places in Essex where it’s still possible to drive onto the beach. An early morning arrival, dip and exit work best on this part of the Stour Estuary. Shore Lane is not the track to meet convoys of oncoming vehicles. 51.939966, 1.1195326


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