NAME OF RIVER: Blackwater.
WHERE IS IT?:
The river rises in the North West of the county of Essex as the river Pant, and proceeds as a stream through to Braintree where the name changes to the Blackwater for the rest of its journey to the sea. On the way the Blackwater passes through Stisted, Bradwell, Coggeshall, Coggeshall Hamlet, Feering, Kelvedon, near Witham, Wickham Bishops, Langford to Beeleigh where it meets the Chelmer. For a while it is included in the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, but at Heybridge, flood water from the canal flows over a weir on the site of the old Heybridge mill and down the original course of the Blackwater (now known as Heybridge Creek) before passing through a sluice gate into the tidal Blackwater Estuary at Maldon. The navigation continues from Heybridge to Heybridge Basin, where it joins the tidal estuary at the sea lock. It is said that boats have, in times long past, brought grain from Radwinter to Beeleigh Abbey (Hollingshead Chronicles c1530).
PERMISSION TO Navigate?
This Guide describes portages where there is no public right of way through or around the immediate area, neither is there an agreement for portage to take place. Portaging over private land without permission is an act of trespass.
UKRGB Note: Many paddlers, supported by British Canoeing, believe that paddlers have a historic right to access the rivers and waterways of England and Wales. Where there is a Public Right of Navigation, paddling is not trespassing. If you wish to paddle this river, however, please note the following statement by the author of this individual river guide.
An agreement is reached each year with landowners to run the organised Spring tour. There are portages along the route (over private property) and no other permissions are agreed.
The put in is alongside the road beyond Greys Mill, (TL860 180) and take out at Blackwater Lane Witham (TL828 137). There is limited roadside parking at both ends of the trip.
Approximately 2½ hours
Only the annual organised tour is agreed with key landowners (each with property both sides of the river). There are fishing interests along the route.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS:
In normal conditions at the put in the shingle bed of the river is easily visible. In spate it does rise some 1.5m to flood the road. There is a measuring flume at Appleford Bridge that gets washed out in spate.
The route is normally a simple grade 1 and, at low water levels, kayaks ground in places. With high water levels there are shoots and weirs to be wary of, together with tight bends and strainers under overhanging thorn bushes and fallen trees. At this time care is particularly required at the portage where capsizing in the strong flow could result in a nasty drop over weirs.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS:
There are some low bridges requiring a limbo and a couple of shoots and a portage at a nasty weir.
From the start at Greys Mill the narrow river winds down to the A12. Under the bridge it is shallow and rubble strewn. This is followed in a quarter of a mile by a low footbridge and the next event is the Great Braxted Mill where the river shoots through a narrow passage down a slope – no portage available. From here the shallow river heads, via another low footbridge to the Appleford Bridge flume, which is a simple shoot.
The Little Braxted Mill is a further mile downstream. The portage is to the right of the manually regulated weir. A mile further is the junction with the River Brain. Turning up the River Brain to the right leads to the exit point, just short of a low farm bridge, to Blackwater lane Witham, reached by passing under the A12.
PANT: However today with the diminishing water levels the Pant is regarded as too small.
UPPER BLACKWATER: This section of Blackwater from Braintree to Feering has been paddled in the past but water levels have seriously reduced since then. Entry was possible at Marlborough Rd Braintree. Portages were necessary at Stisted Mill, Bradwell Mill, Coggeshall Mill and Coggeshall Hamlet Mill. The owner’s permission was specifically requested at each portage. Exit was possible via a gate near Feering village green. No doubt there have been changes.
MIDDLE BLACKWATER: There is a short section of river from Feering Mill via Kelvedons Easterford Mill to Greys Mill which is probably deep enough to paddle, but there are difficulties of portage at the mills.
LOWER BLACKWATER: Wickham Bishops to Langford
INTERESTING PLACES LOCALLY:
Little Braxted Church: -a small country manor church but with a breath taking interior.
Museum of Power, Langford: - A huge triple expansion steam engine which is now accompanied by a wide variety of mechanical items. It is looked after by a bunch of enthusiasts who make you very welcome. Includes a tea room.
Beeleigh Weirs: - the junction of the non-tidal Chelmer and the tidal Chelmer with the Blackwater.
Beeleigh Abbey: - an old and now private building visible from a public footpath.