GUIDE TO THE RIVER CHELMER
(Chelmsford to Beeleigh)
NAME OF RIVER: Chelmer.
WHERE IS IT?: Between Chelmsford and Maldon. Landrangers sheet 167 and 168.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Various access points: Chelmsford; Boreham, below Little Baddow Mill (762086); Paper Mill (777090); Hoe Mill (808082); Maldon; Heybridge.
APPROX LENGTH: 20km.
TIME NEEDED: Depends how far you go, all day for the whole length.
ACCESS HASSLES: The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation is a private company, and issues licences. (Address: Paper Mill Lock, Little Baddow, Chelmsford, CM3 4BF. Phone: 01245 222025).
Paul Strudwick, Publicity Officer Chelmsford IWA (Jan 2006)...'The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation is in administration. The river is now run by Essex Waterways Ltd a whole owned subsidiary of the Inland Waterways Association. To get a licenses contact Hugh Turners on 07910 558465. I will publish any changes on www.chelmsfordboats.co.uk'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Always paddleable.
GRADING: It is a canal, the weir channels can be II/III in flood.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: 11 Weirs of which 7 are generally shootable, inspect after heavy rain.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From Chelmsford town centre, portage the automatic weir on the left with convenient new landing stages. The lock into Springfield basin follows on the left, pass under the old A12 then meander across meadows to Barnes Mill lock.
The first 6 locks are all about 1.5 km apart. Portage the lock as the mill stream passes under the old mill, which is now a private house. The next lock is Sandford Mill, there is a road here so access is possible, the weir is not shootable. In the next section the canal passes under the A12 and Cuton lock, distinguished by it's pillbox is visible from the road. The weir is beside the lock, a vertical drop of 1m on to a shallow sill with endwalls, probably very unpleasant in high water. Stoneham weir is a slope of about 2m drop on the right just above the lock. This and similar weirs at Rushes and Ricketts are easily shot but can be inescapable in high water.
At Little Baddow Mill follow the left branch lock cut and portage as the weir is not shootable. In medium high flow the weir pool provides some sport but watch out for submerged stakes on river left. 400m Below the lock is a road bridge with access. The 6th lock, Paper Mill is arguably the best known on the river and most common access point. The weir has a lefthand curve and 2 timber training walls. In high water with the level well over the sill there is a stopper on the weir and a wave below, these change quickly with varying levels. There is a second smaller weir to the left with a surfable stopper, this is very hard to escape if the weir pool is high. 2km Down is Rushes lock. At normal levels the weir provides a friendly stopper ideal for introducing novices to side-surfing. In high water the 3m towback, closed end stopper is definitely to be avoided.
Just below Rushes the Ter joins on the left. After 1.5km The Hoe Mill lock cut branches left and the river goes under a footbridge to reach the weir. There are a number of sluices but it is most easily shot down steps on the extreme right. With flow there is significant tree hazard. After 400m there is a small island with bridges at the far end. The right hand channel is usually dry but has an anti-scour weir. The route is left of the island and there is a good surf wave under the bridge when the river is high.
The river rejoins the canal just below Hoe Mill bridge (access point). Ricketts lock is 2km further but the weir runs off the right bank of the canal 300m before the lock. 400m of tree dodging and the river rejoins the canal. Another 1.5 km on is the end of the river at Beeleigh, on the right 200m before the lock is the weir into the tidal estuary. Below the lock the Blackwater joins from the left with a weir into the tidal river on the right. Beyond this is a pair of floodgates and 4km of canal to Heybridge basin (access). Tesco's carpark on right at 1.5km is a useful access point.
OTHER NOTES: An 8km round the island trip at Maldon may be had with suitable tide. Easiest anticlockwise shooting Beeleigh weir and only portaging Heybridge lock.
There is also the upper Chelmer to consider.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Colin Smith, Southend Canoe Club, also Paul Strudwick.