Contact the Navigation Manager for enquiries about going above Hall Bridge.
Postal Address: The Navigation Manager, Essex Waterways Limited, Paper Mill Lock, Little Baddow, Essex CM3 4BS
The sea lock and moorings below Hall Bridge, Heybridge, are described in the Heybridge Basin section, and are in many respects comparable to an estuarial marina. Hall Bridge is the first on the waterway, heading upstream, and forms the dividing line between the 'marina' and the inland waterway itself. Navigational headroom under Hall Bridge is approximately 2.2 metres above normal water level, but lower bridges follow (the lowest being 1.9 metres at Paper Mill). As on most inland waterways in the UK, all vessels proceeding above Hall Bridge must have a valid Boat Safety Certificate, unless exempt from this mandatory requirement.
The artificial cut from Heybridge Basin to Beeleigh is called the Long Pond, being, at about two miles, the longest pound on the Navigation. It passes through Heybridge village (shops, pubs, etc) and includes a short industrial section before reaching a Tesco supermarket (temporary mooring), after which it leaves Maldon behind, clinging to its hill, to become almost entirely rural for the rest of its course. For most of the length of the Long Pond, from Heybridge Basin to Chapman’s Bridge, the towpath is designated a bridleway. Above this bridge the towpath becomes a footpath, though considerate cyclists are not usually discouraged.
At Beeleigh, the currently derelict Langford Cut joins the Long Pond, which is fed from the confluence of the Chelmer and Blackwater rivers, whose surplus water flows into the tideway over the Long Weir. On very high tides, the flow can reverse, so it is important to ensure that the flood gates below John Rennie’s picturesque redbrick bridge are left closed. Within easy reach of Beeleigh are historic Beeleigh Abbey, and the impressive Museum of Power at Langford.
Along the next twelve miles of waterway locks are found at roughly one mile intervals, lifting the Navigation 88 feet from the tideway to Springfield Wharf, in the heart of the county town of Chelmsford.
After the winding, wooded pound between Beeleigh and Rickett’s locks, the landscape, with its willows and watermeadows, becomes reminiscent of 'Constable Country', which indeed it is, as the famous artist’s family milled not only on the Stour, but also at Hoe Mill, near the next lock (the deepest on the waterway).
Near to where a water pipe crosses the Navigation is Sugar Baker’s Holes, pioneering site of the extraction of sugar from beet.
Hoe Mill is also home to the first of the Navigation's four main inland mooring areas, with about forty boats lying against the non-tow-path bank, near the only remaining original inland lock house. Just above the moorings the towpath crosses an interesting horse bridge.
A short distance above Hoe Mill, also on the far bank, lies tiny All Saints Church, Ulting, perhaps the most photographed location on the river. A few bends beyond brings remote Rush’s Lock into view in its idyllic, pastoral setting under the rise of Danbury Hill.
Soon after passing a pretty waterside cottage called Smuggler’s Barn, Paper Mill is glimpsed, framed by a road bridge. This is the busiest of the mooring areas, with over one hundred boats, ranging from canoes and dinghies, through modern and classic cruisers, to an increasing fleet of traditional narrowboats.
Two of the waterway’s four passenger boats operate from Paper Mill – Victoria operated by Chelmer Cruises is perfect for weddings, parties and group outings and the shortened ex-Llangollen horse-boat Ceffyl offering hourly trips to Baddow Mill. Ceffyl is operated by Paper Mill Lock Cruises (01245 225520) who also run the popular lock side tearoom, and hire out dinghies and canoes. The tearoom occupies the former stables where horses spent the night, whilst opposite is the little red brick bothy where the bargees slept. This is now used as the Navigation’s office.
The willow lined waterway climbs on through Baddow Mill Lock, via Stoneham’s and Cuton locks, to Sandford, where there are over twenty moorings in the lock cut between two beautiful hump-backed bridges, and further moorings beside the car park. One of the two remaining lighters, the historic timber-built Susan, has its base at the museum at Sandford Mill (but is currently away for repairs). The steel-built Julie still works on the waterway as a maintenance craft.
Barnes Mill, now converted to residential use, overlooks the mill pool below the next lock, after which the waterway winds tightly through open watermeadows to the last lock, which gives access to Springfield Basin.
The Basin was derelict for many years until restoration and reopening by IWA in 1993. Now it is home to a floating barge-based office enterprise, Springfield Barges. Moorings are provided at the head of the Basin, within an easy walk of the town centre, overlooked by the smart Waterfront Place restaurant. From here the county town of Chelmsford can be explored.
There has been extensive residential development by the Basin, including Lockside Marina where modern apartments flank three sides of a marina, with moorings managed by Essex Waterways Ltd, accessed by boat from the Basin by a bascule bridge.
Walkers will find the towpath easy to follow throughout the length of the Navigation, and obvious where it changes from one bank to the other. It can become muddy in wet weather. Many other rights-of-way link with the tow-path, giving endless opportunities for round walks of any length.
See the notes here.
There is excellent and well stocked coarse fishing on the waterway, managed by Maldon Angling Society (Secretary: 01621 892197). Membership and day tickets are available.
See the notes here.
Canoeists are welcome on the waterway, which is popular with canoe clubs, youth groups and individuals. Although the Upper Chelmer is mentioned in the British Canoe Union’s guide, this does not include the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, for which a separate licence must be obtained. There is usually no objection to canoeists using the backwaters, except at Hoe Mill and Rickett’s lock, which are particularly sensitive fishing areas. In all areas mutual respect between different river users should apply. Canoeists must not pass through locks and should treat weirs and weir stream currents with care, and together with all boaters should be aware of the increased risks during periods of high water levels. See the notes here.
There are various long and short term licence options, depending on whether the vessel is powered or manually propelled, and whether mooring and / or use of locks is required. Please see our current Schedule of Charges, or contact the Navigation manager for information or advice. See the notes here.