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Tollesbury Wick

599ac/242ha  SSSI, SPA

Grid ref: TL 970 104 (click for o/s map)

Updated 25/08/2014

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This is a rare example of an Essex fresh water grazing marsh, worked for decades by traditional methods sympathetic to wildlife. Owned by Essex Wildlife Trust, it is grazed by the Trust's own rare breed sheep and cattle. Wildlife is abundant in its 600 acres of rough pasture, borrowdykes, seawalls, wet flushes, pools and saltmarsh.

Large areas of rough pasture suit small mammals such as field voles and pygmy shrews. In winter, they in turn attract hunting hen harriers and short-eared owls.

Dry grassland on the slopes of the seawalls supports a wide variety of insects, including butterflies, bush-crickets and grasshoppers. In spring spiny rest-harrow, grass vetchling, slender hare's-ear and many other wild flowers can be found in ungrazed areas.

Borrowdykes trace the inland edge of the sinuous seawall for its entire length. Common reed, sea clubrush and fennel pondweed are typical plants of these brackish areas where reed warbler and reed bunting nest in spring, and heron and little grebe search for food. Wet flushes, dykes and small pools in the pasture support aquatic plants such as water crowfoot, and breeding populations of dragonflies and other aquatic species.

Golden plover, lapwing, brent geese and wigeon feed or roost on the winter-wet grassland.

Outside the seawall, creeks, saltmarsh and exposed mud support typical communities of invertebrates, coastal birds and saltmarsh flowers. The shingle spits have yellow horned-poppy, and also a small breeding colony of little terns.

The main pillars of management are water level control and getting the right level of grazing to create good conditions for wildlife


Follow the B1023 to Tollesbury via Tiptree, leaving the A12 at Kelvedon, then follow Woodrolfe Road towards the marina and car park at Woodrolfe Green.

Bus services run to Tollesbury from Maldon, Colchester and Witham.

Accessible at all times along the footpath on top of the seawall.

May for birdsong; July for saltmarsh colours and for insects; winter for wildfowl and waders.

Suitable for motorised wheelchair access up to Blockhouse Bay.

No dogs on the permissive footpath to the hide.

Sheep ticks can be a problem in April–June: keep out of the long grass or wear light-coloured (so the ticks can easily be seen) long trousers for protection. Leaflets from Essex Wildlife Trust visitor centres. For more information call the warden on 01621 868628.

Photo © Jonathan Smith