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Bradwell Shell Bank

252ac/102ha  SSSI, SPA, SAC

Grid ref: TM 035 081

Updated 31/12/2023.

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This nature reserve on the Dengie peninsula consists of some 30 acres of shell bank, together with extensive saltmarsh. The shell bank is continuous between Tip Head and Gunner's Creek, but further south consists of a series of small cockle spits, many of which are separated by deep creeks and gullies. The adjoining saltmarsh in some places is 100s of metres wide.

Ringed plovers and oystercatchers breed on the shell banks, and the saltmarsh supports many species including redshank, yellow wagtail, meadow pipit, reed bunting and linnet. In autumn and winter large flocks of up to 20,000 waders roost on the reserve at high tide.

Raptors hunting over the area include hen harrier, merlin, peregrine and short-eared owl in winter; marsh harrier, sparrowhawk and hobby at other times.

The more stable parts of the shell banks are rich in flowers, including yellow horned-poppy, sea rocket, sea holly and sea kale.

The mud and sandflats to the east of the reserve, extending some 3km from the shore, are part of the Dengie National Nature Reserve. These are internationally important for overwintering waders, and notably for grey plover, knot and bar-tailed godwit. From Sales Point you can watch the birds feeding, ideally when the tide is rising to cover the mudflats. As well as those just mentioned, you may see dunlin, redshank, oystercatcher and curlew.

Continue north along the seawall path and you may also find turnstone, sanderling and ringed plover. Flocks of brent geese could be on the fields, the mud or the sea


Head for Bradwell-on-Sea (a mile inland!) via Latchingdon or Southminster, following the B1010/B1018/B1021 from Chelmsford or Maldon. Turn right in Bradwell by the church and follow East End Road to the car park at Eastlands Farm. The reserve is c.800m from there, beyond the chapel of St Peter's on the Wall. To reach it, walk northwards along the seawall to Sales Point, then southwards along the public beach to Tip Head Creek, which can be crossed easily at low tide.Do not attempt to cross Gunners' Creek, which is wide with deep mud in parts. SatNav: CM0 7PW.

Accessible at all times.To see waders, time your visit to coincide with high tide. At Bradwell this is just before Southend and about 90 minutes before London Bridge.

Access for the disabled can be arranged through the warden: call Essex Wildlife Trust on 01621 862960.

In order to protect breeding shorebirds, between April and August inclusive please keep to the seawall overlooking the reserve, or where no wall exists to the edge of the saltmarsh.

© Tony Gunton