Essex Wildlife Trust logo

Howlands Marsh

182ac/74ha  SSSI, SPA

Grid ref: TM 115 169 (click for o/s map)

Updated 10/12/2020.

Available also via books and apps – click here for details.

Mouse over links for pictures; click for detail page.

One of the best surviving coastal grazing marshes in Essex, consisting mainly of low-lying hummocky grassland, split up by dykes and fleets. It supports some unusual coastal plants and large numbers of wildfowl and waders vist in winter.

The grassland contains much reed, sedge, glaucous bulrush and sea clubrush, and a variety of other plants include spiny rest-harrow and, particularly on the many anthills, spring whitlow-grass. Uncommon plants such as slender hare's-ear, knotted parsley and sea barley grow on and near the seawall.

Among the plants in the dykes and fleets are great water-dock, lesser water-parsnip, tufted forget-me-not, marsh bedstraw and brackish water-crowfoot. In places on the saltmarsh are sea wormwood and some golden samphire, as well as the more usual saltmarsh plants.

Reed warblers, lapwings, skylarks and reed buntings breed here. In winter brent geese graze among hundreds of wildfowl along with small flocks of curlews. When the tide is low, large numbers of shelduck, dunlin and redshank feed on the exposed mud in the creeks. Little egrets and marsh harriers are frequent visitors.

The marshland also supports a great variety of invertebrates, including some rare species.


Reached via a public footpath which links a layby on the west side of the B1027, just south of Oaklands Holiday Village (600m from the reserve), with The Quay off Mill Street (900m away). Roadside parking is usually available. SatNav: CO16 8HN.

Several bus services from Clacton-on-Sea and Colchester pass the starting points for the footpath.

Accessible at all times. The public path is often impassable for some time during high tides at and near The Quay.

September to March for wildfowl and waders on and around Flag Creek.

Dogs must be kept on a lead near livestock and always under close control.

To prevent disturbance to wildlife and grazing stock, please keep to the public footpath and the paths to the hides and do not walk on the seawall.

© unknown