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Tollesbury Wick

599ac/242ha  SSSI, SPA

Grid ref: TL 970 104

Updated 31/12/2023.

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This is a rare example of an Essex freshwater grazing marsh, worked for decades by traditional methods sympathetic to wildlife. Now it is grazed by rare breed sheep and cattle, and water levels are managed to create good conditions for wildlife.

Its 600 acres of rough pasture, borrowdykes, seawalls, wet flushes, pools and saltmarsh are full of wildlife. Large areas of rough pasture suit small mammals such as field vole and pygmy shrew. In winter, they in turn attract hunting hen harriers and short-eared owls.

Dry grassland on the slopes of the seawalls supports spiny restharrow, grass vetchling, slender hare's-ear and many other wild flowers.

Borrowdykes trace the inland edge of the seawall for its entire length. Reed warbler and reed bunting nest in them in spring, and all year heron and little grebe search them for food. Wet flushes, dykes and small pools in the pasture support aquatic plants such as water crowfoot, and dragonflies breed there.

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

Outside the seawall, creeks, saltmarsh and exposed mud support coastal birds and saltmarsh flowers. Shinglehead Point has yellow horned-poppy and also a small colony of one of Britain's scarcest breeding birds, little terns.


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. SatNav: CM9 8RY.

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.

© Jonathan Smith