Colne Estuary National Nature Reserve



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The Colne Estuary NNR is a large and important reserve at the mouth of the Colne Estuary and consists of the grazing marshes of Brightlingsea, the intertidal mudflats of East Mersea Flats, and the salt marsh and shingle of Colne Point. The extensive ancient grazing marshes at Brightlingsea are covered with large anthills of the yellow meadow ant – an indication that the land hasn’t been ploughed for a very long time. Today, about 100 cattle graze on the marshes for most of the summer. East Mersea Flats is an important area for waders and waterfowl, especially as a feeding ground in winter, when there are significant populations of grey plover, black-tailed godwit, dunlin, sanderling and turnstone, and waterfowl such as Brent geese and widgeon. Colne Point’s salt marsh and shingle also attracts a wide variety of birdlife, and is an important area for breeding birds. In summer, these include ringed plovers, oystercatchers and the nationally rare little tern.

Colne Estuary National Nature Reserve


About The area

Discover Essex

Essex is full of pleasant surprises. It has the largest coastline of any county in England, with its fair share of castles, royal connections and scenic valleys. Take Colchester, for example, which was built by the Romans and is Britain’s oldest recorded town. Its castle contains the country’s largest Norman keep and yet, a stone’s throw from here, East Anglia’s newest arts centre promises to put Colchester firmly on the map as Essex’s capital of culture.

Tidal estuaries are plentiful and their mudflats offer migrating birds a winter feeding place. Essex was known as the land of the East Saxons and for centuries people from all over Europe settled here, each wave leaving its own distinctive cultural and social mark on the landscape. Walking a little off the beaten track will lead you to the rural retreats of deepest Essex, while all over the county there are ancient monuments to explore: 

  • the great Waltham Abbey
  • Greensted, thought to be the oldest wooden church in the world
  • the delightful village of Pleshey has one of the finest examples of a former motte-and-bailey castle
  • Hedingham Castle, magnificently preserved and dating from the 11th century.

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