Hamford Water National Nature Reserve



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Hamford Water NNR is a coastal bay on the Essex coast with habitats that include mud flats, marsh and sands. It is best known for its large populations of over-wintering birds. In the winter, you can see large flocks of waders and waterfowl, including dark-bellied Brent geese, black tailed godwits, redshank, ringed and grey plover and shelduck. There are also a number of birds that breed on the site, including nationally important colonies of little tern and avocet. The coastal grasslands above the saltmarshes support one of Britain’s rarest plants – sea hog’s fennel. Hamford Water is one of only two sites in the country where this plant is found, the food plant for the caterpillars of the nationally rare Fisher’s estuarine moth. The reserve is a good place to spot common and grey seals, which haul up on the sands in spring and summer.

Hamford Water National Nature Reserve
Walton on the Naze


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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