The Only Way is Essex

CKC team up with Maldon and Dengie Canoe Club for a paddle around Osea Island on the Blackwater Estuary

August 2012

By Ann Gales

As well as exotic trip locations such as Sardinia, Denmark and Kilchoan, we like to try to organise some fairly local paddles in the South East, so when Rob Horton rang me to say he fancied paddling on the Essex Coast, Blackwater Estuary, I thought is was an excellent idea. (Not least because it’s the nearest bit of coast to where I live!).

With the Olympics still in full swing in early August and many folk on holiday, only a few of us could make the trip.  So, on chatting with Rob about launch sites, I suggested we team up with some friends form the local Maldon and Dengie Canoe Club, who are based in nearby Burnham on Crouch. The more the merrier.

So setting off on what was a beautiful sunny morning, Rob, myself, and David N, trundled down to the slipway at Bradwell to meet the local Essex boys and girls.  Altogether there was 8 of us in the group.  Having dropped off the boats at the slip and then parking the cars in the nearby Bradwell Marina (they don’t like you launching and getting out on their own slipway at the club but parking for a small fee is fine), we set off on the incoming flood tide which helped take us up the Estuary.

The Essex coast is challenging mainly because of the numerous sand banks and mud flats.  However, on a calm day, the paddling is usually straightforward, just as long as you get the tide times right.   Our plan was to paddle west with the incoming tide so we could circumnavigate Osea Island at high tide and then paddle back out as the tide ebbed.

Osea Island is only accessible at low tide via a causeway and its natural geographical isolation therefore made it a perfect location for rehabilitation of drug and alcohol abusers.  Until a few years ago, it was used by celebrities such as Amy Winehouse who paid up to £10,000 a week to stay at The Causeway clinic, in the large Edwardian house on the island.  Now the island is privately owned and anyone can hire the main house or one of the 18 cottages on the island as holiday homes or locations for big celebrations.  (Though it’s not cheap!)

On this glorious sunny day when we went paddling, the water was busy with numerous watersports users, and families having fun on one of the few real hot summer days of 2012.  It was an easy paddle apart from keeping a close eye out for jet skis and powerboat users.


Rob and Brenda at the SE corner of Osea Island with the beach behind

Having paddled round Osea Island in a clockwise direction, passing directly over the causeway which was by now submerged on high tide, we decided to land for lunch on the small beach we had passed earlier on the south east corner of the island.

Some of us went for a quick swim to cool down, whilst Clive demonstrated his rolling skills.  The Essex boys, determined to show the Chelsea visitors their sophisticated side, had brought a barbecue, so bacon butties were quickly rustled up by Adrian and Clive even had the gin, tonic AND a flask with ice at the ready.  What style….  I’ve made a note to add these to my essential kit list on our next CKC day trip.

As we munched away on sandwiches and lay sunbathing on the beach, it was definitely Costa del Essex and we were very happy and content.  We were entertained watching some kids play on inflatable rings towed behind Dad’s powerboat and then we had the wonderful sight of the Tiptree Thames barge going past.  We had seen it earlier in the distance heading out of Maldon on our way round the Island.


The Thames Barge

We eventually goaded ourselves into getting into the kayaks once again and pootled back out with the ebb tide.  Navigation was straightforward with the landmark of Bradwell Power Station sitting at the mouth of the estuary straight ahead.  Even industrial sights don’t seem ugly on a lovely day.  As the tide gathered strength we just had to make sure we ferried in towards the marina rather than miss our landing spot and drift casually out to the North Sea.


David N heading back to Bradwell with the now disused Power Station in sight.

We arrived back at Bradwell marina, loaded up the kayaks and had a quick drink at the nearby pub, chatting to our new friends.   Everyone had had a really fun day out.  We really must do this again sometime.  Maybe the Walton Backwaters next time??



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