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Howlands Marsh Nature Reserve

This 74 hectares is one of the best surviving coastal grazing marshes in Essex, consisting mainly of low lying hummocky grassland, split up by dykes and fleets.

The fleets and other natural depressions in the grassland are evidence of former creeks and saltmarsh before the seawall was built. A narrow fringe of saltmarsh outside the seawall widens into a large block where Flag and St Osyth creeks meet. The nature reserve is grazed at certain times of the year.

What to look for:

The grassland contains much Reed, Sedge, Glaucous Bulrush and Sea Clubrush, and a wide variety of other plants including Spiny Restharrow and Spring Whitlow-Grass.

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.

A number of birds can be seen including Reed Warblers, Lapwing, Skylarks and Reed Buntings all of whom breed on the nature reserve. In winter Brent Geese graze among hundreds of wildfowl along with small flocks of Curlews. Little Egrets and Marsh Harriers are also frequent visitors.

Accessible at all times. Sometimes the public path is impassable during high tides at or near the Quay. To prevent disturbance to wildlife and grazing stock, please keep to the public footpath and the paths to the hide and do not walk on the seawall. Dogs restricted to certain areas or to certain specified times. Dogs must be kept on a lead near livestock and always under close control.

Directions - 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.

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

Species and habitats

Coastal, Grassland, Heathland, Marine, Standing water, Wetland
Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier

Nearby nature reserves

Colne Point Nature Reserve
2 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust
Fingringhoe Wick Visitor Centre
4 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust
Weeleyhall Wood Nature Reserve
4 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Howlands Marsh
Nature Reserve B1027
St Osyth
CO16 8HW of public entrance
Map reference
TM 119 170 of public entrance
Great for...
getting away from it all
overwintering birds
Best time to visit
Jan - Dec
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
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Opening Times
Open all year round
74.00 hectares
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)
Dogs must be on lead
Reserve manager
Essex Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01621 862960