Howlands Marsh Nature Reserve

Howlands Marsh from the air

Photo - Terry Joyce

Marsh Harrier

Photo - David Tipling / 2020VISION

Howlands Marsh in winter
Take a walk around one of the best coastal grazing marshes in Essex, with its amazing display of wintering wildfowl and rare saltmarsh plants


Colchester Road (B1027)
St Osyth
CO16 8HW

OS Map Reference

TM 119 170
A static map of Howlands Marsh Nature Reserve

Know before you go

74 hectares

Parking information

Parking is available in a small lay by along the B1027, with space for 3 - 4 cars. The reserve is accessed by walking along the public footpath down the hill to the Nature reserve, approximately 600 metres

Grazing animals

Cows grazing from May-October
Sheep grazing from July-November
Please note - there is no public access into the grazed fields

Walking trails

A public footpath passes up the eastern side of the reserve, where a permissive path leads to a hide on stilts with good views over the estuary. There is another hide on stilts on the southern end of the reserve. There are no circular paths around the reserve or public access into the grazed fields and along the seawall


The main footpath is a rough track with uneven areas and steps to access the hides on stilts


Under effective control
Dogs permitted on the public footpath only, must be kept on leads


Bird hides

When to visit

Opening times

Accessible at all times

Best time to visit

Winter for overwintering birds, Spring/Summer for great views of Marsh Harriers

About the reserve

Sea Wormwood and Golden Samphire grow among the mud in the saltmarsh that fringes the seawall where Flag and St Osyth creeks meet.

Look out across the reserve at a wild landscape of hummocky grassland filled with Reeds, Sedge, Spiny Restharrow and Spring Whitlow-grass, interlaced with dykes and fleets, where you can find Water-Crowfoot, Lesser Water-parsnip and Tufted Forget-Me-Not thriving.

Skylarks, Lapwing, Reed Warblers and Reed Bunting can be seen flying over the grassland, choosing to stay and breed here in the spring.

Listen out for the distinctive calls of overwintering Brent Geese and other wildfowl in winter, grazing among flocks of Curlew. Barn Owls and Marsh Harriers can often be seen gliding over the reserve in search of prey.

Environmental designation

Local Wildlife Site (LWS)
Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)