Skippers from the air


Sea Hog's Fennel at Skippers Island

Sea Hog's Fennel

View to Skippers Island
Brent Goose

Photo - Andrew Armstrong 

Sea Lavender

Sea Lavender

Skipper's Island Nature Reserve

Skippers Island is one of the last remaining places in Essex with a true feeling of wilderness - a remote island in the Walton Backwaters, there is a sense of peacefulness, only interrupted by the calls of waders and the sound of the rising and falling tide


Skippers Island

OS Map Reference

A static map of Skipper's Island Nature Reserve

Know before you go

94 hectares

Parking information

View from boat only

Walking trails

The island is not accessible to public 


Skippers Island has no public access for health and safety and habitat fragility reasons.



No dogs permitted

When to visit

Opening times

Available to view by boat

Best time to visit

All year round

About the reserve

Skipper’s Island is the hidden gem of the Hamford Water National nature reserve, situated half a kilometre from the mainland, only accessible by boat.

Actually three islands rather than one, Skippers is home to many special animals but one more so than others – the Fishers Estuarine Moth. The island is the last strong hold for this Essex endemic moth in the UK, whose larvae relies on the Sea Hogs Fennel that grows here as its only food source. Growing alongside the Sea Hogs Fennel are Adder’s Tongue Ferns, Parsley Water-dropwort and the tiny purple flowers of Lax-flowered Sea Lavender.

Grassland rides have been maintained among the thorn thickets, giving way to flower rich swards of grass. Silently soaring over-head are Barn Owls, which will occasionally breed on the island, scanning for mammals scurrying through the long grass.

The thorn thickets also provides homes for many species of warbler, while breeding Shelduck and Oyster-catcher can be seen and heard calling across the saltmarsh. In the autumn and winter, Essex’s famous Brent Geese graze the marsh and rough pasture, sharing the island with many species of overwintering ducks and waders.

Did you know? The warden of Skippers Island, Ray Marsh, has been volunteering on the island for 50 years.

Contact us

Environmental designation

Environmentally Sensitive Area
National Nature Reserve (NNR)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)
Fishers Estuarine Mith

Photo - Mickey Andrews 

Fishers Estuarine Moth

Skippers Island is one of the last and largest strongholds for this rare species of moth, which relies entirely on Sea Hogs Fennel as its food source. 

With the risk of flooding and erosion increasing, work has been done by Essex Wildlife Trust, Writtle University College and Colchester Zoo to improve populations at other sites, primarily at Abbotts Hall Farm. 

This project has proved a success with 30 adults recorded in 2017, compared to just 3 in 2010!