The only way (for nature) is Essex

What do you think of when you think of Essex? Perma-tans? The late lead singer of the Blockheads, Ian Dury? The Dagenham Girl Pipe Band, so eloquently described by the great (and also sadly late) Douglas Adams in the fascinating river management-related book (not really), The Salmon of Doubt?

Whatever you think, it probably doesn’t have much to do with nature, and that’s a shame. Essex is one of the most interesting and most challenging counties in the country for river management. It is gifted with a number of hidden gems but also known for a number of contentious issues. In this post I want to extrapolate on the former, and explain why Essex is so intruiging for nature lovers and river managers alike.

So Essex. Where is Essex? Essex is here.

Essex (Copyright Ordnance Survey 2012)

The county of Essex (Copyright Ordnance Survey 2012)

Situated to the north-east of London, Essex is one of the most populous counties in England. The county also boasts over 300 miles of coastline and a large, if often understated, agricultural sector. Ancient woodlands, an array of designated sites, and a number of inconspicuous rivers make parts of Essex great places to live – the Great Eastern Mainline is one of the busiest rail routes in England; London commuter’s love it.

There are a couple of rivers I’d like to talk about in this blog post; the River Crouch, which runs from Little Burstead to the North Sea, and the less known River Ter, a tributary of the River Chelmer.

Gravel bar on the River Crouch

Gravel bar on the River Crouch

Firstly the River Crouch. I found this beauty of a gravel bar forming at the confluence of the River Crouch downstream of Wickford and the Runwell Brook. This feature, generated as a product of the reduction in local streampower where the two watercourses meet, illustrates the potential for highly responsive lowland rivers to produce geomorphic landforms.

Multi-threaded channel on the River Crouch at Laindon Barnes

Multi-threaded channel on the River Crouch at Laindon Barnes

Upstream on the River Crouch I found this feature. More typical of the anastomosed planform you might expect of this river type, the river channel has been split in to two due to the deposition of cohesive sediment following a high flow event. Again the river is disconnected from its floodplain here and this has undoubtably contributed to the formation of this feature, but it’s still impressive. Even heavily modified systems may have the capacity for natural recovery.

A logjam on the River Ter

A logjam on the River Ter

Interestingly, the River Ter is different from the areas of the River Crouch that I looked at, being as it is a bit further up the catchment. Here I found something more akin to the streams of the New Forest. Granted, the gradient may be shallower but the processes are much the same – a log-jam that causes bed scour and over-tops during bank-full flow, with ponded flow upstream. There’s alot of wood in the River Ter and it’s encouraging natural processes.

There are many other interesting rivers in Essex that I haven’t mentioned; the River Brain downstream of Witham, which you can visit on the train; the River Wid; and the lovely Roman River. Not to forget the numerous brown-field sites, which often have unique invertebrate assemblages.

And where the river’s aren’t that great – particularly in south-Essex – opportunity. Flood defence AND river restoration. A challenge!

If you want to keep up with all the latest rivery happenings in Essex, why not follow the Essex Rivers blog?


About Trevor Bond

A Geomorphology Technical Officer at the Environment Agency. All opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessary reflect the views of my employer.
This entry was posted in Anglian, Geomorphology, River restoration and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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