The Chelmer and Blackwater Canal from Chelmsford to Heybridge Basin
via Little Baddow and Maldon
Researched written and photographed by Jeannette Briggs
The River Chelmer runs from Chelmsford, the county town of Essex, eastwards through lush farmlands towards the North Sea near Maldon. Back in 1677 the first proposals were made for making this river fully navigable. However, it was not until 1792 that - with the support of the local landowning gentry led by Lord Petre of Thorndon Hall, Brentwood - the interested parties pushed for an Act of Parliament to enable them to authorise work on digging the navigation channel from Springfield north of Chelmsford to the North Sea at Heybridge Basin, a distance of just 14 miles.
You can continue your canal boat holiday or day trip from Springfield Basin through Springfield Lock in Chelmsford where it passes under the A12 Chelmsford by-pass trunk road with the constant roar of traffic and swings north to Cuton Lock. Here it turns east again and begins a meandering course across fields, past farms, pubs and churches, then come to Stoneham's Lock, Baddow Mill Lock and Paper Mill Lock on the edge of the village of Little Baddow. You should not miss a walk to visit the lovely old church of St Mary or the 14th Century Little Baddow Hall which are easily reached from the canal at Baddow Mill Lock. From here the canal swings round to Rushe's lock through( for Essex!)some quite remote countryside. A road does not touch the canal for several miles until you reach Hoe Mill Lock and bridge. Ulting Church is situated right by the canal but there is no sign of a village which might have been "attached" to it. Possibly this was one of the mediaeval villages that "died" after a third of the population of England was wiped out by the Black Death in the 14th Century.
From here the canal follows an easterly course well away from centres of population past Rickett's Lock, Beeleigh Lock and flood gates and to what is now left of Beeleigh Abbey, one of the many monastical foundations destroyed by King Henry VIII.
The canal passes some industrial areas but is always pretty and you can easily pick out the sea on the horizon because the tall masts from hundreds of sea going boats can be seen above the trees. You can also smell the ozone!
Sea Lock at Heybridge Basin
After a straight run with lots of narrow-boats moored on the sides of the canal you will need to find a temporary mooring for your canal boat because the next huge lock is the Heybridge Sea Lock opened only by the Harbourmaster at high tide.
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