201ac/81ha SPA, SSSI
Grid ref: TM 041 195 (click for o/s map)
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Fingringhoe Wick on the west shore of the Colne Estuary is Essex Wildlife Trust's first reserve, and one of its best. Created out of disused gravel workings, it has a wide range of habitats, including patches of grassland, gorse heathland, mixed woodland, reedbeds, ponds and a large lake. The river frontage has saltmarsh, foreshore and intertidal mudflats. It is on sloping ground overlooking the Colne Estuary, offering one of the finest saltmarsh panoramas in eastern England.
In 2015 the seawall was breached to allow the sea back into land just north of the original reserve, creating more than 50 acres of new intertidal habitat, which was quickly colonised by saltmarsh plants and birds.
With such a wide range of habitats it supports a huge variety of wildlife. The highlight is probably the mass nightingale chorus in spring – typically 30 to 40 pairs nest. Other breeding birds include kestrels, tawny owls, little grebes and sparrowhawks.
Between June and September, migrant waders use The Scrape. The estuary, quiet for much of the year, comes into its own in winter. Thousands of wintering waders and wildfowl rely on the expanses of mud and saltmarsh for food or for roosting, with sometimes as many as 700 avocets.
It has a wide range of flowering plants, including common spotted orchids and bee orchids. Summer is best for colourful species, especially sea lavender on the saltmarsh, and masses of dog roses. Many species of dragonfly and damselfly breed on the reserve, as do many common butterflies, together with the less usual green hairstreak. The sandy, eroding cliff faces attract bees, ants and wasps.
Three miles south-east of Colchester. Take the B1025 from Colchester towards Mersea for three miles. After crossing the Roman River turn first left and follow the brown signs to the reserve. The lanes between Fingringhoe village and the reserve are narrow – please drive with caution. SatNav: CO5 7DN.
Bus routes run to Fingringhoe Village only, from where it is a 30–40 minute walk to the reserve via the Fingringhoe Gravel Pit Trail.
Open daily from 9am–5pm, excluding Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Day permits must be obtained from the centre. Donations invited from non-members of the Trust: £2 for adults and £1 for children with £5 for families (2 adults and 2 children).
Worth visiting at any time of the year, but the highlights are the nightingale chorus in May and the flocks of wildfowl and waders in winter.
Wheelchair and mobility access to selected parts of the nature reserve and selected bird hides; wheelchair available on request.
Dogs are permitted on site, but must be kept to the dog trail and be on a lead at all times.
Group visits of parties of more than ten people are welcome, but please advise in advance by calling 01206 729678. For details of events etc. call the centre on 01206 729678. Waymarked nature trails start from the centre.