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River Colne, Essex: Map

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The River Colne is a small river that runs through Colchestermarker, Englandmarker. It is not a tributary of any other river, instead having an estuary that joins the sea near Brightlingseamarker.

Source

The Colne's two main tributaries start near the villages of Cornish Hall End and Gospelend Way in Essex. These converge in Great Yeldhammarker, and then flow through Sible Hedinghammarker, Halsteadmarker, Earls Colnemarker, Colne Engainemarker, White Colnemarker, Chappelmarker and Ford Street before reaching Colchester.

In Colchester

The Colne Valley has a flood plain which spans approximately 300 metres by the time it enters Colchester. This area is used as pasture, as the river at this stage has no safeguards against it rising the two feet it needs to burst its banks, although it is split between two pasture areas in Spring Lane, Old Lexden. Roughly to the south of Colchester North Station, the river passes under a bridge and into a concrete-lined area that was used as an open-air bathing facility until the 1960s, and is now used by canoeists.

It then meanders under a road bridge at the bottom of North Hill, and tumbles down a weir used for discharge control at Middlemill, the site of a now-demolished mill. It forms the border of Colchester's Castle Park and the Cricket ground, and footbridges cross it to provide access from the town centre to residential areas on the north side of the flood plain, which occasionally floods should the river rise too much. Directly to the north of the river from one of the exits of Castle Park are Tenpin, the Leisure Centre, Charter Hall, a skate park and a McDonald's restaurant with drive-through. The river encircles one side of a small lake, and then turns south-east, and then south, before falling over a large weir and becoming tidal.

After Colchester

Beyond this point, the river shows significant mud banks at low tide, and flows through the Hythe, Rowhedge, past the University of Essexmarker campus, and then through Wivenhoemarker past the tidal barrier and down to Brightlingsea. Downstream from the barrier, the Colne is marked by navigation buoys.

Interesting areas and points of note

  • When the river flows past the bottom of Castle Park, Second World War tank defences can be seen in the form of large concrete blocks by the boating pond.


  • By the lake near Tenpin, the 10-metre-wide strip of land between the Colne and the lake is screened by willows, hiding at its northernmost point a shut-up pillbox. Those of a youthful nature can lift themselves onto the entrance roof, then the roof of the pillbox itself. Although there is occasionally some broken glass, this can be brushed off. The secluded nature of the pillbox makes it an excellent place in summer and early autumn to dangle ones legs off the side and pass the hours by watching the river flow past quietly with wind rustling through the leaves of the surrounding trees.


  • From Castle Park to Wivenhoe Railway Station, National Cycle Network Route 51 roughly follows the course of the Colne. This is a mixture of tarmac-surfaced shared-use paths, a short tarmac/gravel-surfaced area and, once out of the urban area of Colchester, a hard dirt path on the north levee of the river that passes the Hythe and the university all the way to Wivenhoe. At low tides, mud banks are exposed with viscous mud, so care should be taken not to fall in. In addition, after the point where processed sewage enters the river, there is sometimes a strong, unpleasant smell at low tides.


  • The Hythe area was, from Roman times, a small port that supplied the town. However, the river is no longer deep enough to support ships large enough to make this viable, and water trade is now non-existent.


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