Last Updated on March 13, 2023
We met our skipper Simon at the marina in Levington. He introduced us to the lovely Emma; the 27ft yacht that we would be sailing for the day. As we embarked onto Emma, Simon went through the safety procedures with us and then trussed us up in the regulatory life jacket!
The weather was lovely; a perfect day for sailing…… We each took a turn at the helm on our journey to Hamford Waters and back. One of the first places we went past was Woolverstone Marina near Ipswich.
Along the route we saw the iconic HMS Ganges mast near Shotley which is in danger of ‘being left to die’. The full-size ship’s mast is planted in the ground at the former naval training college near Shotley. In 1779, the vessel HMS Ganges came into service on the south coast of England. She was moored at Mylor, Falmouth, later to be anchored off Shotley in 1899. In 1905, the ship was no more but the name lived on as a shore training establishment where the boys continued their training until its closure in 1976.
We then passed by the Felixstowe docks which is Britain’s biggest and busiest container port and one of the largest in Europe. The port sees over 4000 ships into the port each year including the largest container vessels afloat today!
The multicolours of Dovercourt beach huts greet us starboard side. Dovercourt is a small seaside town in Essex. It is older than its smaller but better-known neighbour, the port of Harwich, and appears in the Domesday Book of 1086. Dovercourt is rich with civil war history and as a seaside resort offers shops and cafes for visitors and residents.
Horsey Island came next. This is a privately owned and inhabited island near Frinton-on-Sea, Essex. Permission is required to visit. It is linked to the mainland by a causeway that can be walked with care at low tide, and is one of 43 (unbridged) tidal islands that can be walked to from the mainland of Great Britain.
We then dropped anchor to eat our packed lunch in Hamford Waters and had a visit from a curious seal.
Hamford Water is a coastal embayment with mud flats, marsh, and sands that is known for its large populations of over-wintering birds. Main habitats : Salt marsh, intertidal mud flats, coastal, grazing marsh, sands, shingle, small freshwater ponds and ditches.
Star species: In winter months, you can see the overwintering populations of waders and waterfowl that the site is known for, including dark-bellied Brent geese, black tailed godwits, redshank, ringer and grey plover and shelduck. There are a number of birds that breed on the site, including nationally important colonies of little tern and avocet.
The extensive areas of salt marsh provide important safe high-tide roosts in winter, whilst in summer these areas are perfect nesting sites for large numbers of black headed gulls, who also nest on the large shingle banks on Horsey and Stone Point.
The reserve is also a good place to spot common and grey seals like the little fellow that came to say hello to us!!
Unlike many of the other Essex NNRs, Hamford Water is not an estuary as it does not have a major river running into it. Instead it is classified as a coastal embayment that has been formed due to a natural dip in the underlying geology of the area. This natural dip has created a variety of habitats that make up the 1448 hectares of the reserve, from salt marsh, mudflats, sands, shingle and other typical coastal habitats to grazing marsh and small freshwater ponds and ditches in the more inland areas of the reserve. The bird life that this variety of habitats attracts is outstanding, especially the waders and waterfowl that can be seen in winter.
After we had all enjoyed our lunch we set sail homeward bound when I took a turn at the helm… Great fun and I only took out a few boats along the way. However hopefully I made up for it with the frequent visits to the galley to make the crew tea and coffee!
It was a great day and even if you don’t have good ‘sea legs’ it’s definitely a fantastic way to enjoy the sights and sounds on a delightful vessel.
I can’t recommend this highly enough as a fabulous day out, whether you are a seasoned sailor or a complete novice. A huge thanks to Simon Read our skipper.
For full details of the sailing experience offered by Simon, please see our separate blog post here.