Rivers Blackwater and Pant

The River Pant rises east of Saffron Walden and flows for 19km before becoming the River Blackwater at Bocking, near Braintree. From Bocking the Blackwater flows for another 61km and has two major tributaries, the River Brain and the River Chelmer, before emptying into the Blackwater estuary at Maldon.

This catchment consists of the River Blackwater and Domsey Brook. The Blackwater is 61 km long and the Domsey Brook is a tributary that flows into the Blackwater and is 7km long.

This map shows the current projects; potential, in progress and completed on the River Blackwater, River Pant and Domsey Brook.

Project status




    In progress



Click or tap a number to view the project details





















After severe flooding in the village of Finchingfield in 2012 and 2014, the ‘Slow the flow’ project was launched by Spains Hall Estate in conjunction with the Environment Agency, Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust and Essex Wildlife Trust. The project aims to prevent flooding downstream in Finchingfield and the surrounding areas through water slowing measures.

Essex Wildlife Trust was recently awarded funding from the NBN Trust to digitise river corridor survey data for the Rivers Blackwater and Pant, collected by the National Rivers Authority in the early 1990s. This was part of a wider initiative to mobilise data using funding received from the Cabinet Office via their Release of Data fund.

This part of the river flows through an urban area so the channel has been straightened and concrete reinforced to reduce the risk of flooding nearby housing.

This area should be assessed to see if reinforcement could be reduced so that natural banks and channel can be restored, improving the biodiversity of this section of river.

This section has a mill race which is connected to the main channel via a weir. The weir affects the natural flow of the water, holding it back to fill the mill race.

The weir is preventing natural habitats from forming by changing the river flow and also acting as a barrier to fish attempting to migrate upstream.

There are two weirs either end of the mill race which control the flow between this channel and the main channel. If these were removed or reduced then the connectivity between the two channels would be improved and create a more natural habitat in the mill race.

Billericay and District Angling Club run a site known as Straits Mill. This former gravel extraction site was converted to a fishing club and provides high-quality riparian habitat adjacent to the River Blackwater and the Braintree Council owned Bocking Blackwater Local Nature Reserve. 

There is a weir in this section that should be investigated to see if it can be removed and see if there is a way to reduce the impact on fish migration. This could be achieved by introducing a fish pass or changing the structure of the weir so that migration upstream is still possible. 

The area seems to have been dredged in the past so that the banks are steep sided. Reprofiling the banks in places to create a more gradual gradient will create a more natural structure to the channel. It will also create better conectivity to inchannel and bankside habitats.

This section would benefit from improving/increasing in-channel habitats and this could be achieved by installing woody debris. This will change the flow of the water, which will eventually create a more natural shape to the channel.

Plough hill farm is a small land holding in the upper reaches of the River Pant. The landholding is grassland and is one of the few places that is not arable. This made it ideal to explore for any potential river restoration projects. 

Hedgerows are complex habitats that provide shelter, food and corridors for a large number of plant and animal species.

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is known to be present along the River Blackwater near Coggeshall. Following the discovery of the plant in several locations along the river corridor in 2012, further surveys have been undertaken in 2013 to accurately map the distribution of the plant along the river.

Over half a million ponds have been lost over the last century and, with them being able to support a wide variety of wildlife, it is important to restore and create ponds where the habitat is sutiable.

Willow, alder and birch thrive in poorly drained or seasonally flooded areas, growing together to make the woods we call 'wet woodland'. This kind of woodland is found on floodplains, in fens and bogs, on the banks of rivers, streams and lakes, and along hillside flushes. Wet woodland can be found on a range of soils from mineral-rich alkaline soils to acidic, nutrient-poor soils.

Millfield plantation is a private site on the banks of the River Pant, near Great Sampford. It is one of the few sites in this part of Essex which still supports a grazing operation. Thus it was in part ideal for a river restoration project. 

This section of the River Pant will benefit from 600m of back channel reinstatement which will help to increase the variety of river habitat and therefore increase the diversity of the site.

Ironbridge Farm is a lovely site on the banks of the River Pant near Shalford. The value of Ironbridge is recognised in its designation as a Local Wildlife Site, which means it is important at a county level for wildlife. Due to this designation, it was deemed perfect for a river restoration project. 

Wet woodland restoration and enhancement, offline pond restoration. This section is notably neglected. A series of ditch works and coppicing aim to create a good functioning area of wet woodland, whilst a series of old disused ponds can be reinstated to offset the impacts of the upstream mill race.

Following river walkover surveys of the Blackwater in 2012 a river restoration project was proposed to enhance the river corridor along the local authority owned Blackwater River Walk between Braintree and Bocking. 

Floating Pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides) is a non-native invasive species and was known to be present on the River Blackwater near Braintree in 2012. Surveys that year found that the plant had spread upstream and downstream from its known location and a proposal was put in place to tackle the problem.

Website key stakeholders:

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Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting based on an original concept by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust