While many would associate a trip to visiting an island to be one that entails a lengthy boat journey or plane trip, residents of Maldon and the surrounding area have one right under their noses if they have sufficient mid-distance open water swimming abilities… or an off-road capable vehicle at the right tide levels.
Northey Island which is a national nature reserve, sits around a mile from the town of Maldon in the Blackwater Estuary. The causeway which connects it to the mainland is covered by the sea for 2 hours each side of high tide.
The island is no more than 200m from England’s coast at its closest point, and is far from the most busy of offshore locations, carrying a permanent population of 1, the warden employed to reside there.
Despite the low concentration of residents, it is a relatively significant landmass (a similar area covered to that of Heybridge including the marshes) located within the River Blackwater, with a historical moment of fame to match.
Northey Island is perhaps best-known for being the site of the famous Battle of Maldon in the year 991, which makes it the oldest recorded battle site in Britain. The battle is believed to have occured on Northey Islands south bank according to historical descriptions matching that of today’s ‘tidal island’. The battle saw an army of viking invaders trying to pillage Essex’s coastal towns and villages until they met Byrhtnoth and his Saxon army.
Northey is one of 43 ‘unabridged’ tidal islands on the British mainland, and one of 6 in the county of Essex, accessible through the land bridge (pictured) whenever it is at least two hours before or after high tide. And to take advantage of it, tourists are able to arrange a trip to the island by way of contacting the National Trust (owners of the island), and take a slot on the warden’s schedule.
Whilst known for its natural attraction as a listed nature reserve, Northey Island runs a number of events each year that attract more people over the natural bridge than normal, but surely the chance to just set foot on a (usually) separate body of land should be the primary appeal for most people visiting Northey Island.
Visiting is by appointment only to protect the habitat. More details can be found at the National Trust website.