Top ten alternative British boating bases

Look beyond the typical South coast boating bases and there are plenty of welcoming harbours that offer some delightful experiences

Blackwater River

The glorious Blackwater is hardly a boating secret, only 1½ hours’ drive from the centre of London, yet it seems secret, so untouched by time are these placid reaches.

The river opens into the Thames Estuary near Brightlingsea. Following the entrance buoys past miles of sandy shoals, you come in between Mersea Island and prominent Bradwell power station.

Without really noticing you suddenly feel far from the sea as low marshy shores enfold the river in a kind of peaceful contentment.

Tollesbury-on-the-BlackwaterTo starboard you glimpse clustered masts inland where Tollesbury Marina (pictured above) lies at the head of a winding creek. To port, sleepy Bradwell Marina huddles behind a coastal dyke.

Up at Maldon, Thames sailing barges raft alongside a drying quay opposite the Jolly Sailor. But nearby Heybridge Basin is my favourite haunt.

This picturesque old shipping dock carries generous depth above the lock, so quite large boats can moor here.

10-Heybridge-Old-Ship-Inn-01Next to the lock is the Old Ship Inn (pictured above). It would be idyllic to be based in Heybridge for a while for a completely different style of cruising from the South Coast.

The Blackwater itself has miles of protected water and beyond it lie more of those very English East Coast rivers.

Berthing: Tollesbury Marina, Bradwell Marina or Heybridge Basin

Getting there: Incredibly, Heybridge Basin is only 52 miles from Trafalgar Square!

Pilot book: East Coast Rivers Cruising Companion by Janet Harber

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