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Springfield Basin, Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation

Accessible for local, portable and trailable craft

Silver Propeller Challenge



Visit Springfield Basin in Chelmsford, on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, by boat, canoe or paddleboard.

It has been chosen as a Silver Propeller Location to encourage waterway visitors on the Navigation. A photo of your craft in Springfield Basin will be a good proof of your visit.

Complete our challenge by visiting 20 locations from our list, you will receive our exclusive plaque and goody bag.


About Chelmsford’s Waterways

The Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation runs through a largely unspoilt part of rural Essex and connects the county town of Chelmsford with the tidal estuary of the River Blackwater at Heybridge Basin. It is 13.8 miles (22.1 km) long and has 13 locks.

Although the first scheme to make the River Chelmer navigable between Chelmsford and Maldon was proposed in 1677, it and subsequent proposals were blocked by the millers and landowners who feared loss of trade at the port of Maldon. The Navigation only succeeded when it was decided to bypass Maldon with a sea connection at Colliers Reach, and the village of Heybridge Basin was established.  The Navigation finally opened in 1797 and was successful. The majority of the Navigation is the canalisation of the river Chelmer; however the last portion to Heybridge Basin is artificial cut, leaving the river at the confluence with the River Blackwater at Beeleigh Falls. The Navigation crosses the Blackwater with a weir to retain the water; Beeleigh Flood lock is now fitted with only one set of gates as navigation during times of high water is no longer required; this stops flood water entering the channel to Heybridge Basin,. Hence although there are 13 locks, only 12 are operational.

The last commercial traffic was in 1972; timber, transhipped in Heybridge Basin, carried to a timber yard in Springfield Basin. The navigation has long been associated with the timber trade; when traffic started to decline, the Proprietors planted willow trees that are still harvested today to make cricket bats. Pleasure boats were allowed full use of the navigation from 1975; before this they had been prohibited use of the locks.  When the timber traffic ceased, Springfield Lock and the cut above it, to Springfield Basin became disused.  IWA Chelmsford Branch launched a campaign to restore the lock, funded all the costs of restoration, carried out the work with volunteer work parties, and persuaded the then National Rivers Authority to dredge the cut to improve flood defences, and Essex Wildlife Trust to provide the timber for new lock gates.  The lock, cut and Springfield Basin were re-opened in 1993 at an IWA National Trailboat Festival.

IWA was instrumental in saving the Navigation from being abandoned when the Navigation Company got into financial difficulties and went into administration in 2005.  The Navigation is now managed by IWA’s subsidiary company Essex Waterways Ltd.  IWA Chelmsford Branch is currently campaigning to extend navigation through the city of Chelmsford along the rivers Chelmer and Can.

[Photo by Roy Chandler (c) shows Springfield Basin during a rally of boats]

Notes for visitors


Postcode: CM2 6YQ

What3words /// bland.kept.hooks

Boat Dimensions

The maximum size of boat that can navigate the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation is:-

Length: 57′ (17.40m)
Beam: 15′ (4.62m)
Height: 6′ 3″ (1.9m) – Paper Mill road bridge
Draught: 2′ 0″ (0.62m) – Statutory depth; most of the waterway is deeper.

There is a slipway at Paper Mill Lock.  All boats must be licensed by Essex Waterways Limited.

Canoeing, trip boats and hire boats.

Canoeing is encouraged on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation with an Essex Waterways licence.

There are trip boats based at Paper Mill Lock and Heybridge Basin, but they do not usually visit Springfield Basin.  There are no hire boats on the Navigation.

Challenge Location

Springfield Basin, Chelmsford

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