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What am I looking at?
This is one of the last narrow reaches of the River Stour, before it opens up into a wide estuary at Manningtree.
Looking out across the river you can see Cattawade Marshes, which has Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designation due to its major ecological importance.
The marshes cover 88 hectares between the two arms of the River Stour and is hugely important for wildlife – holding around 10 percent of wintering birds on the entire Stour Estuary. Because of this importance, no public access is allowed on the site.
What lives here?
It is locally renowned for its excellent location for bird watching. On a good day you can see redshank, lapwings and oystercatchers breeding on the pastures of Cattawade Marshes.
Cattawade Marshes also hosts many dabbling duck species such as teal and wigeon.
The picnic area is a popular fishing site. At this point along the River Stour, the water is ‘brackish’, meaning it is a mix of fresh and saltwater. Fish that thrive in this habitat include carb, bass, bream, gudgeon, and even rare trout or zander. But remember to leave some for the hungry herons!
This picnic area is managed by The River Stour Trust, which was set up in 1968 to protect public right to navigate the River Stour.
Cattawade Marshes was taken over by the RSPB in 2005, when there were only 5 pairs of lapwing nesting on the marsh. In 2016, 54 lapwing nests were recorded, demonstrating how well the site has been managed.
In 2016 the RSPB undertook a major invasive plant species removal programme, targeting crassula helmsii, which spreads rapidly and causes problems for amphibians, insects and birds.
Had this plant not been removed, it would have spread throughout the whole AONB and threatened biodiversity.
Walks and more
The picnic site is common entry point for kayakers, as from here you can easily navigate to the well-know village of Flatford.
Although there is no public access to Cattawade Marshes, the public footpath on the south side of the river allows excellent views across the site.
The Stour Valley Path follows the river for 60 miles (96km) between Newmarket and Cattawade. The Stratford St Mary to Cattawade section is a popular 4.5 mile (7.2km) route that takes in historic villages and the iconic scenery of Constable Country. You can find out more about this walk via our website.