Located on the River Chelmer, Maldon is one of oldest recorded settlements in Essex. The local area is famous for salt production and fishing. Salt is still processed here by the Maldon Crystal Salt Company, although the fishing industry has mostly been replaced by yachts and pleasure boats.
Thames Coal Barge © Ron Porter
Maldon, pronounced Maw'ldon, is ancient saxon term meaning "monument on a hill". The town was often raided by the Danes during this era and a decisive battle was fought nearby in 991, after which the Danes took regular tribute (Danegeld) from the Saxon King, Æthelred.
The town was given a Royal Charter in 1171, and by the 18th-c it had grown to be one of the largest towns in Essex. Its fortunes increasing from the busy barge trade with London and France, via the Blackwater Estuary. Iconic Thames sailing barges can still be seen clustered along Hythe Quay. Some of these old commercial barges now offer pleasure cruises and day trips.
The town is set on a hill that drops steeply down towards the river. A good selection of pubs, restaurants and shops can be found along the busy High Street. A number of fine 18th-c houses can be seen in the town, many with Georgian facades.
The 15th-c red brick Moot Hall on the High Street is of particular interest. It contains an old courtroom and council chamber, plus a very unusual spiral brick staircase. The hall is currently used for civil ceremonies and can be visited on request. See website for further details. Also on the High Street is the Maeldune Heritage Centre, which houses a 42 foot long 'Millennium Embroidery', depicting 1000 years of Maldon history. Artefacts and information on local archaeology are also on display, including a photographic archive and exhibitions of work by local artists.
There are several old churches in Malden, including St Peter's (now the Maeldune Heritage Centre), St Mary's, and All Saints; which has a unique 13th-c triangular tower, the only one of its kind in England.
The remains of the 12th-c St Giles hospital, located on Spital Road, is a standing ancient monument in the town. It was founded to help local lepers and later became a general hospital for the poor and infirm.
The award winning Promenade Park is a long established recreational grounds near the river. Visitors can enjoy municipal gardens with a ornamental lake, mature trees, lawned areas and a host of children's play facilities. Near to the park entrance is a large Edwardian building, housing the Maldon District Museum, providing wide ranging displays of domestic, industrial, natural and social history, including the history of Maldon salt production.
The River Chelmer flows into the Backwater Estuary to the east, which is edged by large areas of salt marsh and mudflats, frequented by waders, wildfowl and other wildlife. A trackway along the sea wall here is ideal for bird watching.
Promenade Park hosts the famous annual Maldon Mud Race each spring, where hundreds of participants run through the muddy Blackwater in order to raise money for local charities. The race takes place at low tide when competitors run through the deep mud to the opposite bank and back again.
Further to the east, in the centre of the Estuary, lies Northey Island. A large conservation area of undisturbed salt marshes, reached via a tidal causeway. Access is by permit holders only. A nature trail leads to a hide where herons, wildfowl, pintails and curlews can be seen. The island was used as a defence against the Danes during the 'Battle of Maldon' in 991, which is recounted in the epic poem of the same name.
A selection of informative walks and heritage trails around the area can be found on the Maldon visitor information website.
Colne Valley Railway | Lee Valley Park | Mayhem Paintball | Royal Gunpowder Mills | Saffron Walden Museum | Secret Nuclear Bunker | Southend Museum | Southend Pier Museum Colchester Castle | Bourne Mill | Hadleigh Castle | Harwich Fort | Hedingham Castle | Mountfitchet Castle | Tilbury Fort | Waltham Abbey Audley End | Beth Chatto Gardens | Layer Marney Tower | Mistley Towers | Paycocke's | RHS Garden Hyde Hall Colchester Zoo | RSPB Essex Marshes | RSPB Canvey Marsh | RSPB Rainham Marshes