One of the longest coastlines
The coastline in Essex is one of the longest of any county in England and much of it is made up of an intricate network of river estuaries, creeks, islands, mudflats and offshore sandbanks.
The extensive areas of fringing salt marshes and the intertidal zone, both so rich with fauna, flora and seasonally migrating birds, has resulted in the majority of the coastline being recognised as of international significance.
Much of this area is now protected under national or international laws. With wide, open views of the sky, and of uncultivated low-lying land and the sea, this coastal edge is a powerful landscape.
Earth, concrete embankments and seawalls have been constructed at various times to separate the land from the sea. Much of this defensive line allows pedestrian access along the coast where it is possible to experience many changing and beautiful patterns in the landscape.
In addition to keeping out the sea, major defences to deter invaders have been constructed along this edge of coast, and from Napoleonic times to World War Two, many examples have survived.
Large tracts of productive farmland extend inland from the coast, largely protected by the seawalls. There is cattle and sheep grazing on land just above sea level in large irregularly shaped fields, generally without hedges. On the rising ground further inland, arable crops are cultivated, with more of these fields having hedges and some trees.
Where there is sand rather than mud, coastal towns like Southend, Clacton, Frinton and Walton have expanded over the past century with their esplanades, piers, and sandy beaches as well as other special attractions, to accommodate the growing numbers of holiday makers that still come, especially from London.
Seaside campsites, holiday caravan parks and golf courses fringe many of these and other settlements, and leisure boats in addition to the fishing boats frequent the bigger estuaries.
The Essex coastal landscape has also acted as a rich source of inspiration for artists, writers, poets, film makers and musicians such as Arthur Ransome, Eric Ravilious Alfred Hitchcock Simon Carter and Robert Macfarlane.
For more detailed analysis of the landscape of the Essex Coast please see the landscape character of the Essex Coast 2006. The full document is available from the County Council on a CD.