SUP Paper Mill Lock, River Chelmer, Essex


If the tide’s wrong or it’s too windy and choppy for comfortable paddling at the coast due to a sea breeze or the ambient wind, it’s time to head inland. Our nearest useful stretch of freshwater is the River Chelmer (technically the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation) which extends 22km east from central Chelmsford beyond Maldon to the Heybridge Basin. The most comfortable launch is at Paper Mill Lock where trees and the surrounding valley provide good shelter from the wind, ensuring the water stays flat. This is our preferred teaching venue, we’ve regularly been instructing SUP lessons here since 2013 and are the resident paddleboard school

No tides! And as the river is governed by locks, there’s generally not much current either… (Usually just a gentle flow from west to east, although it can get pretty strong after heavy rain.) Rainfall, drought and canal maintenance can effect the water level.

Paper Mill Lock is usually far enough inland to escape the sea breeze on a hot, sunny day. Pressure-driven winds are generally much lighter here than at the coast too. And thanks to the riverbanks and surrounding valley, even if it is windy the water stays flat. Strong paddlers should be fine in pretty much any wind conditions – as ever, just be sure to paddle upwind first so it’s easier coming back! Check out our SUP Weather section for the latest…

There’s now only very limited free roadside parking by the bridge, so since 2020 by far the best bet for parking on a busy summer’s day is the £5 ‘River’ car-park under the willow trees (@PaperMillLock on Facebook). The Tea Rooms (@PaperMillLockTearooms) are usually open 10am to 5.30pm for refreshments and offer customer toilets. Licences are required to launch on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation – SUPsect is licensed for our school / hire fleet of boards. Annual personal licences (£35 per year) are available to buy online via … or you can purchase (cash or cheque) from the Resident Caretakers – see Sue at Paper Mill, or June / Ian at Hoe Mill. £5 day launches are available.

Best found with the aid of a sat-nav! Nearest postcode CM3 4BS. Paper Mill Lock is on North Hill, just north of Little Baddow. Limited free parking on the roadside near the bridge, or £5 at the ‘River’ car-park in summertime. Recommended launches: &