By Tony Smith
Historically the tidal Blackwater was once known as The Pant and even today some people around the Blackwater still call it The Pont or The Pant. It may be of surprise to some that inland the fresh water river is still called The Pant.
While researching for the Creeksailor book I took a ride out in search of this small tributary. Clad in walking boots I rambled my way to the very source of the Blackwater, roughly 30 miles deep inland.
When I realised I had found the beginning of the Pant I had mixed feelings, almost an anti climax even, I wasnt sure what I was expecting to find but there I stood 400 feet above sea level surrounded by farm fields and brackish shrub. I had ended up in a small field just outside the Essex market town of Saffron Walden, standing over one of the main sources of the River Blackwater, the River Pant, and at the exact spot where the river begins its journey.
My observations as a creeksailor say that at this point, this small river could be likened to a grass covered rill cutting through the mud, a very unexciting one at that. But, when you actually think about this little trickle of fresh water-way winding its way slowly seaward alongside bridleways flanked with mature trees such as the mighty oak, flowing under small brick built victorian arches that span quiet tracks that are the haunt of the yeoman; passing great country halls and peacefull hamlets, building in size and glory the further east the river flows, the excitement begins to build inside.
Here are a series of pictures of The Pant culminating at the mighty arm of the sea-The River Blackwater.
Not your everyday farmers hedgerow. The Pant begins here.
Another view of the very beginning of The Pant
Slowly beginning to grow. 2 inches deep? Could possibly get the punt in here
Just navigable in a dinghy perhaps
Bridge over the River Pant. The colourful daffodills are a clue to what time of year.
Still deep in the Essex countryside and more bridges
A typical field bounding The Pant near Wimbesh
Another delightful little bridge. The Pant noticably getting larger now.
The Pant passes through the small village of Radwinter. The excitement builds in more ways than one, I actually ended up in the Pant here. While changing my camera's SD card it fell into the River.
The Pant eventually enters the Blackwater and chelmer Navigation making its way to Heybridge. Before the canal was dug out It would have entered through Heybridge Creek which is now dammed.
The fresh waters of the Pant eventually pass through Heybridge lock gates to become open sea water. Incidently this image also shows how close you need to keep to the withies when comming into or leaving the lock