Whetmead is an area of meadow, young woodland and open water just the other side of the A12 by-pass from Witham. The site is very rich in wildlife and covers about 10 hectares (around 25 acres). Once a part of the manor of Newland, by the middle of the 20th century it came to be used as a County Council rubbish tip for the then fast expanding town of Witham. When the tip was full, the site was landscaped, and returned to Braintree District Council in 1976 as an open space. The Witham and Countryside Society proposed that it should be a nature reserve and in 1981, it was formally designated as a Local Nature Reserve, with its official opening in 1991.
Witham once had a bathing place here close to where the rivers meet. This stretch of the river gave a deep and a shallow end and there was a diving board and changing accommodation. Soldiers billeted in Witham during the First World War bathed here. However, it was often vandalised, and despite supervision by Mr Hammond from the near by sewage farm, the diving board and steps found their way into the river too many times and it was abandoned in 1929.
Whetmead was transferred to the care of Witham Town Council in 2005. Today it provides a home for many plants and animals, several of which are quite rare in Essex. It is not a beauty spot, but people visit Whetmead to observe and study wildlife, and simply to relax. The open grassland which forms the bulk of the area has been left to establish itself. There is now probably one hundred species of plants here, ranging from commonplace wild flowers to plants rarely to be found in Essex
Fishing is permitted from the banks of both the Blackwater and the Brain at Whetmead, but you must hold a rod licence. This can be obtained from local fishing tackle shops, the Post Office or the Environment Agency on 0844 800 5386. Anglers are asked to remove all litter and discarded tackle. Please do not use barbed - hooks, as they can damage the fish.
Whetmead can be a lonely place and young children should be accompanied. Iron bars or wire may project from the surface, as remnants of the tip (amongst other hazards) and care is required wherever you are walking. In places, the rivers are deep and the banks steep.
Please "Take nothing but photographs. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time."
Here are some general guidelines to preserve this natural space for all:
PLEASE treat the nature reserve and everything in it with respect and in particular
DO NOT kill or injure or remove any plant or creature, nor pick any flower or foliage.
DO NOT leave any litter, take it home.
DO NOT ride a bicycle or other vehicle in the reserve; it will cause damage.
KEEP dogs under control.
Sources: Witham Town Council; Witham & Countryside Society; Janet Gyford.