River Chelmer near Ulting

  • 13a+Ulting+church+from+the+river 2

This is a beautiful stretch of the river Chelmer. Try downstream from Hoemill Bridge and lock, or walk for a mile upstream on towpath to secluded Rushes Lock (51.75086,  0.59836). You will pass the pretty little church of Ulting on the opposite bank (please do not swim from the churchyard). Wide, deep section used by pleasure crafts and slightly brown, but water is some of the cleanest of any Essex river. 2m deep.

Place Categories: River Swims and Wild Swim.Place Tags: dive, swim and wildswimming.

Ian Christopher Howe says:

The River Chelmer at All Saint Church, Ulting

Garth says:

This is a great place that can be enjoyed but it does look like some people are causing issues for the locals. I did some hunting and it seems this has been a problem for them for a while now and has cost them money. I don’t know what the law, etc. is but these ARE church grounds. I’m not religious at all (slightly anti religious actually), but some politeness and respect to the locals and their beliefs would probably go a long way as picknickers and swimmers are clearly an issue for them – there are loads of other nearby places to get in the water afterall. Also I have no idea why you would picnic on church grounds when there is a great little public park at the lock just downstream (see attached pic)? And the lock upstream as well?

Anyway I’m going for a swim there this weekend. As suggested below we will be walking up the other side of the river from the lock and swimming from the opposite side from the church. I think it’s a good alternative, but what you do is up to you really.

FYI here’s some results of the hunting I did… My biggest concern is who has been rude to poor Alan!?

October 2010:
“Councillors had raised concerns regarding wild swimming at Ulting Church. The clerk had spoken to the Churchwarden who was more concerned about obstructive picnickers. Ways to discourage swimmers were discussed but no conclusion was reached. Cllr Roy Pipe suggested that the church could have a notice stating that the churchyard was closed to the public when there was a wedding or other event.” (

May 2011:
“The Parish Council is seeking quotations for the replacement of the gate and repairs to the fence at Ulting Church. We are still having trouble at the church with large numbers of picnickers. In the first instance this is disrespectful in consecrated grounds and secondly, they are rude to Alan when he is trying to cut the grass.” (

At says:

I live about 5 minute walk from the church and went there for a swim today. I had no idea they had put signs up until i got there and I just couldn’t understand what possible harm it could do. My daughter and I went for a dip to cool off despite the signs. I fail to see how it is disrespectful to the church and would have thought that with the state of the Church’s popularity they would do far better to embrace visitors. I can understand the ‘no boating’ as dragging a boat through the churchyard would cause some damage but bare feet getting in and out of a bank… I don’t think so.

Ian says:

There is now a hotline number added to the notice so witnesses can alert the very un christian busybodies to anyone enjoying themselves swimming. When ever I have swam from All Saints church I have always been respectful of the Church. I always slip a pound coin under the Church door and I have often picked up any discarded rubish on my way back to my car. Its sad that a few mean people persist to give the church a bad name by not embracing the community as a whole. The majority of people I see when I swim in the chelmer are very positive and friendly.

michael says:

This was my first wild swim.

Beautiful location with easy access into and out of the water by the church.

Would recommend to everyone. The church is also a beautiful little church.

EG says:

It is a beautiful location however this is a place of worship first and foremost, and it should be a privelidge to swim there (if allowed), not a right. I have seen visitors leave rubbish on the grounds and yes, the bank is eroding from overuse where you enter the water. Insurance or not, this property should be respected for its intended use. The grounds opposite the river can be accessed via a short walk from Ulting Lock nearby. You get an even better view of the lovely church and grounds and can swim and picnic from that side too. Surely this is a win-win situation, where swimmers an enjoy the lovely swimming and picturesque location without damaging or disrespecting the church and grounds?

Huudi Elbo says:

STOP PRESS! The church will be having a service on 7th october at 5pm to say a prayer for the new gates! The mind boggles, a prayer to celebrate locking people out of the church? I am told the gates were purchased and fitted by the house next door, I wonder what COE think of somebody gating their property?
I suggest the 7th as all swimmers day at Ulting, all are welcome.

R Smith says:

Hello Huudi Elbo

I am delighted to be able to politely correct you on a small detail above. Writing as people in “the house next door”, I can categorically state as fact the gates were NOT purchased NOR fitted by us. I think you may have got the wrong end of the stick.
The service for the gates, was for the fitting of the lovely gate with the small mouse, paid for by one of the churchgoers in memory of his late wife.

Kind regards

NIMBY says:

This is indeed a beautiful spot to swim from and I’ve made a couple of trips there with my family. Since the first time though, not only has the gate been put up but so has a sign saying no swimming. We missed this at first as it’s at the bottom of an otherwise reasonably friendly notice which merely asks people to be respectful of the church yard on their visit.

While we were there, a couple watering flowers came up and told it was “disrespectful” to swim and picnic there as it was consecrated ground. They also said that swimming eroded the banks and that there were “insurance” risks, which made me slightly less inclined to take seriously the first reason.

I can’t imagine many people go here – there’s a few there each time I’ve been – all of whom seem very sensitive and respectful to the place – and there’s precious few days in an English summer when swimming in a river is an inviting prospect, so it seems a massive shame the local parishioners have taken the view that swimming should be banned. I’ve no idea of the legality of such a ban either but they certainly seem to have decided to go round telling anyone doing it to effectively sod off.

EssexArgie says:

The gate has now been locked with a chain and padlock. You can still walk down to the church though the pedestrian gate that isn’t locked. Apparently this has been done due to abuse of the car park and grounds. The gates were a gift by a local chap who has a strong interest in the grounds and his adjacent property so no surprise it is now locked. You can park in one of two parking spaces alongside the gate or on church road which leads to it. The churchyard now has a sign welcoming people but stating that swimming is prohibited. Strangely, the church warden is on record as saying wild swimmers are not an issue. I normally swim from the bank outside the churchyard (to the west). Today I swam from the churchyard riverbank as my spot had a angler using it and partly out of protest at a small minority of parishioners who consider the church their own and don’t understand that this church needs to have pilgrims. Swimming there is brilliant and the church makes for a beautiful backdrop. Swim west to the lock and back and you get a mile or so to log. Enjoy.

Huudi Elbo says:

I recently swam there with my wife but was warned by a local busybody that this was not allowed, at the same time she was oblivious to the couple making love in the grounds and even watered the plants around them! The mind boggles!
Note: a notice states you are welcome to use the grounds but asks you not to do so during a service ie: once a month or weddings etc.
The approach has been gated but not locked however if they think somebody may be enjoying themselves…?

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