3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Essex Life today click here

Everything you need to know about the Maldon Mud Race

PUBLISHED: 12:13 22 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:13 22 May 2018

Maldon Mud Race

Maldon Mud Race


Byrhtnoth, one of Maldon’s most famous sons, is still remembered for his part in the Battle of Maldon, protecting the port against Viking invaders, but Petra Hornsby meets a new breed of locals taking on an altogether different battle

Maldon, one of the oldest recorded towns in Essex, is situated on the Blackwater Estuary. It was once a prime target for invading Vikings, largely due to its accessibility for their ships and the fact that it was already an established and successful working port.

Resident Anglo-Saxons put up a brave defence after the initial attack in 924 but, after several engagements and skirmishes, were later defeated during the bloody Battle of Maldon in 991. Byrhtnoth, the brave Saxon warrior who met his death against the marauding Norsemen, is honoured by a statue in the town and a commemorative window in St Mary’s Church records the historic event.

It is said that the Vikings were paid a substantial amount of money to bring an end to the battle and limit further bloodshed and damage to the port.

Maldon Mud RaceMaldon Mud Race

Maldon’s Hythe Quay, although no longer a working port, is still an attraction for tourists, although any misbehaving Scandinavians are asked politely to stay away! Handsome Thames Sailing Barges, which once carried cargoes of straw and hay up the Thames for city-dwelling horses, are still a feature of the quayside, with several still moored there.

The boats are still in use but their commercial purpose has changed as they are used for educational trips for students or for bird watching and sightseeing by locals and tourists. The very noticeable orange sails of the barges are coloured that way thanks to the materials used for water-proofing them – yellow ochre, cod oil and their reaction to the effects of sea water.

Every year there is a Barge Sailing Race which is an impressive sight, but there is another event that brings many visitors to the town – an altogether more gritty, mucky and rather noisome spectacle.

Maldon Mud RaceMaldon Mud Race

The Maldon Mud Race is the type of event that highlights the quirkiness of the British. Since it began in 1973 (in spite of a change of venue and some health and safety concerns resulting in a halt to it taking place for a few years) it remains hugely popular. The race itself is a 400 yard ‘dash’ across the extremely muddy bed of the River Blackwater.

The tradition began when a local resident challenged the landlord of the Queen’s Head public house to a dare which involved serving a meal on the saltings of the River Blackwater dressed in a dinner jacket. The challenge was successfully carried out and the following year a new challenge was proposed.

About 20 people made a mad dash across the river bed, drank a pint of beer served from a bar set up on the saltings and hurried back across. The Maldon Mud Race was born!

Maldon Mud RaceMaldon Mud Race

The date of the race was traditionally scheduled for a winter Bank Holiday – either Boxing Day or New Year’s Day – with often freezing conditions providing additional challenges to both organisers, participants and onlookers.

Exceptionally cold weather in the winter of 2010 delayed the race until the spring of 2011, which proved to be a great success. As a result of this, the organisers have opted for an even warmer time of year this time around and in 2018 the race takes place on Sunday, June 10.

Leigh Hemmings, who has been involved in promoting the race for several years, explains: “We are hoping the warm weather will attract in the region of 20,000 people to the town to watch the race. There will also be a large funfair and various stalls selling artisan foods and drinks to add to the day. While waiting for the tide to go fully out there will also be a duck race – a bit of fun for people to enter on the day.

Maldon Mud RaceMaldon Mud Race

“The number of entrants for the mud race is limited to 300 for safety reasons and those taking part range from absolute beginners to marathon runners and those who specialise in stamina events. The fittest will make the crossing in five minutes but others could take over two hours to complete the 400 yards. There is no time limit – other than the incoming tide!”

There might be some who think that the distance isn’t too great and can’t be that much of a challenge, but past contestants would soon put them right.

Leigh says: “It is much harder than people perhaps think, with one woman even describing the experience as harder than childbirth!”

Maldon Mud RaceMaldon Mud Race

Their contribution, however, certainly pays off as each entrant pledges to raise a minimum of £50 in sponsorship. This and other donations coming in via a Just Giving page mean that the event raises several thousand pounds for charities and local causes. In 2017, £30,000 was raised for local charities and other nominated causes.

Leigh continues: “It is such a fun display with many people dressing up in fancy costume and, over the years, we have attracted great media coverage from both local and national news sources and from across the world, including Germany and Japan. It certainly captures the spirit of local tradition and eccentricity.”

The Maldon Mud Race website provides important information for visitors heading to Maldon for the event and – for those wanting to take part – includes some very useful tips and a basic kit list.

Maldon Mud RaceMaldon Mud Race

The website also lists the nominated charities that are helped through fundraising and the local businesses that sponsor and support the race.

The race starts from Promenade Park and for confirmation on the start time (tide dependent) and parking information, interested spectators should visit maldonmudrace.com

Maldon is certainly a town keen to hang on to its traditions which one day may be as significant historically as its passionate defence against the Vikings.

Thankfully the term bloody battle can happily be substituted for muddy battle — and long may it continue that way.


Follow Essex Life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Essex Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Essex Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Essex Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 12:56

This walk from the town of Bures on the Essex and Suffolk border leads you through the Essex countryside to the little villages of Alphamstone and Lamarsh | Words and photos: Laurie Page Public Rights of Way Team at Essex County Council

Read more
Yesterday, 11:43

A popular Southend escape game venue has launched a new room inspired by the town’s seafaring past

Read more
Thursday, September 20, 2018

The history and heritage of our county’s historic homes is not only contained within their walls but it also stretches out into the land surrounding it. We’ve found 11 great walks that allow you to experience that history first hand

Read more
Thursday, September 6, 2018

Your favourite county magazine, Essex Life, has joined forces with Channels Estate near Chelmsford for another Strike it Red event — an Autumn Splendour Supper and Fashion Show on Thursday, September 20

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

If you have never been to a ploughing match, this month is a great time to put that right as the The Ongar Ploughing Match marks its 100th event. Ralph Metson explains more

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

New research by TotallyMoney suggests Essex is one of the best counties for London commuter hotspots. Based on average house price, length of commute by train and the cost of an annual train ticket these are the best commuter towns in Essex

Read more
Sunday, August 26, 2018

Essex is home to some of the most stunning vistas in the UK. From the estuary of River Thames to the North Sea coastline, the county’s scenery is a diverse patchwork of stunning sea views, ancient architecture and vibrant gardens. We pick 9 of our favourites

Read more
Thursday, August 16, 2018

Words and photos: Laurie Page Public Rights of Way Team at Essex County Council

Read more
Thursday, August 16, 2018

Spend Halloween hunting down ghouls and ghosts in the county’s most haunted places and spaces. We pick 10 absolutely terrifying locations to visit this October.

Read more
Thursday, August 16, 2018

No one knows Essex better than the people of Essex; we asked where the prettiest places to live were, and you let us know. So, without further ado, here are the prettiest places, suggested by you

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search