About us

What is ESSA?

ESSA Water Activities Centre is...

  • a charity
  • run by qualified volunteers
  • primarily for young people but can cater for adults too
  • able to provide taster sessions and courses
  • an RYA training centre, British Canoeing Delivery Partner, Approved Third Party Provider for the Combined Cadet Force and holds an AALA licence
  • a 22 acre lagoon in Nazeing, set in the Lee Valley Country Park
  • adjacent to the River Lea and has easy access for river sessions
  • classed as B1 water

What are our aims?

To promote the development of young people in achieving their full potential physically, intellectually and socially through the medium of sailing and other water-based activities.

Our Mission Statement

We will deliver a high quality, cost effective water activities centre that fully meets our users’ needs and aspirations with the aim of supporting the personal development of young people.

The history of ESSA

History is unclear really about when ESSA first started but it can be traced back to as early as 1964.


Chapter 1 - Herts Young Mariners Base

Herts Young Mariners opened in 1964. The cost of the facilities was a yearly subscription per group of £1.1s.0d (£1.05 in decimal currency) and each Scout was charged 1s.0d (5p) per visit which included use of a boat and all facilities, camping was an extra 5p per night. We used this centre for some years and took members of other troops as well. Was this the start of ESSA??


Chapter 2 - Banbury Reservoir - Edmonton

In 1981 we found that there were better sailing facilities at Banbury Reservoir and that the Scouts could gain RYA certificates and as a result we “moved” from Cheshunt. I say moved - it was very easy as we didn’t have any boats. The main centre was run by Lee Valley Regional Park who had about five of the local Education Authorities running their own sailing facilities - these were Enfield; Haringey; Waltham Forest; Hackney/ILEA; and Newham.

Naturally we came under Enfield Council Education Department and we had Scout participants from the three districts in the Borough of Enfield, namely Enfield, Southgate and Edmonton, we met on one day at the weekend, a couple of evenings during the summer and we organised courses for the Scouts under the supervision of an RYA Senior Instructor supplied by the Council. Was this the start of ESSA? Lee Valley and the RYA gave us the unofficial name of Enfield - Scouts or Scouts - Enfield. The other day at the weekend and one evening were taken over by Enfield Sailing Association for teaching adults etc. During the weekdays the boats were used by groups from various Schools in the Borough.

Due to cutbacks in Education funding the Education Department then passed the sailing base over to Enfield College. The College in an attempt to save staffing costs organised an Instructor course for some School teachers, and leaders from both the Scouts and Enfield Sailing Association and then a Senior Instructor Course. Was this the start of ESSA??

By the Autumn of 1991 Enfield College decided that sailing courses with the high instructor/pupil ratio were not cost effective and hence decided to close the Enfield facility at Banbury with effect from 31st March 1992.

This set us a problem as to where to continue to sail and we decided to put in a bid to buy all the boats and equipment from Enfield Council. Because we were already a user group and that children from the Borough of Enfield would continue to get sailing instruction we negotiated a cut-price deal with the Council. With the help of a grant from Foundation for Sport and a loan from the Scout County of Greater London North we were able to continue at Banbury.

Now that we owned a considerable amount of assets (Boats and a Portacabin) the Committee prepared a draft Constitution, which was approved by County and the Charity Commissioners in 1993. We also decided to use the formal name of Enfield Scout Sailing Association and since then it has become better known as ESSA. Was this the start of ESSA?


Chapter 3 - Nazeing

In December 1994 we moved to Nazeing - this time the move wasn’t so easy as we had about 23 boats to move as well as the classroom and a store. The Contractor who moved the classroom found that it was heavier than usual and instead of lifting the building onto the lorry, the wheels on the far side of the crane lifted off the ground so he had to make another attempt with heavier lifting equipment.

Many of you will have no doubt seen the facts and figures which we have given in our annual report which indicate an increase in the number of participants for taster sessions or for casual sailing but only a limited increase in the total number of RYA awards gained and these have been virtually entirely in the lower levels. In my opinion the reason for this is two-fold.

  1. reflecting the drop in the higher awards nationally which has led the RYA to review the syllabi. (The youth awards were revised n January 2005).
  2. The Scout Association latest training program insists that all Scout Groups must have a balanced and varied program. (ie they are not supposed to concentrate on just water activities) and this makes it difficult for Troops and Units to fit general sail practice to retain their present skills as well as fitting the more advanced courses into the program.


Chapter 4 - New Principal

In September 2004 the Trustees appointed a new Principal - Marion Caslake. Marion, and her team, continued to provide Scouting with a Scout Sailing Centre that meets the requirements of the scouts from the County of Greater London North and adjoining Scout Counties.


Chapter 5 - Things are looking better!

During 2005, we purchased 3 new teaching boats, and got rid of all the old, and to be honest worn out boats, these being the Wayfarers, some of the older Toppers, Zephyrs, Comets, and a few other fibre glass boats.

We have seen increased numbers, especially those taking part in full RYA courses, which is always good news.

During the end of 2005 and during 2006 we have been running AI (Assistant Instructor) courses. With most of our helpers now keen to progress on the ladder of teaching, this has seen many of them taking part in the AI course, and becoming RYA Assistant Instructors.


Chapter 6 - New boats and lots more youth having fun!

After a huge amount of fundraising, ESSA can offer more activities due to the impressive fleet of dinghies, powerboats, kayaks, canoes, rafting equipment, windsurfing equipment, wobble boards, dragon boats, rowing boats and now also camping on the new land we have taken on during 2011.

Many more youth are visiting ESSA with their groups, and we now have a large amount of ESSA Crew, many of these becoming instructors in kayaking, as well as sailing.

The future of ESSA is looking bright, with plenty more improvements to come.


Chapter 7 - A Fresh Start

After being closed for the whole 2012 season ESSA was re-opened for 2013. A new constitution was put in place and we changed our name to ESSA Water Activities Centre in order to become more independent from other organisations. Site improvements are well underway and general operations are becoming much smoother and more efficient. A lot has changed and there are more changes to come but we still have the same core values as before.