Mersea Island at full moon and new moon the waters of the Pyefleet slowly creep over the Strood causeway, and we are, for a while, truly an island, cut off from the mainland.
The Mersea Island marshes, may seem desolate to some, but they can be amazingly beautiful. Just off the shoreline are forgotten backwaters, seal haunted creeks where curlew and oyster catcher probe the mud for food at low tide for food.
Mersea Island has been a settlement for 2000 years, party due to an abundant supply of fresh water from natural underground springs. Our earliest mention occurs in the writings of no less a person than Julius Ceaser himself.
West Mersea village sits at the western end of the island – to the east lies the small hamlet of East Mersea. They are two distinct communities. The island is situated on the East Coast of England, nine miles south of Colchester and is (allegedly) the most easterly inhabited island in Britain. It is bordered on its northern shore by the Pyefleet Channel and on the western side by the Strood Channel.
Mersea Island is five miles long by two miles wide and has a land mass of 2,683 acres. It faces south to the Blackwater Estuary the largest estuary between the Thames and the Wash.
At East Mersea two rivers, the Blackwater and the Colne merge. The Colne runs nine miles north until it reaches Colchester “Britains’ Oldest Recorded Town”. Colchester was once a Colonia. a Roman garrison, and remains a Garrison town today. In Roman times Mersea Island became a retirement retreat for Veteran Officers of the Roman legions. There is evidence indicating that there were once several splendid Roman Villas on the island.
If you were a Seagull you would know that Mersea is shaped like a bean and that it rises along a central ridge to about seventy feet, (which is what passes for a hill in this part of England). The Island sits on a bed of London Clay producing a heavy loamy soil interspersed with patches of sandy gravel.
In conservation terms the Blackwater is one of the top ten estuaries in Western Europe, a large section of it being a triple SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest. Mersea saltmarshes form part of the Eastern Atlantic Flyway a migration route for millions of seabirds stretching from Siberia to South Africa.
Mersea Island has a dry healthy climate with a rainfall of approximately twenty inches per year. Residents are famous for their longevity (we have the highest number of ninety year olds in the Colchester Borough area). Mersea men are also well known for their virility – apparently it’s the zinc in the oysters!
We are a laid back and peaceful community, favouring the simple pleasures of life like building sand castles, sitting upon or strolling along the beach, or making pots of tea in beach huts.
West Mersea has a long sand and shingle beach and very clean bathing water.
Mersea has the largest inshore fishing fleet between Lowestoft and Brixham. The main catch being, sole, skate, bass and mullet in summer and herring and cod in winter. Second only to this comes oyster farming, Mersea is famous for it’s native oysters. The finest specimens find their way to the tables of some of the most prestigious eating places in Europe. Until the turn of the century oysters were farmed and dredged under sail and you can can still see some of our, lovingly preserved, antique fishing smacks, out on the water in all their glory. In summer many take part in Smack Races up and down the east coast rivers, quite a few are sailed by local “lads” descendents of the orginal Smack fishermen.
As well as the serious sailing fraternity there are many who love “simply messing about in boats” and there are craft of all kinds forever sailing or chugging up and down the river (we have over one thousand boat and yacht moorings). But we mustn’t forget to mention the Windsurfers and Kitesurfers, two popular sports on the Island. They can be seen out on the water in all seasons – even Christmas Day – and, on windy days, reach surprising speeds.
We welcome all Visitors to Mersea!