Despite the ongoing march of development Mersea manages to retain some of its former island magic. At full moon and new moon the sea water slowly creeps over the mud onto the Strood causeway and Mersea becomes, for a while, truly an island, cut off from the mainland. When the tide covers the Strood we do not recommend you attempt to cross, as this could be dangerous for you and damage your vehicle and other peoples vehicles.
To some the marshes seem desolate but they can be amazingly beautiful, a shoreline of forgotten backwaters, and seal haunted creeks where curlew and oyster catchers feed at low tide. Why not partake of a "sundowner" at one of our excellent hostelries and watch the sun go down over Feldy Marsh.
If you were a Seagull you would know that Mersea is shaped like an oyster and that it rises along a central ridge to about seventy feet - which is what passes for a hill in Essex. To be technical - the whole Island is five miles long by two miles wide and has a land mass of 2,683 acres, sitting on a bed of London Clay producing a rich heavy loamy soil interspersed with patches of sandy gravel.
The town of West Mersea (population about 7000) sits at the western end of the island - four or five miles to the east lies the small hamlet of East Mersea. They are two distinct and different communities.
The Island has been a settlement for 2000 years - mostly due to a dry micro cilmate and the supply of fresh water from underground springs. Mersea is situated on the East Coast of England, nine miles south of Colchester. Mersea Island faces south to the Blackwater Estuary - the largest estuary between the Thames and the Wash, and is bordered on its northern shores by the Pyefleet and Strood Channels.
At East Mersea two rivers, the Blackwater and the Colne merge. The Colne runs nine miles north inland until it reaches Colchester, "Britain's 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 archeological evidence of the existence of more than one luxury Roman villa on the island.
In conservation terms the Blackwater is one of the top ten estuaries in Western Europe for migrant birds, especially wading birds, a large section of it being a 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 has a dry healthy climate with rainfall of approximately twenty inches per year. Residents are famous for their longevity and Mersea men are (allegedly) known for their virility. Apparently it's the zinc in the oysters! Mersea is, so they tell us in Colchester, a "seaside resort". However, If you like to spend your hard earned cash on gambling arcades or white knuckle rides, then don't come here. We are more of a laid back seaside kind of place, favouring the simple pleasures of life, like sitting on or strolling along the beach, paddling in the sea, picnicing in the park, crabbing off the causeway, or spending lazy days in our beach huts (all 400 of them).
Mersea has a long sand and shingle beach and clean bathing water. If you do decide to take the plunge (it can be a bit nippy early season) don't wait around too long because, at low tide, the water disappears way into the distance. Low tide is the time to venture out across a long gritty sandbank to search for shellfish, paddle in warm pools and let the tiny crabs run over your toes!
Mersea has the largest inshore fishing fleet from Lowestoft to Brixham and there are also quite a few charter (rod and line) boats. The main catch is sole, skate, bass and mullet in summer - herring and cod in winter; second only to fishing comes oyster farming.
Until the turn of the century oysters were dredged under sail and you can still see some of the original fishing smacks in summer in all their glory out on the water; antique boats owned, maintained and sailed by local enthusiasts.
Mersea is very much a place where people like "simply messing about in boats". There are always craft, of all kinds, sailing, or chugging up and down the river.
West Mersea Town Council
10 Melrose Road, West Mersea
Colchester, Essex, CO5 8JD
Telephone: 01206 382128
Office opening hours: Monday, Tuesday & Friday 9am to 12pm.
You can still contact us by telephone and email at other times.