YOU might think it’s impossible to be cast away in Essex, but you have probably never heard of Mersea Island.
Sat in the Blackwater estuary, a few miles south of Colchester, this tranquil spot can only be reached at certain times by a narrow causeway.
In reality, it only really gets cut off from the mainland when the tide is particularly high.
But that happens twice a day. Then you’re surrounded by water, isolated on a peaceful patch of land off the Essex coast.
It’s the UK’s most easterly inhabited island, only five miles long and two miles wide.
There are no hotels here, just a handful of rooms and caravans – lots of them
We stayed at Away Resorts on the eastern part of the island.
Our luxury caravan had two cosy bedrooms, one with an en suite, a stylish lounge-cum-kitchen and a furnished veranda, perfect for early evening drinks watching the sun set beyond a grassy horizon.
It’s tucked away at the quieter end of the island and just five minutes walk from a private sandy beach that overlooks the estuary.
Still, there’s enough to keep us busy with a swimming pool and the Cudmore Grove Country Park right next door, where dogs and children can run freely.
The best way to explore is by foot, and that’s what we did, strolling quiet shores and calm fields before stumbling on Mersea’s tiny vineyard.
The neat rows of lush German grapes, spread across ten acres, produce crisp white wines that go well with oysters – a specialty on the island.
They also make their own gin and beer.
On the other side of the island to our caravan home, West Mersea had a livelier atmosphere.
We wandered past cosy pubs, cafes and farm shops selling honey, jams and essentials as well as a jetty where fishing and sailing boats are moored.
The nearby beach was lined with rows of pastel-coloured bathing huts and a sandy stretch for sunbathing and seaside games, although when the sea comes in most of the sand disappears.
Elsewhere, the coast is stony and low tide reveals a wide expanse of mud.
But there’s still plenty of wild spots to swim.
The water in the estuary is warmer than the open sea and the best time for a dip is at high tide.
Water sports are big here too as the sea is usually calm — choose between paddle boarding, wind surfing, kayaking or jet skiing.
There’s even a six-acre inland lake where you can learn to sail.
The big attraction for us though was the food.
The freshly-caught Mersea oysters were some of the best we’ve ever tasted and the crab wasn’t bad either.
Normally, you can sample these seafood delights at the Company Shed, a simple shack by the sea, where you bring your own bread and wine and sit at communal tables.
But this was closed because of the pandemic, so we ordered one of their magnificent seafood platters loaded with crab meat, prawns and salmon and scurried back to our caravan.
Our bellies satisfied, a tiny foot ferry from Mersea Stone took us to Brightlingsea on the other side of the River Colne, a ten-minute crossing.
This was once a busy fishing port with extensive oyster beds but those are all long gone.
We didn’t linger, however, jumping straight on an hour’s boat trip upriver to Wivenhoe.
This was once the port for Colchester and had a thriving shipbuilding industry, even turning out two dozen minesweepers during World War Two, but finally closing in 1986.
The old quay is filled with attractive wooden houses and the narrow lanes behind are home to arty shops and quaint pubs.
Our trip included lunch in the Black Buoy, one of the oldest pubs in the area, and reputedly a meeting place for smugglers and pirates.
We saw neither, though, just locals enjoying a quiet pint and day trippers like us gobbling beer-battered fish.
After the bustle of Brightlingsea it was a relief to get back to the tranquillity of Mersea, where everything seemed so still in comparison.
Packing up our bits, we were warned to cross over to the mainland before midday.
A high tide was expected, which would cover the causeway, leaving us marooned.
Well, there are far worse places to be shipwrecked.
Go: Mersea Island
STAYING THERE: Four nights’ self-catering in a luxury caravan at Away Resorts is from £300.
OUT & ABOUT: A lunch river cruise from Brightlingsea to Wivenhoe costs £26 per adult and £22 per child, including lunch at the Black Buoy.
Source: Read Full Article