303. Mersea Island

I don’t normally walk around tidal islands, but Mersea is certainly different. And the reason why I chose to walk around it was its size, the fact it has a village and one small town on it and really it’s not that tidal! The causeway linking it to the mainland is called The Strood and only floods at high tide and even then only when high tide is over 5m. I have seen a lot of YouTube footage of cars, cyclists and pedestrians passing over the Strood at high tide. However, I was still mindful that today there wasto be  an high tide of 5.19m at 14:18 and I certainly would not risk driving through it in my car.

I made a very early start from the Travelodge I had spent the night at. There had been a very hard frost overnight and it took a good tem minutes to defrost my car. I drove towards Mersea and parked near The Strood on a rough car park on the island. Because I was doing a circular walk, it did not matter really where I parked. But the deciding factor was that I still had almost 2 miles to link up with a previous walk along the B1025 towards Langenhoe Hall. First I needed to circumnavigate the island.

I set off from the car park walking in a clockwise direction. The ground was frozen and although still only 6:45 the sky was clear and quite light with the heavy frost all around. The start of the footpath from the road and still marked on the OS map is wrong, with the sea bank breached a few years ago. The new path was really overgrown for the first mile. When I joined up with the established path it was very easy to walk on. I kept up a good pace, which kept me warm and ensured I did not panic too much about high tide. It was extraordinarily beautiful walking along the sea bank on this frozen morning. It was not long before I had turned off my head torch, as it was no longer needed. I was following the Pyefleet Channel with the water level quite low as there was still almost 1.5 hours to go before it was low tide. On the opposite bank of the channel I could see the warning signs for Fingringhoe Firing range which I had walked around a few walks back.

I soon approached Mersea Stone and the Colne estuary were I could look across to Brightlingsea and Point Clear. From this beach a summer foot ferry runs to both of these destinations. I turn around the tip of the island and soon take to the shore along a line of clay cliffs about 4m in height. I come across the carcass of a grey seal, I was expecting there to be a bad smell, but there wasn’t and I hurry past.

A different view now opens up with the angular grey shapes of the Bradwell power station drawing the eye and the white-washed houses of Tollesbury visible in the distance. The beach walking becomes more difficult, with the soft sticky grey clay now prominent I revert to the sea bank. I pass a holiday walk and amazed that a whole stretch of the sea defences have long since been destroyed. It looks to me like they were not constructed that well. I come to another section of the path where the path disappears at the top of the sea bank and there is a flooded section to try and walk around. I took a few minutes trying to get back onto the small sandy bit of the beach, over rubble from the sea wall.

I meet other walkers now, mostly walking their dogs as I enter West Mersea. Because, I stay on the beach I do not see much of the town. I make a quick detour to visit St Peters Well, which was to put it mildly – disappointing. Just some decking and a plaque! By this time it had begun to rain, not heavily, but verging on sleet. The footpath out of the town was already quite boggy from its constant use. As I near the road I pass a chap who is foraging for herbs. He is a chef from Mersea and is collecting Purslane. I had heard about this plant before, but was surprised when I read further of the associated health benefits of this ‘free’ food.

I arrived back at the car and I had over 3 hours before high tide. I now had to link up with a previous walk 2 miles up the B1025. As I did’nt intend to walk there and back I had brought my bike with me. I pushed my bike along the footpath over the Strood until I came to a footpath which veered off and away from the road. It was easy pushing the bike along the sea bank and after about 1.5 miles I turned off to an unsigned footpath back toward the road. When I reached the road I had  joined up with my previous walk. The road was very busy in both directions. I would have  hated to walk along this road as there was little or no verge. I cycled back along the road to the car, it only took 1o minutes and  I had now  ‘plugged’ this gap.

Early morning on a frosty Mersea
Onto the sea bank at Maydays Marsh, the wooden stakes were probably to reduce erosion at the channel apex or a means to catch fish using the tide
Heading eastwards
Looking across the Colne Estuary to Bateman’s Tower and Brightlingsea
A Wigeon near Mersea Stone
On the beach below the clay cliffs heading SW
Destroyed sea defences
Destroyed sea defences near West Mersea
Digging for bait or food on Mersea Flats with Bradwell Power Station across the Blackwater Estuary
St Peter’s Well – a underwhelming experience!
Crossing The Strood

Distance today = 14 miles
Total distance = 5,523 miles

 

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