Ahhh, Boxing Day 2014. It was bright and sunny, and there had been an overnight frost in Essex. Where to go for that traditional Boxing Day walk? The Christmas Day walk had been to the woods after which we had to give the dog his traditional Christmas bath. So we decided to go down to Mersea Island, and walk around the lanes of the old village where we thought there wouldn’t be too much mud. So we all got in the car and off we drove.
We took with us this little booklet of walks around Mersea that the town council have put together. I picked it up, for free, from the Colchester Visitor Information Centre, but it’s available from various places on the island. We decided to follow Route Number 1 in the booklet called “The Old City Walk.” Slightly misleading – there’s never been a city on Mersea Island, but there is a very attractive lane called City Lane.
We parked in the public car park on The Hard where you can see across the River Blackwater estuary to the old oyster Packing Shed on its island, (you can read about my boat trip to it earlier in the year here.) We then turned left out of the car park past the yachts tied up on land for the winter and the Company Shed, home of the famous Colchester Native Oysters, and took the turning on the right into The Lane. And all of a sudden we were in a world of old white Essex weather-boarded fishermen’s cottages. For such a small lane there’s plenty to spot, including the high water mark for the famous 1953 East Coast floods and the tiny “Nutshell” cottage. Past Gossip Cottage, we came to Spite Corner, where we then followed a tunnel-like footpath that took us past a caravan park until we come out to a beautiful view across open fields down to the estuary.
There was then a foot-path along the side of the field to follow which took us to some little steps across a small ditch, and then on to the sea wall with a fantastic panoramic view of the River Blackwater. In deep mid-winter you realise just how remote and isolated it is, and cliche though it is, you can imagine smugglers landing on the mud flats and creeping ashore to the cottages you have just passed by.
We then turned left and walked along the sea wall, back towards the cottages and Dab Chicks, the Mersea Island sailing club. It isn’t really a sea wall in the true sense, just a raised pathway. You can see how the mud flats of the estuary merge into the land, it’s almost impossible to see the point where sea and land join.
The walk is only 1.5 miles long, and took us about 45 minutes, but it has every thing, the sea, yachts, weather-boarded cottages, history and beautiful views of the River Blackwater. But, beware – in the winter it has something else….MUD. The footpath across the fields was very muddy in places and so was the seawall. So make sure you have stout walking boots or wellies on, and if you have a dog with you – be prepared to give it maybe its second bath in two days – otherwise you might have a dog smelling very strongly of estuary mud in your house! Happy walking.