Just off the coast of Mersea Island in the River Blackwater are numerous small islands. Moored in amongst the islands are yachts, barges and dinghies of all shapes and sizes. The tide covers many of the islands each day, and a lot of them aren’t easily accessible. As a result they are a haven for wild birds, many of which, in early summer nest in the sand and pebbles.
One of the islands that can be visited is Packing Shed Island, so named because there is an old oyster packing shed on it. I visited with a group of friends on a day in early June when one minute the sky was heavy with rain, and the next there was blue sky and the sun was sparkling and dancing on the water.
The island and the Packing Shed were a revelation. Surrounded by water and just a short distance from the bustling water front of Mersea it’s a tiny little nature reserve. There is a protected plant – that must not be named – or sold – but is delicious, nesting seabirds, and old oyster beds. There is a tiny little beach made up of millions of seashells, including old oyster shells. I found myself wondering how long the oyster shells had been there – maybe from the Roman period – the Roman’s loved oysters. Probably not that long! The island is great for beach combing – I just collected lots of shells, but someone in the party returned to mainland Mersea with a rusty piece of chain and the very rusty remains of a knife – he was convinced it was Roman!
The Packing Shed itself and the island are still owned by Richard Hayward and his family. Their oysters are famous throughout the country and in Europe. But the freshest place to eat them would be at their very own Company Shed on Mersea Island.
The Packing Shed itself is now in the care of a trust, who look after it and hold regular open days throughout the summer. You can also hire the shed for parties, weddings and all sorts of events. To reach the island you need to hire their little boat – which comes with it’s own driver – in our case it was Bry – whose love for the island shone through. The Essex Coast is often spoken of as the Discovery Coast, and this really was an opportunity to discover somewhere new – but so close to home.
Whilst on Mersea we also came across Stacey Belbin who runs trips in her boat Lady Grace from Mersea all year round. You can find out more about the trips she offers here