You can meticulously plan a journey, down to every last detail. Alternatively, you can just pack a bag in half an hour and head off, knowing almost nothing about the place, except that it's an island. If you get stranded for the night, you'll have to figure out how to cross the bridge when the tide rises.
Mersea Island remains undiscovered by many travelers and campers. Honestly, at times, you wish to keep such discoveries to yourself, and return to find the same serenity and space. We visited the island on the last Saturday of August, amidst the Bank Holiday rush. In the colorful beach huts, families of holidaymakers buzzed, but essentially, West Mersea beach enjoyed tranquility, undisturbed by the adventure-hungry crowds of tourists. They say that the eastern part of Mersea is even wilder.
It's not the first time that such spontaneous trips leave more pleasant memories than detailed plans. I had hardly heard anything about Mersea Island in Essex until now. Now I know that a few years ago, it made it onto The Sunday Times' list of the best places to live in the UK. Also, the series "The Essex Serpent," inspired by the book of the British writer Sarah Perry, was filmed on this coast. The author herself embraces her Essex roots, having been born and raised here. She takes pride in her origin and even enjoys the fact that Essex is not that much in vogue, after the line of reality shows and over-the-top glamour. Perry finds solace in the serene, dramatic, and unspoiled natural beauty of Essex.
To me, Mersea Island feels like the border between summer and autumn, a transition captured in the multicolored beach huts that stand opposite the rugged oyster beds, seaweed-draped shores, and dark wood posts emerging from the water. Worn-out boats sometimes appear as forgotten specters. Such raw, unfiltered, rugged beauty, both natural and man-made, may not resonate with everyone. Just like the slimy oysters. Locals enjoy this delicacy with simplicity, without any fancy rituals and formalities. They smile even at the usual oyster garnishes: lemon or onions with vinegar. A drop of Tabasco to them is like squeezing Heinz ketchup on the finest Italian pizza. Less is more, so a fresh, juicy oyster is all you need.
Mersea is often called the island of oysters. For oyster enthusiasts, this place is an absolute paradise. The freshest and most delicious oysters, at prices so reasonable that one could live on oysters: closed ones cost about 50p, open ones about 70p. Oysters have been cultivated here since Roman times and make their way to the finest restaurants in London, England, and around the world. Gleaming silverware and starched white tablecloths will never compare to the most authentic atmosphere when oysters are served by their own growers on the seaweed-covered beach. In Mersea, you can taste two types of oysters: Colchester Rock Oyster, naturally grown on the seabed, and Colchester Native Oyster, grown in the bay of Mersea Island. Londoners can find Mersea Island oysters at the famous Borough Market (https://richardhawardsoysters.shop). While opening the oysters, the local beach bar owners jokingly revealed to us the legendary Roman saying: "There is nothing remarkable about England, neither its people nor its weather. Oysters are the only good thing in this country."
For those who love tranquility, peace, and the therapy of slow living, I truly recommend this place. I know I will return as well, but this time, with a meticulously created plan to explore the eastern part of the coast. To order at least a dozen oysters, enjoy the mystical beauty of the landscape, and watch the birds catching the sun on the slate-gray shore. And if I’m lucky, I would like to witness the flow of the tides, as they briefly isolate this island from the rest of the world, creating a fleeting sanctuary for those fortunate enough to be present.
More images: @londoner_editor