Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Friday, 22 May 2015

May time on Mersea Island

You may remember that at the end of last year I blogged about our visit to Mersea Island in winter, today we returned ... it's our nearest seaside, an hour and a quarter drive away, and one of our favourite places for a relaxing day out on the coast.

Today we explored East Mersea, the smaller of the two villages on the island...

Our first stop was Mehalah's for lunch, a delightful relaxed restaurant specialising in local seafood. There were shelves of cook books and local history books to browse through while the chef prepared the food. 

The name may sound exotic but it's actually named after the eponymous heroine of a novel written by the local vicar Sabine Baring-Gould in 1880. I haven't yet read the whole story but it begins with a lovely description of the Mersea Island landscape - the whole novel is free online.

After our lunch, Cliff had crab salad and I had scallops and chorizo, we set off on a walk along the sea wall - an earth bank that prevents the North Sea from engulfing the island at high tide.

On the inland side of the bank, cows grazed on the lush meadows.

On the most easterly side the island are cliffs, we walked along the beach at this point as the cliff top path has been closed for safety reasons.

Can you see the wooden posts in the water? These are polders, brushwood fences which trap the silt which is suspended in the water and hopefully create mudflats which will slow down the waves and therefore protect the island from further erosion. It will be interesting to see how this landscape changes over the coming years.

As you can see, the cliffs are eroding pretty dramatically. The crumbly sandy silty clay layers contain fossils of animals which once roamed the area ... including hippos!

Past the cliffs and we were on a shingle bank with mud flats behind, another fragile environment... and home to adders.

We turned inland, through a caravan park (almost deserted, the lull before the Bank Holiday!) and walked along a leafy lane to East Mersea church, dedicated to St Edmund the martyred East Anglian king.

The palm tree in the churchyard is evidence of Mersea Islands mild climate.

Inside the church is surprisingly light and plain, but it's an ancient place - Roman building materials were reused in the walls. The first recorded rector was Martin De Bockinge in 1200 but the most renowned was Sabine Baring-Gould, if you hadn't heard of his novel Mehalah before today you will have undoubtedly heard of another of his works... the hymn 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. He also wrote a memoire in which he described his Mersea Island parishioners:
"Essex peasants are dull, shy, reserved and suspicious. I never managed to understand them, nor they to understand me." 

Also in the church were some rather nice needlepoint hassocks depicting local birds.

Before heading home we went to another favourite place, the Art Café in West Mersea, for tea and cake. And a couple of treats - a plant (I couldn't resist a bargain) and a pork pie from the butchers for our supper.

Whatever you have planned for the Bank Holiday weekend I hope you have fun



  1. Mersea Island looks interesting, I've never been but will know a bit about it now! I love the comment about the Essex peasants!! Beautiful hassocks.

  2. What a lovely day. The cliffs look very dramatic and the restaurant sounds great. Can't beat the sea air for a good day out.

  3. Still surprises us up to now how many places we weren't aware of before. Thanks for taking us along!

  4. I've never been to Mersea Island but it is on my list of places to visit. Thanks for the tour!

  5. Mersea's my go to Sunday with the dogs place. Had some spectacular lunches at Mehalah's (I didn't notice the name, it was just that little place).

  6. Celia, I do remember the earlier post, and so it was interesting to read about your return to Mersea Island, and to learn more about the interesting place with a unique atmosphere.

    I will have to follow that link to read Mehalah, too, I am intrigued.


  7. I do hope that the polders will create the mudflats, it's a good natural defence.

    I must ask OH to take me to Mersea this summer.

  8. I'm with Toffeeapple ... fingers crossed the polders do their job. I've never ventured as far south as Mersea Island, it is the Suffolk coast from Felixstowe up that I know, which looks very similar although I'm guessing the geology is a little different. But both areas are threatened by the sea of course, which always makes me sad.

    Those cassocks have to be some of the most appealing I've seen.


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