David Whiteley immerses himself in everything magnificent Mersea has to offer

PUBLISHED: 11:58 08 August 2019

Mersea Lifeboat Station

Mersea Lifeboat Station


Is Mersea Island the centre of the universe? It may not be, but recently it was very much the centre of my universe, well briefly. Let me explain

Our family had planned to meet up with friends of ours on Mersea Island for a summer weekend. They live in Brighton, we live in Norfolk. It seemed to make sense that we travel an equal kind of distance and spend three days in Essex.

So the plan was hatched. We got an Air B and B - a nice house by the sea. Four adults, four kids and two dogs. Sorted. Now I'd already been to Mersea just a few days previously, meeting up with some very interesting people about a story we are going to film for Inside Out on BBC One.

So, having not been to Mersea for quite some years, in the space of a week I was making my second trip over the causeway. The only way on and off the island.

The first thing to strike me was the distinctive smell of the mudflats. A salty sea air smell, yes, but when the tide is out in estuaries like this, they have their own aroma.

With the sea air dancing around my nostrils, I was transported back to my own childhood and the similar smells of growing up in Leigh on Sea. I'd watch as the cockle boats were unloaded by burly fishermen, still using yolks and buckets to unload their bountiful haul.

Just as Leigh still has its fleet of cockleboats and its traditions, so does Mersea, and it's proud of them too. Oysters are the pride of the island. Last year we were spoiled with endless sunshine and I guess we were hoping for that for our trip here. Sadly, it wasn't to be. But we are British and 42mph winds and heavy downpours just add to the fun. Right?

What is a trip to Mersea Island without going crabbing? The pontoon designated for such endeavours was bobbing madly as we attempted to entice the crustaceans onto the line with wafer thin ham. Bingo. They seemed to be very happy to take the bait. Job done.

Kids happy and the temporarily captive crabs were liberated to the drink. Next activity. Swimming. OK we donned our wetsuits, but still, we jumped in. Another one off the list.

And a trip to Mersea Island surely isn't complete without a foray in to the very busy Company Shed? We loaded up crab, oysters, prawns, cockles for a veritable seafood feast.

I felt we had certainly ticked the Mersea Island boxes. But one attraction we hadn't considered was the lifeboat station. Due to inclement weather, we took refuge inside and the kids (and big kids) were given the most amazing guided tour of the lifeboat and the enthusiasm from the volunteers and crew was infectious.

So much so, that we were all very keen to get back to the beach on the Sunday morning, before we headed home, to watch the lifeboat launch for their training.

While we were waiting, a very kindly gentleman, Godfrey, who was a volunteer too, regaled us with tales of Mersea, the lifeboat and how he'd lost a finger at sea and had to be rescued. This had inspired him to become a volunteer.

We said our farewells after the launch and he made the kids laugh with his stock greeting or cheerio, which was holding up his hand and asking for a 'high four'.

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