The Island that is too good to leave

Anglorama nr 2/2006 (34)

The Island that is too good to leave

W nowoczesnej i gęsto zaludnionej Anglii wciąż są miejsca, gdzie czas płynie powoli, a ludzie, którzy lubią ciszę i spokój czują się jak w domu. Jednym z takich miejsc jest wyspa Mersea.

There is only one road in and there is only one road out. The road is straight with water flanking both sides. Seagulls drift over the road and perch, when the tide is out, on the brown mudflats. It is the very essence of isolation and calm.

“Welcome to Mersea Island” reads the sign and the road splits into two, to the east and west. The word Mersea derives from Meresig, in old English meaning “island of pool”. Tucked away in South East England, the most easterly inhabited island in the UK, goes mostly unnoticed by the majority of Essex sightseers.

The heart of the island is in the village of West Mersea which is like many rural country villages. It has the basics - a library, a butcher’s, a baker’s, a local newsagent’s and small shops selling handmade gifts. Nightlife isn’t really an option but there are a few pubs dotted around the island.

The harbour front is always a hive of activity with children crabbing off the jetty, boats being launched and fishermen, well fishing! This is where the finest fish and particularly good oysters are found. There is an Oyster Feast, which has been held annually for over 150 years, and as West Mersea Town Major, Alan Mogridge, puts it, “the oysters from Mersea waters are a delight!” Oyster catching and fishing remain as the main industries of the island along with farming.

A small harbour side restaurant and shop, The Company Shed, has been highly rated in The Times Restaurant Guide and sees customers come from afar to sample its food. It’s a quiet and charming place with fantastic food and the unusual added bonus of being able to bring along your own wine to drink with your meal!

Living on an island, the village life style can be both friendly and undisturbed at the same time, as resident Jayne Donnelly- Smith reflects, “I like it because it is quiet, yet people are around to help you when you need help. Mersea has a nice, close community spirit”. Resident Tony Millatt describes living by the sea, “I love the sea views; lying in bed listening just to the sound of the waves and the birds and the smell of the sea when I get back having been away”.

The waters summon big crowds in the summer as people are obliged to load up their cars and head for the beach. The sand becomes dominated with mums shouting at their children, dads getting sunburnt and long queues for ice creams, the general hustle and bustle of British beach life. Out of season, we can spot the odd, lonely soul on the beach walking the dog and if the wind is right, the wind and kite surfers flock to the shores. During the summer too the water is littered with boards. Top UK professional windsurfer Keith Richardson is a fan of Mersea and explains why, “the conditions are good, the chop is consistent and smooth”.

The one route on and off the island is a raised road called The Strood and this is prone to flood at high tide. There are ongoing debates over whether this problem should be solved, however this has caused fierce uproar and, ultimately, rejection. An islander all her life, Natalie Baldwin, is one of many protesters “the flooding isn’t ever really a problem… you know it’s going to happen and you can use your tide table to plan around it. It just makes Mersea more unique.”

The east of the island encapsulates the heart of the traditional romantic English countryside with long green hedgerows, fields of corn with tractors parading around and cyclists riding to the ‘pick your own’ or travelling back to one of three caravan parks scattered around the island. “Lot’s of people cycle,” says Millatt, “including my mother for example, at the age of 85 on the same bicycle that she bought in 1936”.

John Leather in his book The Salty Shore describes Mersea as the “Island which is too good to leave” and there is some truth in it.

Katherine Lock

to flank – oskrzydlać, otaczać
seagull – mewa
mudflat – obszar przy brzegu morza zalewany w trakcie przypływu
tucked away – schowany
newsagent’s – kiosk z prasą
dotted – porozrzucany
hive – centrum aktywności (przenośnie), mrowisko
to crab – gramolić się, poruszać się jak krab
jetty – falochron
to come from afar – przybywać z daleka
to summon – wezwać
to flock – gromadzić się
chop – nieregularne fale
high tide – przypływ
ongoing – w toku
to encapsulate – zawierać, obejmować
pick your own – sad lub ogród, w którym turyści sami zbierają owoce, a następnie płacą za nie

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