Last Sunday we went across to Mersea Island, not an unusual thing as the children sail there most weeks in the summer, but on this occasion it was to go to an Open Day at the Packing Shed - one of Mersea's best known landmarks. It was built in the 1890's on Packing Marsh Island by the Tollesbury & Mersea Oyster Fishery Company and although oysters are no longer packed there, it has been restored and is now run by a trust for a variety of outdoor activities. It is a fascinating place to go to - you catch a launch from the causeway and for £3 can have a cream tea and enjoy the spectacular views. Whilst we were there storm clouds gathered making it look rather dramatic at high tide, when the foreshore disappears. It is next open on Sunday 19 August www.packing-shed.org.uk
Mersea is famous for its oysters and seafood - there are several local fish restaurants, but perhaps most famous is the Company Shed where a delicious range of sea food is served - oysters, salmon, crab, prawns, cockles etc. It is best to get there early and get your name put on the board as they don't take bookings, it is on a first come first served basis www.the-company-shed.co.uk
The highlights of the sailing year at Mersea are Cadet Week, at the end of July where the youngsters take to the water and Mersea Week, which this year is from 19-25 August where an amazing number of boats take part in the racing each day, including dinghies, cruisers, classic yachts and gaffers, smacks and Mersea Fishermen's Open Boats. There is also a Round the Island Race where the smaller boats sail round the island and are carried across the Strood - the bridge that connects Mersea to the mainland, but which floods when there is a very high tide. www.merseaweek.org The final Saturday of Mersea Week is the Town Regatta - as well as sailing, there is also rowing, punting, sculling, swimming and walking the greasy pole, with a prizegiving and grand firework display in the evening. www.mersearegatta.org.uk
The jetty or hammerhead is a great place for crabbing and on the quieter side of East Mersea there are lovely beaches and interesting walks as well as the Mersea Vinyard to visit.
Easter is always a time of excursions. Yesterday we went over to Orford to visit the Ness. From now until September the National Trust run boats (every 20 minutes) over to the island every Saturday, and on other days in the height of summer. The boat trip is short but to see the Ness fully you need a good 2-3 hours and when the weather is good it would be a great place to take a picnic. A system of arrows shows the routes and there are quite a few interesting buildings to encounter whilst you are there. The landscape is an interesting mixture of grazing land, low lying ditches and lagoons and the wilder expanses of shingle which are completely open to the North Sea and the north-easterly wind which was blowing yesterday! Now an SSI with interesting habitats and a vast array of bird and plant life, its previous military uses are very much in evidence, both in the buildings including the AWRE site, where weapons such as Britain's first atomic bomb 'Blue Danube' could be tested in the labs, known locally as 'pagodas' and in the debris and signs warning of the possibility of unexploded ordnance.
After a bracing walk we called in at Pinney's to buy some smoked prawns and the delicious taramasalata that they make and then went to the Butley Orford Oysterage for a mouth-watering lunch of sea food - wonderful! Later on to Aldeburgh, where the town was bustling, with several interesting shops and galleries, not forgetting to call at Ives ice cream shop too!