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.
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 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.
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.