Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Oysters and Ale; If You Fancy Island Life, There's One in Essex, Discovers Ruth Bloomfield

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Oysters and Ale; If You Fancy Island Life, There's One in Essex, Discovers Ruth Bloomfield

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Bloomfield

FEW commutes involve leaving mainland Britain but the 7,000 or so people who live on Mersea Island must cross a Roman causeway to reach their homes -- and enter what feels like a different world.

This estuary island of eight square miles, south-east of Colchester in Essex, has been a holiday destination for the Roman middle classes, a refuge for monks and a haven for 16thcentury smugglers. Today it is a most unusual enclave, where fishermen and financiers rub shoulders.

Commuting into London from the island is neither swift nor cheap, so it is an ideal spot for home workers who only have to make a reluctant trip to the capital once or twice a week.

Diane Argent, director of Game Estate Agents, says: "We've got beaches all around, but we don't have any arcades. It is unspoiled. You don't have to drive anywhere once you are on the island, and it has all you need."

In summer, the Mersea Island lifestyle revolves around messing about on a beach, windsurfing, kayaking, or sailing with the island yacht club. Mersea -- pronounced "Mersey" like the river -- is popular with tourists, which means it can sustain a good range of seafood restaurants such as The Company Shed, which sells fresh shellfish and lets you bring your own booze, and the West Mersea Oyster Bar. Or if you just fancy a coffee and a chunk of homemade cake there is The Artcafe.

join our club Community spirit is strong with over 100 clubs and groups to join, catering for film fans, dancing, photography, sports, or, via a supper club, you can get to know the neighbours. May sees the annual Mersea Island Food, Drink & Leisure Festival, a feast of local oysters and wine.

A major issue for parents is education. Mersea Island School, the island primary, was downgraded in its most recent Ofsted report from good to "requires improvement"and senior children have to bus it to Colchester or Tiptree. Reaching the island involves a 46-minute train journey from Liverpool Street to Colchester, and an annual season ticket costs PS5,988. …

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