It’s a wonderful walk round Mersea Island; in many ways a microcosm of the Essex coast.  I first did it in 2011 when visiting all 43 tidal islands which can be walked to from mainland UK. Mersea is the largest of these and No Boat Required describes my walk and much of the island’s history.

There was then a path along most of the southern sea wall but when I repeated the circuit for 50 Walks on the Essex Coast in 2015, a section was closed. Storms and high tides in the winter of 2014 had damaged coastal defences and the sea wall. I have to admit to ignoring the closed sign and walking with care on the damaged path. Then I went back and worked out a temporary diversion in my route instructions. When checking the walk for the 2016 reprint the path was still closed.

With 50 Walks on the Essex Coast being reprinted again shortly, this week we went back to Mersea. Not only is the path still closed and the sea wall damaged but now it has been breached. It was just after high tide and water was pouring back into the sea.

Clearly it has been decided to allow (or at least not to stop) the forces of nature to take back this small piece of Mersea Island. As sea level rises and climate change brings more severe storms it is no longer viable to maintain all of our defences. A natural barrier is sustainable and allows the waves’ energy to be dissipated harmlessly.

The diversion inland will be permanent but the bonus for nature is that salt marsh will soon be created – a habitat for birds and breeding ground for fish. And a bonus for walkers is that the path now passes the beautiful East Mersea Church where Sabine Baring Gould, author of Onward Christian Soldiers, was once rector.

2015 – Sea Wall Damaged by Storms

2020 – Just before the closed section but how long will this path survive? (There is an alternative beside the field).

2020 –  Path diverts inland from here (by the youth camp).

2020 – Looking towards the breach and the tidal lagoon that has formed inside the sea wall.

2020 – Water pouring out through the breach

2020 – Path closed Westbound

East Mersea Church – Safe from the sea half a mile inland. But for how long?

Peter Caton 7/8/20