Six weeks ago to the day we were going to do this very trip but I had a heart attack instead so it had to be cancelled. However no heart attack this time so we left home to do the short drive (10 miles) to East Mersea. You have probably not heard of East Mersea which is not surprising as it is in the middle of nowhere and there is very little there except Salt Marsh, sand and water.
So why are we bothering? Well we don't intend to spend the day at East Mersea as we are going to call the foot ferry which will take us across the water to Brightlingsea. You've probably not heard of Brightlingsea either but never mind.
We parked our car and walked down the footpath to the river wall and this is the view from that river wall.
Across the other side of the River Colne is Brightlingsea. We need to get onto that sandy spit this side because that is where the foot ferry lands. We had, by this time, telephoned from my mobile phone for the ferry to come over from Brightlingsea to pick us up. The ferry runs a scheduled service from the middle of July to the end of August but outside of those times there is a scheduled service at weekends and bank holidays but during the week it has to be requested by telephone. It's rather novel really and something we have not done before so we had to give it a try.
We reached the beach easily enough although some of it was hard work in the very soft dry sand. One step forwards, half a step back, but we got there. Having reached the pick-up point we could see, in the distance, the ferry making its way toward us.
As it got nearer we could see that there were passengers on board who were obviously coming to East Mersea.
The bow of the ferry grounds on the beach and a small ramp is lowered to afford easy access. That funny woman in the red coat is apparently keen to get on board.
Well she did get on board and so did I and off we set. Warm, sunny and calm – just right. On the way across the boatman and I were discussing our heart attacks, as you do, and in a fairly short time we were nearing Brightlingsea Harbour.
It wasn't long before we were moored at the end of the harbour pontoon and we set off along the pontoon to reach land.
The first rather obvious building we noticed is this one. It used to be the Anchor Hotel but has now been converted to appartments. Dating from around 1901 it is a listed building although only just over a hundred years old. A very attractive building.
A little further along the street is this Cinque Ports Wreck House built around 1811. Interestingly there is another building in Sydney Street in Brightlingsea which is labelled "Cinque Ports Wreck Warehouse". I haven't been able to discover why there are two similarly named buildings.
Having walked from the harbour area into the centre of the town we found Jacobes Hall, reputedly the oldest timber-framed building in England, built during the fourteenth century. The people that lived in this house paid for the church to be built so they must have been pretty wealthy.
A little further along the same road was another timber-framed hall house.
We wanted to visit the parish church next but it was on the outer edge of the town, about 1.5 miles from the centre, so we decided to go by bus. Built around 1250 this church is not easily missed with a tower not far short of 100 feet high and most of the building covered in flushwork which is extraordinary. In the recent blog post "Following the Stones" I mentioned the flushwork on Hall Place but this church puts it to shame. We have not seen so much flushwork on one building.
There is an unusual feature inside the church in the form of memorial tiles in a strip all round the church. There is one for each parishioner who lost their life at sea – 213 in all.
At this point we realised that we were only about half a mile from the Thorrington Tide Mill, built around 1831, so we decided to walk there. We followed the footpath on the side of the road and soon found the mill entrance. The public have access to the mill only in the afternoon of the last Sunday of each month and also bank holidays so we weren't able to go inside but we did have a good look around the outside.
A tide mill works from a large mill pond, shown in the first of the two pictures above, which is filled at high tide then closed off. After the tide level has dropped the sluice can be opened to let the water back out via the water wheel, shown in the second photograph above, which then drives the mill. Clever eh? We would like to see inside so perhaps we'll have to try and arrange a re-visit when it's open.
We now crossed the road to the bus stop and got the bus back to Brightlingsea but got off one stop before the town centre. This takes us a little closer to Bateman's Tower which we were planning to see next and after a short walk there it was.
That sandy point across the water is where we started this trip from.
Built in 1883 by John Bateman the tower was used as a folly for his daughter to recuperate from consumption; however it may have been intended as a lighthouse as part of a failed plan to expand the port.
You may notice that the horizon in the picture is level but that the tower is leaning so it's not the photographer's fault. It is said that its foundations were laid on bundles of faggots (brushwood) so the fact that it leans shouldn't come as a surprise.
We walked back, on the little promenade, to the harbour where we asked to be taken back to East Mersey on the ferry and thence home.