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13 November 2014

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You are in: Essex > Nature > Nature Features > Ray Island

National Trust Ray Island sign

Reached by foot or by boat

Ray Island

Ray Island is a tiny, sandy mound rising out of the saltings close to Mersea Island. Accessible by boat or on foot at low tide, it's owned by the National Trust and managed by Essex Wildlife Trust.

Cross the saltings at Mersea Island and along an ancient track you'll reach Ray Island. The trackway that leads across the salt marshes goes back to the time of the wool trade in the Middle Ages and was used until the 1950s for driving cattle on and off the island.

"Ray Island itself is situated about a mile out in the middle of the saltings," explains David Nicholls, volunteer warden.  "The saltings themselves stretch right the way down, opposite the lifeboat station at West Mersea."

Ray Island view

The island is grazed by Soay sheep

During high tide the path is impassable as the water reaches waist height.  It's important to check the tides carefully if you walk across, although most people reach the island by boat.

As a National Trust property it's open to the public, but is managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust on a day-to-day basis.

"So it is both a nature reserve managed by EWT and National Trust property, which gives it open public access," says David.  "Most people go up by boat and sit and picnic on the northern shore in the summer mainly."

The island is nearly ¾ mile long from the eastern tip to the western tip, but only about 100 metres wide.  It has a long, raised bank on the northern side of the salt marsh - an alluvial deposit left by the retreating Ice Age.

If you would like to find out more about Ray Island, listen as BBC Essex's Renee Hockley-Byam joins David Nicholls, the volunteer warden to take a look around this hidden gem in the Essex countryside.

last updated: 30/01/2009 at 17:57
created: 30/01/2009

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