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13 November 2014

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You are in: Essex > Nature > Nature Features > The wonderful world of Ray

Ray Island

Ray Island is a secret Essex gem

The wonderful world of Ray

Ray Island is a tiny, sandy mound rising out of the saltings close to Mersea Island. But whilst most people have never hear of it, it is a part of Essex which has plenty going on.

The National Trust has looked after the island since it bought it in 1970. As volunteer warden, David Nicholls explains, they bought it for three main reasons. For it's literary connection, it's use as a picnic area and also the wildlife.

"It's difficult to say in a short way what it is about this place that makes it so special, but it is actually a very special place for all sorts of reasons," he says.

"There's a whole mass of folklore attached to this place as well as the literary connection and the wildlife interests, so there's a whole number of things to be explored here."

It's connection to literature comes through Sabine Baring-Gould, the Victorian Pastor of East Mersea who wrote the novel 'Mehalah.'

Soays on Ray Island

Soays on Ray Island help to manage the vegetation

"Mehalah is a beautiful young woman who lives on the island with her alcoholic mother and she's pursued by a local villain," explains David.

"It's a very tragic novel, compared in it's time to being the Wuthering Heights of the Essex salt marshes."

Although it's uninhabited by humans, except for when visited by picnickers, the island does have a few permanent residents.

"We've got a small flock of rare-breed primitive sheep, Soays," says David.

"They're here just to keep the grass down and keep some of the blackthorn and other scrub under control and they do a first class job."

Click on the link below to hear more about life on Ray Island.

last updated: 06/02/2009 at 16:48
created: 06/02/2009

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