104ac/42ha NNR, SSSI, SPA
Grid ref: TM 055 147 (click for o/s map)
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With its flower-rich grassland and its views across the Colne estuary towards Brightlingsea and Colne Point, Cudmore Grove country park is always worth a visit, but it and the Colne Estuary National Nature Reserve (NNR) alongside are really exceptional for birdlife in winter.
The country park takes its name from a small grove of elms growing on the cliff top. This was the only woodland on the island, but the original elms have died and even some of the replacement oaks have been lost as the sea has worn away the soft sands and gravels of the cliff, which contains fossils dating back 300 thousand years. It became a country park in 1974 and is managed by Essex County Council's Ranger Service.
The damp pastures at the northern end are managed for brent geese, and also attract golden plover and snipe in winter. If you take the seawall path beyond them you are likely to see birds all around you – waders feeding on the mudflats, songbirds finding cover in the saltmarsh, and sea ducks like goldeneye and red-breasted merganser on the estuary.
Areas of grass are left long throughout the year for small mammals, birds, lizards and insects, while other areas are cut each June as an organic hay crop. On summer days up to 15 types of butterfly can be seen feeding on meadows and hedgerows. The occasional common seal has also been seen visiting the Colne estuary
Bear left to East Mersea after crossing The Strood on to Mersea Island (B1025 from Colchester). The country park is beyond East Mersea village, off Bromans Lane.
Open from 8 am until dusk, all the year round.
January/February for waders and wildfowl; autumn and spring migration times for unusual birds; July for saltmarsh colours. Plan your visit for round about high tide, when the birds will be closest.
Mainly flat with easy walking ground mostly accessible by wheelchair.
The Strood is sometimes covered by spring tides. Information room open daily. Ranger telephone: 01206 383868.