104ac/42ha NNR, SSSI, SPA
Grid ref: TM 055 147 (click for o/s map)
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This country park takes its name from a small grove of trees growing on the cliff top. This was the only woodland on Mersea Island, but some of it has been lost as the sea has worn away the soft sands and gravels of the cliff, which contains fossils dating back 300,000 years.
It is mainly grassland. Some areas of grass are left long throughout the year, others are cut for hay in June, and on summer days many species of butterfly can be seen feeding on meadows and hedgerows. Common seals can occasionally be seen along the Colne estuary.
But the country park and the Colne Estuary National Nature Reserve alongside are really exceptional for birdlife in winter. The damp pastures at the northern end are managed for brent geese, and also attract golden plover and snipe in winter. Follow the seawall path beyond them and 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.
Another special attraction of Mersea Island is that red squirrels have successfully been reintroduced there.
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. SatNav: CO5 8UE.
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.