Mistral - Journal of Mersea Island Society 2007

Complete issue scanned

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 Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 cover.  MIS_2007_001MIS_2007_001
Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 cover.
March 2007
 Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 Page 11,
 Fishing Today by John Jowers.  MIS_2007_013MIS_2007_013
Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 Page 11,
Fishing Today by John Jowers.
March 2007
 Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 Page 17.
 Essex Salt Marshes by Mark Huges. AGM 2005
 History and ecology of the salt marshes. Decisions to be made about the future.  MIS_2007_019MIS_2007_019
Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 Page 17.
Essex Salt Marshes by Mark Huges. AGM 2005
History and ecology of the salt marshes. Decisions to be made about the future.
March 2007
 Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 Page 19.
 West Mersea Library - recent changes.  MIS_2007_021MIS_2007_021
Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 Page 19.
West Mersea Library - recent changes.
March 2007
 Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 Page 46.
 Ostreiculture over the last forty years, by a Mersea Oysterman.
</p><p>
The first view of Mersea, arriving by car, is from the Strood, a road that connects Mersea Island 
to the Mainland. At high water on spring tides, the mighty motor car cannot cross it and 
has met its match. Six hours later all has changed. There is no water to be seen. 
The marsh and mud are king. As a child I could smell the aroma of all this, but now I cannot, 
for I am part of this and this is part of me.
</p><p>
On arriving at the Waterfront forty years ago, it was dominated by the Stokers, Mussetts, Banks,
Frenchs and, of course, Ted Woolf. This was the centre of oyster cultivation in Essex, perhaps in 
England. There were merchants all along the Coast Road who sent Natives and Portuguese oysters 
every day to London and seaside resorts. These concerns had their oyster grounds in the many 
creeks that make up the archipelago around Mersea Island. As well as this, there were other 
families, Vinces, Hawards, Milgates, Heards and many others who toiled every day on their own 
private grounds or outside in the river to supply these merchants.
</p><p>
At 6.30 every morning in the week or maybe earlier, the Waterfront would come alive with a 
small army of men beginning work. In the winter, when it was dark, if you saw someone, 
the recognition call was Yo! If he was a friend he would return it.
</p><p>
How it used to be done. Dredging on the smack DAISY BELL circa 1904. For a better copy, see <a href=mmphoto.php?typ=ID&hit=1&tot=1&ba=cke&bid=MMC_P755_024>MMC_P755_024 </a>  MIS_2007_048MIS_2007_048
Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 Page 46.
Ostreiculture over the last forty years, by a Mersea Oysterman.

The first view of Mersea, arriving by car, is from the Strood, a road that connects Mersea Island to the Mainland. At high water on spring tides, the mighty motor car cannot cross it and has met its match. Six hours later all has changed. There is no water to be seen. The marsh and mud are king. As a child I could smell the aroma of all this, but now I cannot, for I am part of this and this is part of me.

On arriving at the Waterfront forty years ago, it was dominated by the Stokers, Mussetts, Banks, Frenchs and, of course, Ted Woolf. This was the centre of oyster cultivation in Essex, perhaps in England. There were merchants all along the Coast Road who sent Natives and Portuguese oysters every day to London and seaside resorts. These concerns had their oyster grounds in the many creeks that make up the archipelago around Mersea Island. As well as this, there were other families, Vinces, Hawards, Milgates, Heards and many others who toiled every day on their own private grounds or outside in the river to supply these merchants.

At 6.30 every morning in the week or maybe earlier, the Waterfront would come alive with a small army of men beginning work. In the winter, when it was dark, if you saw someone, the recognition call was "Yo!" If he was a friend he would return it.

How it used to be done. Dredging on the smack DAISY BELL circa 1904. For a better copy, see MMC_P755_024
March 2007

 Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 Page 47.
 Ostreiculture over the last forty years, by a Mersea Oysterman contd.
</p><p>
The boats that they rowed or sculled out to (there were no outboards used) were not necessarily 
oyster smacks, as most of these were seventy years old and beginning to be unseaworthy. 
Motor skiffs had been built after World War 2 and these had replaced many of the smacks, 
but most of the oyster dredgers were old ships' lifeboats and pinnaces. Some men worked in 
the creeks while others dredged outside in now forgotten places like Manhole, Shawl, 
and Spit of Back and over the Main.
</p><p>
The product of all this work was an oyster, which the Romans had suggested was better than 
Britain itself. You may well ask why this oyster is so good. Is the writer prejudiced 
you may wonder. Well, the connoisseur says no. In the European marketplace, 
the 'Belon', the Cancal and the Zeeland all kneel before the Colchester. 
Even as far a field as Hong Kong, they still prefer the Colchester Oyster and all these oysters 
come from around Mersea Island.
</p><p>
The reader may still ask why the Colchester oyster is so good and after forty years of 
oyster cultivation I can begin to answer, although I have more questions now than when I started. 
The creeks of Mersea Island hold the key. The marsh feeds the creeks with many nutrients and the 
mix of fresh and salt water is just right, but just as important is the knowledge carried down 
for hundreds of years of oyster cultivation.
</p><p>
In the early 1980s all this was destroyed by the disease Bonamia and the poisonous antifouling TBT. 
Finally the bureaucrats from Brussels came to wield their axe. But some of the oyster growers 
had learnt a lesson from the oyster. Even the weak can be resilient and maybe after so long 
growing the oyster, it was possible for them to change places with it for a moment.
</p><p>
So in 1987 a small group started again having learnt much from continental friends. 
The old growing cycle began once more, but new methods were also used. Gone forever were 
the large numbers of workers. In their place came powerful diesels pulling modern dredges 
and equipment, achieving what many men had tried to do before. New methods were copied 
from the French in an effort to combat disease. Marketing techniques never before tried 
at West Mersea were used, bringing restaurateurs and growers together for the first time. 
Without a team effort all this would have failed.
Today the native oyster once again spats in the Blackwater and the old Tollesbury and Mersea 
Oyster Company formed over one hundred years ago is being revived. Young blood is being 
encouraged into the industry and heavy investments in money and labour are taking place.
</p><p>
For myself, I have found my heaven and when my heart beats no more; my spirit will remain in the creeks around West Mersea.  MIS_2007_049MIS_2007_049
Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2007 Page 47.
Ostreiculture over the last forty years, by a Mersea Oysterman contd.

The boats that they rowed or sculled out to (there were no outboards used) were not necessarily oyster smacks, as most of these were seventy years old and beginning to be unseaworthy. Motor skiffs had been built after World War 2 and these had replaced many of the smacks, but most of the oyster dredgers were old ships' lifeboats and pinnaces. Some men worked in the creeks while others dredged outside in now forgotten places like Manhole, Shawl, and Spit of Back and over the Main.

The product of all this work was an oyster, which the Romans had suggested was better than Britain itself. You may well ask why this oyster is so good. Is the writer prejudiced you may wonder. Well, the connoisseur says no. In the European marketplace, the 'Belon', the "Cancal" and the "Zeeland" all kneel before the "Colchester". Even as far a field as Hong Kong, they still prefer the Colchester Oyster and all these oysters come from around Mersea Island.

The reader may still ask why the Colchester oyster is so good and after forty years of oyster cultivation I can begin to answer, although I have more questions now than when I started. The creeks of Mersea Island hold the key. The marsh feeds the creeks with many nutrients and the mix of fresh and salt water is just right, but just as important is the knowledge carried down for hundreds of years of oyster cultivation.

In the early 1980s all this was destroyed by the disease Bonamia and the poisonous antifouling TBT. Finally the bureaucrats from Brussels came to wield their axe. But some of the oyster growers had learnt a lesson from the oyster. Even the weak can be resilient and maybe after so long growing the oyster, it was possible for them to change places with it for a moment.

So in 1987 a small group started again having learnt much from continental friends. The old growing cycle began once more, but new methods were also used. Gone forever were the large numbers of workers. In their place came powerful diesels pulling modern dredges and equipment, achieving what many men had tried to do before. New methods were copied from the French in an effort to combat disease. Marketing techniques never before tried at West Mersea were used, bringing restaurateurs and growers together for the first time. Without a team effort all this would have failed. Today the native oyster once again spats in the Blackwater and the old Tollesbury and Mersea Oyster Company formed over one hundred years ago is being revived. Young blood is being encouraged into the industry and heavy investments in money and labour are taking place.

For myself, I have found my heaven and when my heart beats no more; my spirit will remain in the creeks around West Mersea.
March 2007

ID: MIS_2007
Source: Mersea Museum