Last spring my family and I were gathered at the kitchen table moments away from tucking into a hearty Sunday brunch. Before I could wedge the corner of a raspberry jam smothered croissant into my gaping mouth, a red bushy tail entered my peripheral vison. A family of three foxes eagerly emerged from under the garden decking, proceeding to saunter along the garden path, leaping one by one over the fence into our neighbour’s garden. Disregarding the ensemble of delicate breakfast pastries, we collectively stood aghast at the kitchen windows. Interjecting the shocked silence, I declared ‘it looks like were not the only fox family inhabiting number 86’.
My fondness for animals and wildlife became visible at an early age. Whilst visiting Dairyland in Cornwall in 2003, I made a b-line for the sheep enclosure. After wiggling my way through the barriers, I acquainted myself with the largest and fluffiest sheep, wrapping my three-year-old arms around its warm body.
Since the 23rd of March 2020, our once expansive world has shrunk, refining us to our homes and local areas. The deceleration of daily life has enabled me to appreciate the small moments that often pass us by. Bird song has replaced the London alarm call of screeching sirens and whirring mopeds, and morning screen time has decreased and been filled with a dog walk along the beach.
Cudmore Grove in East Mersea is teeming with birds and wildlife and is a popular local hotspot for twitchers. In 1979 local amateur geologists discovered mammal bones and teeth in the shore of the beach. The discovery led to an area of Cudmore to be labelled the ‘Hippopotamus Site’ as they uncovered the fossils of a straight-tusked elephant, a bison, a giant deer and a hippopotamus! I have yet to encounter a straight-tusked elephant or a hippopotamus roaming the island, however I have become acquainted with a pair of Donkey’s, who’s grazing field backs onto the sea wall at Cudmore Grove!
After years of gentle introduction to the Island, Mersea has become home to an abundant colony of red squirrels. Following a repopulation programme across East Angliya, twenty red squirrels were released to roam free on the island in 2012. The Mersea Island Society, a charity which aims to preserve the island’s characteristics, pioneered the move, as the island remains free of grey squirrels which threaten their survival. Despite their shy nature in comparison to their grey peers, they are often spotted hopping across gardens, and continue to provide thrilling entertainment for our dog.
The waters surrounding Mersea are brimming with sea life. After my inaugural I decided to brave a solo dip in August. Donning a red speedo swimsuit and my dashing swim socks, I sprinted towards the lapping water in hope of a refreshing dip. Once in the water, I began swimming the shoreline, admiring the pastel-coloured beach huts along the way, blissfully unaware of the jellyfish bloom I had entered. Glancing below the surface, I noted that I had indeed acquired vast company on my sunny August dip. Refraining from the intense urge to panic, I thanked myself for remembering that the species I had encountered were moon jellyfish who’s sting refrains from causing any damage. British waters have become increasingly abundant with jellyfish blooms, with scientists blaming climate change, extreme weather conditions, and overfishing of jellyfish predators.
The last 12 months may have robbed us of our social freedom, however, the stillness has unlocked my intricate appreciation for nature. Mersea Island is brimming with bird chatter, screeching foxes and squabbling squirrels, and I am thankful to be tuned into the sound of the natural world.