Archive for the 'Stories' Category

Proud Descendent of ‘Ethelred the Unready’ Speaks of Heritage

Fishing smack at Mersea with Bradwell power station in the background

Fishing smack at Mersea with Bradwell power station in the background

If you ask Ralph Merry about the history of his family he likes to tell you a story with a twinkle in his eye that his family origins can be traced back to Ethelred the Unready.  He tells a tale of how his ancestor was fishing at Colne Point one day when a Viking ship approached the shoreline.  A Viking shouted out ‘Excuse me, can you tell me the ‘vay’ to Colchester?’  Ethelred thought quickly on his feet and directed them in the opposite direction towards Bradwell and hence they landed down the coast at Maldon and the rest is history.  Joking aside, Ralph’s ancestors can be traced back to the 16th C and his family are hereditary freemen of the borough of Colchester. 






‘My own immediate family… we’ve been in coal trade in Colchester ever since shortly after the First World War when my grandfather founded a coal business and I was in that trade until fifteen years ago when we packed up.  I’ve been retired since then fortunately.  Born in Colchester and lived there all his life, Ralph has a passion for the sea and the local rivers, especially the Colne.  In retirement  Ralph spends a vast quantity of his time along the shoreline at Mersea or sailing on the Colne. 

Reflecting on the changes over the decades since his youth, he observes, ‘I used to enjoy going down to the Hythe.  I used to go down for the gasworks mornings to get coke from the gasworks, that was supplied by ships.  Every day a ship would come up with coal from either Blythe or the Humber and that would be unloaded there and they would of course make the coke from that.  I also loved to see all the barges, the barges up as far as the old Hythe bridge, used to be dozens of barges up there, it was a marvellous place.  Of course the timber yard which has just been flattened, there was Brown and Sons, there was the earthworks, there was the gasworks on the other side, there’s an oil terminal so there was always a lot of activity down there.’

‘It was always great fun when they launched the boats ‘cos got a good crowd down there and the boats were built on the top of the slip rope and when it came to launching whoever was launching the boat would crack the bottle of champagne.’

And Ralph has his own distinct opinions and observations about the changing coastline within his living memory, ‘Despite all these threats of scaremongering of rising sea levels I don’t think you’ll find it’s risen noticeably in the last forty years. We have a summer house down at Mersea with a gate which is in exactly the same place as it was sixty years ago and in fact the tide comes up to the gate less now than it did forty years ago.  We always had seaweed in our front garden in the spring time when we went down and I haven’t seen seaweed in there for quite a few years.’ 

‘I think possibly the river is genuinely cleaning up because there’s far more seals in the river now so there must be a lot of small fish here.  … Marsh harriers are another one.  They were non-existent twenty years ago now there’s breeding pairs all over the place, marvellous sight, down on Langenhoe marshes, two breeding pairs.’  

‘Well there has been one wildlife loss, when I was young, we always saw schools of porpoise in the river.  Always, every summer  you’d see maybe a dozen or so in small groups.  I have seen odd individuals in recent years, I went out to Bradwell last Friday, I sat in the middle of the river and I watched three porpoises. ‘


Happy ‘International Day for Sharing Life Stories’!

Human beings are interested in two things. They are interested in reality and interested in telling about it.
– Gertrude Stein

Storytelling and living history is a key part of Holding Back the Tide and further understanding of the story of change on the East Anglian Coast.

The team had hoped to hold their Oral History Training Course as part of celebrations for ‘International Day for Sharing Life Stories’ instead they were one week early! That aside, in reality the project is celebrating it everyday! Continue reading ‘Happy ‘International Day for Sharing Life Stories’!’

Seaside souvenirs a thing of the past?

Destination Felixstowe!  Arriving bang on high tide, an experience only heightened by the spring equinox, full moon, and freezing northeasterly winds, we found this east-coast town putting on the perfect seaside show!
After we dared and dodged the huge waves smashing over the sea front we made our way down to Languard Fort – the real reason for our visit. We had come to learn about another woman’s story of coastal change.
The story of Fran Crowe’s journey, walking along 200kms of east-coast beach, over one year, to collect 46,000 pieces of rubbish* and literally ‘save some sea’, is something to behold.
Continue reading ‘Seaside souvenirs a thing of the past?’

Local Communities to share stories of Coastal Change in East Anglia

mummermaide-3.jpgPamela Pearson, also known as ‘the Wallasea Mermaid’, will be the first person to share her story as part of Holding Back the Tide – a new Heritage Lottery funded project delivered by CoastNet.

Pamela grew up on the banks of the Crouch Estuary in Essex where her parents ran the Wallasea Yacht Club. Pictured here, at the age of 20, in her homemade mermaid’s tail you can understand why she went on to be a professional synchronised swimmer – having nursed her passion for being on and in the waters of the Crouch from a young age.

Continue reading ‘Local Communities to share stories of Coastal Change in East Anglia’