The Food, Drink and Leisure Festival was taking place at Mersea Vineyard on Mersea Island just east of Colchester over the last bank holiday weekend in May. We were a little late in deciding to attend and missed out on a pitch at Fen Farm where we’d stayed last year but managed to get a couple of pitches next to each other at Seaview Holiday Park for us and our fellow-Bongo camping companions. We weren’t able to book pitches on the touring field for our little campervans (perhaps because it was fully booked) so we ended up on hard standing and feeling dwarfed by the vast motorhomes on all sides. The hard standing pitches are bordered by a grass area for awnings, but some have larger grass patches than others and we only just managed to squeeze our awning in.
The satellite images of the site on Google Maps show that our pitch used to be in the middle of a free-for-all grass field so it looks like the site has expanded recently to better cater for motorhomes and caravans – we didn’t see any tents during our stay. Our friends were arriving later in the day but when they arrived some time after 7pm they found the reception was closed and couldn’t raise anyone from on the security number provided so they ended up sneaking through the barrier when someone else left, and checking in the next morning. There’s a café on site which we didn’t try, and although it looked nice from the outside it always looked empty when we passed but I suspect that like us, most campers prefer to cook their own meals more often than not or to venture off-site to a local pub. It might prove to be a handy refuge on a cold wet day though. The site also has a small shop, but apart from milk and newspapers it seemed more of a bucket and spade kind of shop rather than freshly laid eggs or local pork saussages kind of place. Entrance to the site is through a barrier with key fob access (£20 cash deposit required).
The main attraction of SeaView is that it’s located right on the coast with the first row of pitches only some 50 metres from the beach. Sadly though, despite the name, few of the guests actually have sea views as the sea is obscured by the banks of the sea defences. Being right out on the east coast, the site is quite exposed to the elements and there was quite a blustery wind blowing through while we were there. On the edge of the beach is a huge long run of quaint little beach huts painted in pastel colours that are all owned by the campsite and available for purchase. There’s also an on-site clubhouse which we can’t pass judgement on as it was closed when we stayed. From the beach you can walk along the island shore in either direction. We walked from the campsite the Mersea Island vineyard and brewery where the festival was taking place – only a short one mile walk from the campsite. The festival was an enjoyable day out with plenty of local producers offering samples of their wares, craft stalls, a burger bar, hog roast and live music all washed down with beer and wine produced on site. After an afternoon spent listening to some of the bands we made our way back to the campsite with a bottle of the local wine and a bit more sunburn than we’d intended.One thing that isn’t apparent about this site from its website is the scale of the place or that it’s so heavily geared toward static caravans (I can understand the focus on statics, as the ones they had for sale were listed at between£40K and £60K!). That’s not necessarily a problem for us, afterall a static caravan has its own bathroom so its owners aren’t going be making use of the facilities provided for campers. Strange then that the two toilet and shower blocks are located right in the middle of the static caravans and quite a long walk from the touring pitches. Many of the online reviews mention that the facilities are now looking a bit dated, which again needn’t be a problem if they’re well maintained, however when we were there over a bank holiday weekend when the site was more-or-less fully booked, it was obvious that the toilets and showers weren’t cleaned or restocked between Saturday morning when we arrived, and Monday afternoon when we checked out. That’s really not good enough for a site of this size, that charges over £20 per night with a minimum 3 night stay.
We’ve been to Mersea Island a couple of times before as it’s not too far from where we live and we quite like it there. It’s really only an island for a couple of hours each day when the high tide covers the causeway, but worth checking the tide times before you travel. For a relatively small place it has more than its fair share of campsites, and of the two that we’ve vistited so far, we would definitely have to recommend Fen Farm over Seaview.