Cudmore Grove Country Park
A nature reserve of over 102 acres of unique coastal landscapes and habitat and heritage overlooking the Colne and Blackwater Estuaries.
At a glance
4 January 2021: England enters a national lockdown.
The parks, car parks, children’s play equipment and toilets will remain open for the benefit of local communities. The Kiosk will continue to offer a takeaway service in-line with government guidance on weekends only.
We would ask that all visitors using the Essex Country Parks follow government guidelines and ensure you practice social distancing.
Check our full FAQs and plan your visit in advance.
Check government guidance here.
Cudmore Grove Country Park is an amazing nature reserve on Mersea Island covering over 102 acres. Nestled on the coast where the Colne Estuary meets the Blackwater Estuary, you'll find impressive views across the park and estuaries, sandy beaches and salt marsh, rolling grasslands and meadows buzzing with wildlife.
There is something for everyone whatever the season at Cudmore, from coastal walks and beach to a themed kid’s play area. It's the perfect place to paddle and picnic, birdwatch, beachcomb and let imaginations run wild with friends and family.
The park is designated as a Special Site of Scientific Interest, a Ramsar site, National Nature Reserve and Special Protection Area, a great variety of wildlife and wildfowl can be seen and heard.
The area is also rich in historic features including WWII pillboxes. Discover the remains of a blockhouse fort and a cliff that has produced 300,000-year-old fossils.
Cudmore Grove has several features of ancient and more recent historic importance.
Well known for its ancient prehistoric geology, the cliffs at Cudmore Grove Country Park provide superb sightings of gravels laid down by the Thames-Medway river during a glacial period 300,000 years ago. Organic sediments at beach level sometimes yield fossils, including fossil wood and mammal bones, most probably from an interglacial period. Also exposed on the foreshore are deposits from a more recent interglacial period, the Ipswichian interglacial (120,000 years old). Cudmore Grove is also known as the 'hippo site' due to the presence of hippopotamus bones.
The island of Mersea has been inhabited since pre-Roman times. It was used as a holiday destination in Roman Britain for occupants of Camulodunum (Colchester).Fishing has been a key industry on the island since then,particularly oysters,and along with tourism makes up a significant part of the island's economy. The Church of St Edmund in East Mersea dates from around the 12th or 13th centuries.
17th Century Blockhouse
Walks along the sea wall pass the remains of a 17th century blockhouse.
In the English Civil War, the Parliamentary Army built a blockhouse at East Mersea in 1648, with the aim of blockading the RiverColne during the Siege of Colchester. Some ruins of this blockhouse remain and are known as the Block House Stone which is legally protected by English Heritage as a scheduled monument.
Fishing grew in importance on the island during this time, with numerous fish weirs being installed. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Dutch and French settlers arrived on the island. Some locals supplemented their income from the oyster trade by smuggling,which remained popular until the mid-19th century.
At the outbreak of World War II, the island became part of the front line for invasion and was heavily fortified. Along with other coastal resorts, the island drew in evacuees from London, though as the war progressed, these were moved to safer settlements further inland.2000 troops were stationed on the island to guard against invasion
Part of a golf course between the wars, Cudmore Grove became a defence site during WWII. Visitors can follow the WWII heritage trail to learn more about the wartime structures visible in the park, which include several pillboxes and gun emplacements.
After WWII, the land was farmed until purchased by Essex County Council in 1974 as a site for recreation, and historic and conservation importance.
Cudmore Grove is a flat site with easy walking ground mostly accessible for wheelchair users. Several miles of walking paths circle and cross the site, including the Sea Wall walk, crossing the grasslands and along the sides of the grazing marshes.
Wildlife and Bird Watching
Cudmore Grove Country Park provides an excellent place for bird watching, particularly in the winter season.
A wildlife hide overlooks the pond where you can often see wildfowl, foxes and rabbits. The low-lying grazing meadow is managed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) nature reserve attracting wading birds and ducks throughout the year.
Winter is the best season for birdwatching with sea-duck and grebes in the Colne estuary, up to 15 types of wader on the rich mudflats and maybe a glimpse of a hunting bird of prey like a peregrine or marsh harrier. On the grazing fields in winter, lots of wigeon and teal can be seen as well as large flocks of brent geese, while in the summer lapwings and avocet often breed.
Spring and autumn bring migrant birds such as warblers, wheatear and whinchat, maybe something rarer. Grass left long throughout the year attracts small mammals, skylarks, lizards and insects while kestrels and barn owls hunt over these areas.
On summer days up to 15 types of butterfly can be seen in a day feeding on the meadows and hedgerows. You may also need to watch out for adders hiding in the long grass!
A themed play area has been specially designed and built for Cudmore Grove for children to enjoy, climb and play. This is situated close to the car park.
Foot ferry to Brightlingsea
The foot ferry between Brightlingsea, Point Clear and East Mersea provides easy access for local people and visitors from early April to end of October. The boat’s ramp can be lowered for wheelchair users and cyclists. The crossing to Brightlingsea takes around 9 minutes.
See Brightlingsea Harbour for foot ferry sailing and fares.
Cycling and horse riding
There are designated routes for cyclists and horse riders marked on the Map of Cudmore Grove - PDF, 108KB. Routes also allow horses access to the beach. Cyclists are welcome to stray from the designated routes on the park with care for other users.
Please note that the lane that gives access to the carpark is not suitable for towed horse boxes, however, horses can be brought to the car park in lorry-style horse boxes.
Fossil Hunting and beachcombing
The beaches are full of shells, particularly oyster, and the occasional lucky observer may even find a bronze age flint artefact, small mammal bone or shark’s tooth.
Please make sure you just look on the beach, keep away from the eroding cliffs.
We’re always looking for volunteers to undertake tasks alongside the rangers, such as clearing litter from the beach, trimming branches, repairing fences and maintaining signs.
It's a great opportunity to learn about conservation, develop skills and make a difference to the park.
We also welcome young people volunteering as part of school work experience and Duke of Edinburgh award.
You can volunteer during the week or at weekends, depending on what suits you. Please wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work - we’ll give full training and provide equipment. Call 01206 383868 to talk about volunteering options.
Public toilets are located at the car park and next to the kiosk. These include disabled and baby change facilities.
You can find full Information on access to Cudmore Grove can be found on AccessAble, formerly Disabled Go.
You are welcome to bring your own picnics to Cudmore Grove.
Shop, Eat & Drink
Eat & Drink
A refreshment Kiosk selling a range of teas, Bean to Cup coffees and hot chocolate along with cold drinks, ice creams and snacks is situated at the top end of the car park.
Open at weekends and during school holidays.
11am - 3.30pm
Festive opening times:
Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Open New Years Day.
At Cudmore Grove we are aiming to cut our plastic waste and are therefore not selling drinks in plastic bottles.