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Ray Island
Ray Island - - 45909.jpg
Type Nature reserve
Location Mersea Island, Essex, U.K.
OS grid TM 011 154
Area 40.5 hectares
Managed by Essex Wildlife Trust

Ray Island, also known as the Ray, is a 40.5 hectare nature reserve west of Mersea Island in Essex. It is owned by the National Trust and managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust.


The site is a sandy hill which rises out of an area of saltmarsh. It has rough grassland and a shingle foreshore. There are saltmarsh plants such as lax flowered sea-lavender, sea rush and golden samphire, and breeding birds include oystercatchers and shelducks.


Ray Island was the setting for the novel Mehalah by Sabine Baring-Gould, who was the rector of East Mersea. Baring-Gould describes it thus in the first chapter:

A more desolate region can scarce be conceived, and yet it is not without beauty. In summer, the thrift mantles the marches with shot satin, passing through all gradations of tint from maiden's blush to lily white. Thereafter a purple glow steals over the waste, as the sea lavender bursts into flower, and simultaneously every creek and pool is royally fringed with sea aster. A little later the glasswort, that shot up green and transparent as emerald glass in the early spring, turns to every tinge of carmine.


Access is by boat and is restricted to trust members. There is an old pathway from The Strood that winds through the maze of salt marsh for one kilometre to reach the island, but parts may have been washed away.

Camping is banned by the trust.

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