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Ray Island Nature Reserve

This 100 acre reserve is a large sandy mound rising out of the surrounding saltings. Access by boat only.

Ray Island is a remote nature reserve, owned by the National Trust and managed by Essex Wildlife Trust. Ray Island has a shingle foreshore/beach area and a extensive areas of rough grassland. (Bonners Saltings is a saltmarsh between the Strood causeway and Ray Island and is private property - therefore access to Ray Island is by boat only.)

What to look for:

Ray Island has a shingly foreshore/beach area on the northern side, with a sizeable freshwater pond nearby, and extensive areas of rough grassland. On higher grounds, there are Blackthorn thickets and some old Hawthorns. The island was previously grazed by Soay sheep, a primitive rare breed, which were on the island for a number of years.

The southern edge of the island has some fine examples of salt-marsh-grassland-scrub. There is a wide range of saltmarsh plants including Lax-flowered Sea Lavender, Golden Samphire and Sea Rush.

Breeding birds include Redshank, Oystercatcher and Shelduck. Large numbers of wildfowl and waders overwinter.

All the common finches can be seen throughout the year. Birds of prey are commonly seen, including Long-eared and Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier, and Barn Owl.


Access is by boat only, to designated moorings, and restricted to 1st March to 31st August. No dogs. There is no public access via Bonners Saltings.

Public Transport - Regular bus services run between Colchester and West Mersea.


Did you know?

There are many small mammals on Ray Island, in particular Voles.

Species and habitats


Nearby nature reserves

Abbotts Hall Farm
3 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust
Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre
3 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust
Bradwell Shell Bank Nature Reserve
4 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Ray Island Nature Reserve
Mersea Island
Map reference
TM 011 154
Best time to visit
Apr - Jul
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Public transport
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Opening Times
Restricted from 1st March to 31st August. Essex Wildlife Trust members only. A footpath circles the reserve and is open to the public - but access to the path via boat only.
40.47 hectares
Members Only

Access is by boat only, to designated moorings.
No dogs allowed
Reserve manager
Essex Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01621 862960