Saturday, 23 July 2011


Heading up the estuary towards Manningtree from Harwich, we come to the village of Wrabness and the small town of Mistley. Wrabness is most notable for its ancient church dating from around 1100, All Saints Church, which has a detached belfry consisting of a wooden cage in the churchyard with the bell in it. The belfry collapsed in the 17th century, and the wooden cage idea was meant as a temporary solution, but it remains to this day. Wrabness Nature Reserve on the banks of the River Stour has wildfowl year-round, but in winter it comes into its own as a place for observing Brent geese and black-tailed godwits.

Mistley is a small riverside town with a quay dating from 1720 by local landowner Richard Rigby. Rigby also had plans to turn the town into a spa, and to this end commissioned a church now known as Mistley Towers, now looked after by English Heritage. Churches around here don’t seem to have much luck, because like the one in Wrabness, this one suffered a collapse in the 1840s, this time of the middle section of the church, and now only the towers remain plus a fountain known as the Swan Basin fountain, featuring a life-size replica of a swan. Sadly, this is all that remains of Rigby’s ambitions for a spa in the town.

One of the scourges of life in Britain during the last ten years or so has been the curse of the “health and safety” brigade, who seem to be rampaging around the country, hell-bent on spoiling people’s enjoyment of life in whichever way they can dream up. In Mistley, this much despised phenomenon reared its head in 2008 when a fence was erected on the quayside for “’elf and safety” reasons, prompting the furious locals to comment that it made their scenic quayside look like a concentration camp. At the beginning of September 2008, the press reported that the residents were preparing to launch a campaign against this abomination. A fine example of feisty Brits refusing to cower in the face of authority.

Map of the area.

'All Saints, Wrabness' photo (c) 2010, David Chatting - license:

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