Strangely, although I have been visiting the area for 49 years I have no modern photos of the cottage but it is much as it has always been. The aerial photo shown here, which was taken in the early 1970s, depicts the cottage with Bradwell Bird Observatory Hut in the foreground. The Observatory has been around since 1953 but its HQ was originally in an old Nissan Hut in the nearby farmyard; it then moved to an ex-RAF hall in the village before a purpose built hut was erected in this position in 1967. During the 1970s it was flooded by high tides twice in five years. Nowadays we receive due notice of dangerous tides from the Environment Agency but there were no such warnings then. I arrived at the hut late one Friday evening to find that the tide had come and gone, leaving a high water mark at around the two foot level on the walls. Among the debris attached to it were five species of seaweed while I identified the remains of a dozen different types of shellfish embalmed in the two inches of estuarine mud that covered the floor. The rest of that evening was spent on my hands and knees attempting to soak up the liquid ooze using old, torn up blankets from the bunks. After a few hours I succeeded in transferring most of it from the floor into buckets and from there back to the saltings from whence it came but by this time both my trousers and sweatshirt were virtually indistinguishable from the blankets used to mop up the mud. Needing a cuppa, I pulled an easy chair close to the decrepit paraffin heater which was our only means of heating the hut but within minutes found myself enveloped in huge clouds of steam! It was a bitterly cold night so I decided to sleep in front of the fire; not a wise decision as after several hours of breathing in paraffin fumes I awoke with the mother of all hangovers and spent the next few hours with my head over the sink. Happy days!
Needless to say the comforts on offer have increased along with the age of the membership! The second photo shows the hut as it is now, having been moved to a slightly higher position next to the cottage in 1980. Even so, it only escaped flooding by a couple of inches during last December’s tidal surge and the pond in the foreground was swamped with seawater. We are currently dredging and re-filling it.
The final photo shows hut and cottage as viewed from the saltmarsh in front of them. Both are tucked away among the trees that you will see on the right when approaching the Chapel from Eastlands Farm. The Observatory is usually manned on a Sunday or Wednesday and so If you – or anybody else – is in the area give us a call – you will be sure to get a cup of tea!