Destination Inspiration: Osea Island, Essex
Just a 90-minute drive from London and accessible only by boat, Osea Island's forage-and-feast restaurant, recording studio and wellness offering attracts hedonists, creatives and those looking to looking to bask in its remote location.
07 December, 2020
Set in Essex's Blackwater Estuary, Osea is just a 90-minute drive from London and yet feels far removed. It was the best part of 2,000 years ago that Romans built the causeway connecting this islet to mainland Heybridge. Today, access is governed by the sea; the route appears just twice daily, when the tide is low - though you can take a boat too.
The island is perhaps best known for its private ownership, celebrity appeal and the rehab retreat that once stood here, but in truth it's a place where nature takes the reigns - towering oak, sycamore and chestnut trees decorate the landscape and rare birds flock overhead. Anyone can visit if they book into one of its houses or cottages, or rent the island in its entirety.
Osea's air is fresh, a little salty. Its silence is serene. There's no traffic. No street lights. I take to my bicycle to explore the 380-acre island, following gravelled roads past some of its 19 properties - clapboard cottages, an oyster bar, a yoga studio - and through the meadows and salt marshes that lead back to the causeway. I stop to greet the island's resident donkeys, Salt and Pepper.
In the few hours since I arrived, the route has flooded and the mainland has become a blip on the horizon. I understand why this corner of the British Isles is a hideout for hedonists who flit between events at The Bomb Factory, a former First World War torpedo store, and the "Forage & Feast" menus of Native restaurant.
Yet it's not just escapism that draws visitors here. Creatives have capitalised on Osea's remote location. The island's music-producer owner has set up recording studios here, and film crews use its seven kilometres of unspoiled beaches as a rugged backdrop, fringes of samphire decorating the frames.
Despite the lateness of the year, the sun is shining and the mercury is lingering just about high enough to tempt me into Osea's waters. Dipping between the sea and its heated outdoor pool, I soak up the dregs of distance from the bedlam of normal life in the city.
Needless to say, traditional check-out times don't apply here. I wait for the tide to creep out before retreating back across the seaweed-scattered causeway to the mainland.