Part of a family who have farmed native oysters around Mersea Island for over 300 years, Tom Haward feels at one with nature through his life and work


My family have been cultivating oysters in the creeks which surround Mersea Island in Essex since the 1700s. I’m by the sea every day and spend some mornings walking across the Blackwater Estuary mud flats at low tide, hand-picking oysters then spending time washing and sorting them in a shed which is on the waterfront. Oysters are an integral part of Mersea’s community and its environment, and without them I wouldn’t be able to be proud of being an eighth-generation oyster farmer. The sea produces an amazing mollusc and we get to celebrate that while earning a living.

When we go hand-picking for oysters it takes about 10 minutes by boat to get to our oyster beds. Over such a short trip we go from being part of a busy waterside community to a coastal wilderness – just us, oysters, seabirds and the odd seal. It’s a hidden paradise out there and it feels incredibly inspiring to be involved with nature in this way. My identical twin and I are Anglo-Indian so being adopted when we were a few months old in the 1980s was a big thing and we’re very lucky to have grown up in such an idyllic place. I have seen quite a lot of the world, but it’s not hyperbole to state that I’ve never seen a sunset as stunning as one on Mersea Island. That beauty of the Essex marshland makes me not want to be anywhere else; a bit like the tide, I have always found a pull back to Mersea.

In our leisure time, my fiancée Gemma, our baby daughter Autumn and cockapoo Hendricks tend to go out on our boat to a nice marina across the River Blackwater with friends. Being by the sea does wonders for my mental health; the purity of nature is very cleansing and healing, and if I’m having a bad day, being out on the water is like a reset button for my mind.

Eat Haward’s oysters freshly prepared at the family’s restaurant, The Company Shed, Mersea Island (01206 382700). Buy them at Borough Market in London and online at