20 Aug Escape to Essex and enjoy a rural retreat
Couples looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life are being urged to look no further than the picture-perfect Essex countryside this autumn.
When you know where to look, there are endless picture postcard villages and rustic retreats just waiting to be discovered around the county.
Tourism body Visit Essex is inviting couples to consider a staycation in one of the picturesque villages boasting fascinating history, creative inspiration, idyllic dining spots and luxurious guesthouses.
Cllr Mark Durham, Chair, Visit Essex, explained: “We are so proud of our wonderful countryside here in Essex. It may be a surprise to many to find we pack so much into our beautifully varied county. But, after just one short break in Essex, I’m confident you will find everything you are looking for – and so much more – for a rustic getaway in the countryside.
“From quaint streets of colour-wash houses, to riverside walks and beautiful drives through twisting lanes and hidden villages, you can’t go far wrong with a staycation in this part of the world this autumn.”
From Thaxted to Tiptree, Goldhanger to Great Bardfield and Halstead to Harwich, there is something for every romantic, relaxing or recuperative trip away from home.
Whether you want to sample the delicacy of Maldon oysters, jump on a ferry to Brightlingsea, hear how a team of volunteers rescued the Forgotten Gardens of Easton Lodge or go row boating in Dedham, the county has it all – plus a dry and mild climate to boot!
A long weekend or midweek break could see you cover the following countryside patches of Essex…
Great Dunmow, Thaxted, Finchingfield, Great Bardfield
Take in the creative culture in Great Bardfield, where ceramicist Grayson Perry grew up and absorbed his artistic heritage, or marvel at the traditional craftwork of the pargeting in Thaxted.
The Grade II registered Forgotten Gardens of Easton Lodge are an idyllic haven partially restored to their former glory by a team of volunteers in Great Dunmow. Open every Thursday, the gardens are a must-see in any season, showcasing Harold Peto’s grand garden design and treehouse.
The 15th century Guildhall Finchingfield, set in the rolling countryside of one of the most photographed villages in England, has its own interactive museum, shop and library – all with free entry.
After all that sightseeing, history and culture, stop off at the Galvin Green Man for a pub meal with a twist, overlooking panoramic views of the Essex countryside while you dine within its 14th century building.
Get your head down for a well-earned rest at The Red Cow Crishall where a 500-year-old thatched barn – thought to be the oldest in the village – and old post office building have been converted into luxury accommodation.
Tiptree, Mersea, Tollesbury, Goldhanger
For those seeking some thrills out on the water during their stay, there is plenty to get you active at Mersea Island Watersports as you explore the creeks and small islands of the unique coastline. Try out paddleboarding, windsurfing, kayaking or sailing.
Or, hop on the foot ferry from Mersea Stone in Cudmore Grove Country Park to Brightlingsea Harbour across the River Colne, where you can enjoy a lunch cruise, harbour tour or nature walk to further explore the area.
For those keen to admire at the water from dry land, visit Goldhanger on the bank of the Blackwater Estuary between Heybridge and Tollesbury to enjoy walks in the surrounding countryside and along the sea wall.
Have a pitstop at the visitor centre café at Abberton Reservoir Nature Discovery Park, one of Europe’s top wetland sites which is of international importance as a safe haven for wild ducks, swans and other water birds.
Don’t forget to stop by at Tiptree Tea Room and The Jam Factory to experience this great British success story which has resulted in pots of produce popping up in luxury venues across the world.
At Le Bouchon Brasserie and Hotel, you will find a combination of original period features and classically styled decoration in the grade II listed, 300-year-old Georgian building which has undergone an extensive refurbishment programme restoring it to its former glory. Guests can enjoy a relaxing walk on the riverbank, take a riverboat cruise or hire a small boat to take in the tranquil surroundings of the Chelmer and Blackwater navigation canal.
Coggeshall, Earls Colne, Halstead, Cressing
If it’s country lanes, chocolate box villages, thatched cottages and a wide variety of trees you find pleasure in, this is the area for you.
Days out are aplenty, with East Anglian Railway Museum open throughout the autumn (weekends and Wednesday’s in school holidays), with special events including Diesel Days giving unlimited rides on the vintage wagons, pulled by a fleet of diesel locomotives, or a vintage diesel train.
At Markshall Estate, experience the conservation landscape and surround yourself with nature or visit the National Trust’s Paycocke’s House and Garden for a step back in time and look at Tudor life.
Rich in ancient history, the 13th century medieval moated farmstead of Cressing Temple Barns offers a walled Tudor garden for mooching around and the famous Tiptree cream tea at The Barns.
Enjoy a tipple of award-winning British wine at Tuffon Hall boutique vineyard, before unwinding from a busy day at Wakes Hall Lodges, within the tranquil beauty of the Colne Valley, in your own self-catered luxury holiday lodge with hot tub, surrounded by 500 acres of countryside.
Stay close to nature with a night of luxurious glamping in a romantic shepherd’s hut or glam yurt at Tey Brook Orchard, set among 20 acres of organic arable farm and apple orchard.
Dedham, Manningtree, Wrabness, Harwich
No trip to this part of Essex would be complete without a row down the River Stour – from March until October – from Dedham. Did you know, the famous Hay Wain painting was crafted by John Constable at Flatford Mill? You can pitch yourself in the exact spot where he painted his perspective of Willy Lott’s House; maybe give your own version a go.
Marvel at the recharge of Wrabness beach this autumn as dredged material from Harwich harbour will help to build the visitor attraction back up to its best.
You will not be disappointed with dinner at The Pier, a brasserie within a modernised 1860 listed building in historic Harwich. On the quayside, you can expect an enviable drinks list to accompany the coastal dining experience.
Of sample a taste of Italy at Lucca Enoteca, with a famous cocktail menu, all-Italian wine list and lively atmosphere.
Settle for the night at The Mistley Thorn in the centre of historical coastal village Mistley, with views from each of its 11 rooms down the Stour Estuary.