What it's like
Essex was a favourite location for Dickens; and walks writer Christopher Somerville counts it as one of his favourite venues. It has more coastline than any other county in England and boasts the driest climate.
Here you can experience the loneliness of the Dengie Peninsular or the popular routes like the Harcamlow Way which starts in Harlow and runs to Cambridge; and the Essex Way which crosses the county from Epping in the south-west to the port of Harwich in the north-east passing through Dedham Vale and Constable Country on the way.
Essex is justly famous for its fine villages peppered with wonderful pubs and old churches. These are often connected by ancient Greenways making up a network of footpaths which is probably more extensive than in any other county on Britain.
To the West are two great walking resouces – the Lea Valley Park which supports vast flocks of fowl on expanses of water and a path which runs from Hertfordshire into the centre of London. Nearby is Epping Forest connected by the Three Forest Way to Hatfield and Hainault forests – between them making up the ‘lungs of London’.
For many visitors it is the surviving heritage which proves the biggest attraction. Traces of medieval times can be found in delightful small towns such as Saffron Walden, Coggeshall and Thaxted. Industries such as weaving and saffron growing created great wealth and this led to the construction of beautiful houses and fine churches. Close to the European mainland, Essex has been influenced by different cultures. The Normans left their mark with castles while the Romans made Colchester their capital.
- A circular walk from Bradwell-on-Sea out to the bleak Dengie peninsular to watch birds feeding on the mud flats and returning via the Chapel of St Peter on the Wall, one of the holiest sites in Britain.
- Walk up from Coggershall Hamlet along the River Colne with its mill and abbey ruins to visit the 12 C Grange Barn and continue into the town
- Start from Abberton Reservoir for a circular walk the highlight of which is the arrival at the 500 year old Layer Marney Tower, a magnificent eight story Elizabethan Gatehouse.
Must see and do
- Have a drink and a meal at the Bell Inn, Hordon–on-the-Hill, and count the number of ancient hot cross buns hanging from the ceiling. www.bell-inn.co.uk/
- Visit Hedingham Castle which has a preserved Norman keep, built in 1140 www.hedinghamcastle.co.uk/
- Eat sea food with a pint along the front at Leigh-on-Sea.
Destination County : Essex