Long Sandy Beaches and Roman Remains

Sitting close to London on the East Coast, Essex is often overlooked, en route for the ports at Dover and Ipswich.  Take a closer look at the history in this county, stay a while and enjoy its traditional seaside resorts – you just might be surprised at what you find.

Being born and bred in Hertfordshire, my memories of Essex are always tinged with the rivalry of the two counties on the outskirts of London for recognition in their own right, and a real jealousy of my family and friends who lived over the border “near the seaside”.

So let’s start with the seaside – and where better than Clacton-on-Sea.  Childhood memories of donkeys on the beach and a lot of litter in the streets were blown away with a visit this summer.  What a lovely place!  The town has had a facelift, with a shopping area running down to the beach with something for everyone from the national chains to the local speciality shop.

At the beach, the donkeys seemed to have gone, but the sands were so clean, stretching for miles and inviting you just to walk.  There is a paved promenade behind the sand for those who find it easier, and of course this gives excellent access for mobility scooter drivers –of whom there seemed many.  Local fish and shellfish are available along the promenade, and the pier has been rejuvenated.  There is even a ‘land-train’ running along the beach road for a couple of miles providing a ‘bus’ service between local beaches. I really wish we had had longer to spend wallowing in childhood nostalgia, but a weekend is short and we had to move on.

Our base at Colchester proved another location worthy of at least a whole weekend’s exploration.  The old garrison town boasts a castle and a whole area of historic buildings, all of which need time to discover.  Although Colchester is Britain’s oldest town, its new shopping area has everything the most devoted shopping deva could wish.  Most of the big stores are on a pedestrianised area with undercover parking – just perfect for the wet and windy weather.

Colchester also has a compact zoo which fills a day, but is easy to walk around – and little ones in pushchairs will love the animals in their homes.  My little grandson was totally overawed by the monkeys in their ‘houses’ where they had eating, living and playing ‘rooms’.

Take the causeway onto Mersea Island and enjoy a walk amongst some of the traditional sailing boats of the Thames Estuary.  Arrive at the right time of year, and you can watch the regatta in which craft of all ages and sizes take part.  Just make sure you have checked the tide times as the causeway does flood at high tide – but if you are caught, there are plenty of places to while away a few hours. Fen Farm Caravan Site on the island welcomes families in tourers, tents and motorhomes and will help you to enjoy the island. The local speciality is oysters – they are world-famous so why not try a few?

Whilst in the area, don’t forget that Tiptree Jams are made in the town of Tiptree, and guess what they have Jam Museum.  A tasty treat for all ages!

This is an area which has inspired many artists to capture the maritime heritage and constantly changing skies of the region.  The museum and art gallery at Dedham houses a collection of paintings by world famous artists who have captured the essence of this region.

Essex has a long coastline with seaside resorts including Southend-on-Sea which  boasts the country’s longest pier at 1.3 miles, complete with railway to travel from one end to the other.  This is another resort in Essex which is undergoing a mammoth facelift

Essex is a county of variety and contrast, around its several main towns.  We will return and report on other areas of this overlooked county.  In the meantime, Colchester is the Britain’s oldest settlement, so why not put it onto your agenda for a visit?

Last updated on 13/11/2012 3:34pm by Sharon Eason
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