Coast’s Choice: Essex

Of all the counties in England, Essex probably has one of the most notorious reputations – white stilettos and fake tan certainly spring to mind! However, behind this image is an area rich in history and beautiful scenery. If you’re passing through Essex in your caravan or motorhome, here are a few places you might like to stop off…

Audley End

One of the country’s grandest stately homes, Audley End has recently undergone a period of refurbishment resulting in a new historic stable complex being opened.

The main house dates back to Jacobean times, having been adapted from a medieval Benedictine monastery, and has seen many famous residents including Henry VIII. Its Great Hall is two storeys high and features intricate oak carving, while its Saloon has an ornate dolphin and sea monster painting on the ceiling! The library and chapel are also rooms of note, respectively boasting stunning views of the parterre garden and ornamented 18th century furniture.

No visit to Audley End would be complete without admiring its Victorian gardens. Capability Brown was among the famous designers to contribute to its layout, with a walled kitchen garden and vinery nestling near the exotic flowers and Turkish tent of the Elysian garden and parterre garden’s formal floral tapestry.

Admission to Audley End costs £13.00 for adults and £7.80 for children. The garden is open daily during the summer and from Wednesday-Sunday during the winter. The house is open Wednesday-Sunday all year round. Click here to find out more.

Hylands House

You might not associate Chelmsford with eighteenth century architectural grandeur but Hylands House is one of Essex’s most under-rated treasures. Originally a red brick house built in the 1730s, it has been expanded considerably during its lifetime under nine different ownerships.

Since 1966, Hylands House has been owned by Chelmsford Borough Council, who immediately implemented a significant restoration project. It is now a symbol of historic opulence, showcasing a banqueting suite, gilded drawing room and beautiful grand staircase. Even the butler’s pantry and wine cellar have been refurbished!

Hylands House is open every Sunday throughout the year and on Mondays during the summer. Entry costs £3.80 for adults and is free of charge to children under 16 years old.

Thaxted Windmill

John Webb’s Windmill – also known as Thaxted Windmill – is the only surviving relic from the Thaxted mills, which produced flour for the area during England’s agricultural expansion. It saw more than 100 years of service before being abandoned.

A trust purchased the windmill in 1970 and set about restoring it into a working mill and rural museum. The sails were replaced in 1991 and began grinding flour again in 1996.

Unfortunately, in 2010 the sail fell off, striking the windmill before falling to the ground. Since then, flour production has stopped while repairs take place but the area is still open as a picnic site. Private group tours can also be conducted by prior arrangement.

Click here to find out more about Thaxted Windmill. Entry to the mill for private tours is free of charge although donations are welcomed.

Epping Forest

Located on the border of Essex and North London, Epping Forest is protected by the government as it provides natural tranquillity in an increasingly built-up part of the country.

Epping Forest spans 6,500 acres and offers several outdoor amenities, from guided walks and cycle routes to camping adventures, yachting on the lake and even regular outdoor theatre performances during the summer months.

It is not unusual to see a cow grazing, either, as there are well-maintained fields within the forest where cattle are kept – usually the English Longhorn variety, which have been bred back from the verge of extinction through Epping Forest’s grazing project.

Information on Epping Forest activities can be found here.

Southend Pier

You can’t beat a traditional beach holiday and Southend Pier brings the good old-fashioned British seaside trip back to life. Built in 1830, the pier has survived fires and boat crashes among other obstacles to become a haven for Essex tourists.

Since its Prince George Extension in 1929, Southend Pier has held the prestigious title of being the longest pleasure pier in the world. Visitors can fish for mackerel and flounder off the edge, learn more about its history at a dedicated museum or just grab an ice cream and head down to the amusement arcade.

Southend Pier is open free of charge to the public seven days a week.

Don’t forget to take five minutes away from planning your next trip to make sure your caravan insurance or motorhome insurance is up to date. For a competitive quotation on your renewal, call Coast’s friendly sales team on Freephone 0800 614 849 or click here for an online caravan insurance quotation.