Now, it probably has to be admitted that mention of the county of Essex conjures up a number of images and not all of them necessarily encourage you to hitch up that caravan and rush off to explore.
Yet that’s such a pity because Essex is a vast area with a huge number of things to see and do.
Let’s confront head-on some of the baggage of stereotypes and look at the reality:
- Essex is largely ‘East London’
this is nonsense. It’s true that in the 1950s and 60s, large numbers of people from London’s eastern boroughs moved (or were moved) into south western parts of Essex. New towns were developed, largely along the Thames and these became heavily populated. However, this represented only a tiny percentage of the county’s area overall. Much of Essex remained entirely untouched by this and rural or county town in nature;
- Essex is heavily industrialised
this really only applies to a thin strip of the county, running along the Thames towards the sea. Much of the central and northern parts of Essex remain a haven for small villages and picturesque towns.
The proof – the real Essex
If you’d like to explore some of the most historic countryside in England, then you’ll love Essex. Why not try:
- A picturesque old fishing port with a long association with the Royal Navy. It has some ancient buildings and a charming pier;
- Saffron Walden. This is a very attractive old town which has had its own market since the 12th You’ll find lots of county charm, old buildings and plenty of museums and art galleries to choose from;
- Colchester. The first real capital of any meaning in Britain under the Romans and indeed Britain’s first city of any recognisable sort, it was originally far more important than London and was known as ‘Camulodunum’. The emperor Claudius led the conquest of the area and became a God in the city with his own temple. Today the town’s rich Roman, Saxon and Mediaeval remains are everywhere;
- Colchester Zoo. This deserves a mention in its own right because it’s recognised as being one of the best zoos in the world;
- On the Thames estuary, this town was once a favoured day-trip destination for Victorian and Edwardian Londoners. After a lot of investment and refurbishment, you can now stroll around and get a real taste of a traditional English seaside in the past;
- Audley End house and gardens (near Saffron Walden). This is a massive and rambling old country mansion with stunning gardens. You can see upstairs/downstairs life re-created and discover the famous stables and horses. It’s a wonderful family day out.
Hopefully this tiny sample of delights has dispelled any lingering doubts you may have had and encourage you to get your caravan ready as soon as possible!
- as with any other caravanning trip, check in advance that your tourer caravan insurance is as ready to go as your caravan itself is;
- avoid travelling to or from Essex, if you can, on bank holiday Fridays or Mondays. It’s close to London and the roads can be very busy at such times;
- if you’re looking for sites offering rural tranquillity and country life, remember that many stretches of Essex along the Thames Estuary are fairly heavily populated, industrial/commercial and therefore busy;
- if you want to combine a visit to Essex with a day-trip to London, the rail services from towns such as Colchester are good and not too expensive if you travel out of commuter hours (the trains will also be quieter). Be sure to leave the car behind and avoid London’s traffic and congestion charges!