With over 2000 years of history, 350 miles of glorious coastline (the longest of any county in the UK) and oodles of culture there’s loads more to Essex than TOWIE – why not come and discover it for yourself? Here are ten great reasons to visit Essex in 2017.
1 – The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States on Friday 20th January will indeed be momentous. The event serves as a timely reminder of the role Essex played in the founding of modern America. The Pilgrim Fathers sailed to the New World in 1620 and the ship they sailed in – The Mayflower – was built in East Anglia and captained by Christopher Jones from Harwich, with a crew and passenger list largely composed of people from Essex.
Mayflower 400 is a celebration of the history-defining voyage and a broad range of events, activities and ambitious projects are being planned in the build-up to the 400th anniversary 2020. The star of the show is a faithful recreation of The Mayflower itself, which is being built in Harwich. You can visit the yard and see for yourself how the work is progressing, while learning all about how 17th century shipwrights created ocean-going vessels with none of today’s technology or tools.
2 – Lee Valley Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary. A multitude of different events and activities are planned, including fifty walking and cycling routes throughout the 26-mile park, plus exhibitions highlighting its transformation from a wasteland to verdant expanses rich in wildlife co-existing with world-class sports and leisure facilities, three of which form part of the London 2012 legacy; Lee Valley White Water Centre, Lee Valley VeloPark and Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. Not only that, Lee Valley Park Farms in Waltham Abbey have their 40th anniversary and will be hosting a series of events to keep the kids happy.
3 – It’s not only Rio de Janeiro that loves a carnival. Saffron Walden’s from the 7 July is very special. It only takes place once every three years but is one of the UK’s biggest and best. It also lasts for a whopping eight days, culminating with a procession through the town on Saturday 8 July.
The following day sees a family fun day held on Saffron Walden’s common, while a number of concerts, gigs and other ‘happenings’ – each day and night from 7 to 15 July – arguably make this Essex’s rival to the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe. www.8dayweekend.co.uk
4 – Nature lovers will surely flock to Essex Wildlife Trust’s newly opened intertidal area at Fingringhoe Wick. The 82-acres of new, intertidal habitat are of international, national and local importance. It has been developed by Essex Wildlife Trust in partnership with the Environment Agency.
The large Margaret Hide offers visitors a light and airy environment to view the wetland and wildlife, from nesting Terns during the spring and summer months, to vast numbers of waders that spend the autumn and winter on the river Colne. The new area is an extension of the existing 125-acre nature reserve, featuring a diverse range of habitats for a broad variety of flora and fauna.
5 – Between 25 and 29 May Epping and Ongar Railway, Essex’s longest heritage railway, will be holding a five-day party to mark its 50th birthday. With a range of different activities, including the chance to relive the golden age of steam in a lovingly restored engine and carriage, this has to be the ultimate train set for kids of all ages.
6 – Horticulturalists are keenly anticipating the official opening of the brand new Edible Global Veg Growth Garden, at RHS Garden Hyde Hall. Created to be a showcase for fruit and vegetables from around the world, with an innovative circular design and a glasshouse centrepiece, the EGVGG is part of the RHS’s investment in the future of horticulture and it hopes that the Hyde Hall garden will inspire people to grow their own produce and push the boundaries of edible horticulture. Also In time for the summer holidays, Hyde Hall is also hosting a series of family-friendly events.
‘The Famous Five’ Go on a Garden Adventure celebrates the 75th anniversary of the first publication of one of Enid Blyton’s most famous and best-loved creations. Throughout the summer (22nd July to 11th August) there will be lashings of activities to get involved with, including craft workshops, garden trails, book displays and interactive storytelling. Expect ginger beer and lots of cake.
7 – Happy Birthday Harlow and Southend! The ‘new town’ of Harlow is 70 in 2017 whilst Southend-on-Sea marks 120 years since the creation of the borough (the seaside town is also the self-proclaimed UK ‘Alternative City of Culture’ in 2017’). There will be a wide variety of events and activities to celebrate in both towns, so keep an eye on www.visitsouthend.co.uk and www.visitharlow.com for the latest information.
8 – If you love walking, wild places and wildlife then the brand new ‘Passport to the Coast’ will be an essential part of your year. Effectively a coastal pass for the east coast of England, extending from Hull in Humberside to Thurrock, the Passport is a new travel tool that will allow you to create your own activities simply by watching interactive videos that draw attention to stretches of coastline little explored by most visitors.
As the name suggests, Passport to the Coast is mainly designed for overseas visitors but that doesn’t mean local residents can’t get involved and revel in the beauty of our own coastline. The themed itineraries will capture touring and active experiences, arts, culture and heritage. It will be available via the Visit Essex website.
9 – Another UK-wide initiative enjoying local involvement is Friendly Invasions. As part of the national campaign, Boxted and Ridgwell Airfields will commemorate the role American personnel played from these shores during World War Two. Not only that, all the county’s old air bases, memorials and key sites will be highlighted on the Visit Essex website, with one and two-day itineraries for suggested tours.
10- Another national event that will enjoy local engagement is the UK-wide Mills Weekend on 13 – 14 May. By 1835, wind and water milling in Essex was at its peak, with some 285 in the county. One hundred years later, only a handful remained and by 1950 the last working mill had ceased production. Twelve years beforehand however, Essex County Council had issued orders prohibiting the demolition of seven mills, and in turn, acquired them.
Six of these mills have been restored by the Council and most are in working order. As part of Mills Weekend, you can visit Alderford Water Mill at Sible Hedingham, Beeleigh Steam Mill in Maldon, Finchingfield Post Mill, Mountnessing Post Mill, Stock Tower Mill and Thorrington Tide Mill, near Alresford. More at www.nationalmillsweekend.co.uk
To discover more information about cultural commemorations, historic happenings and fun-filled festivals in Essex throughout 2017, click on www.visitessex.com.