A guide to the Colne Valley, Essex
Written by Kayleigh Conway
Earls Colne, named after the flowing River Colne, offers a 13th Century church and many 17th Century houses to admire, and the nearby Chalkney Wood is a popular destination for walkers.
Using Earls Colne as your base, heading south will lead you to the beautiful village of Coggeshall, where you can find the family-run West Street Vineyard for a glorious vineyard walk and a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant, which serves brunch to dinner and even afternoon tea. The vineyard offers the opportunity to learn more about wine with its ‘Vineyard Walk and Wine’ course, which offers groups of four or more to taste a selection of six English wines. Every Saturday the vineyard hosts an informal workshop where you can improve your wine tasting skills and learn more about grape varieties and food and wine matching. For more details visit http://www.weststreetvineyard.co.uk
Braintree is close by, a picturesque town with quaint old streets and buildings, which meet a modern vibe. The traditional street market continues to be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Still a large, plentiful market, it covers not only the Market Square through to Great Square, but Bank Street, New Street and High Street too.
The town also holds the popular designer shopping village, Freeport, where you can stroll in the open spaces, hunt for bargains and enjoy a hearty South American-inspired evening meal at the newly-opened Las Iguanas kitchen and bar.
Just outside Braintree, Great Notley Country Park is ideal for tiring out adventurous children. It features a climbing forest and giant see-saws plus Essex’s biggest climbing frame.
Between Witham and Braintree you’ll also find Cressing Temple, the largest medieval barn of its kind in Europe, which holds a number of events throughout the year and a regular farmers’ market.
Back in our starting point of Earls Colne, if you head north towards Bures and Sudbury you are treated to the magnificent views that the Stour Valley has to offer. Once in Sudbury, Clare Castle Country Park provides much to learn about the 13th Century stone castle remains that overlook the town.
Just outside the nearby town of Halstead you’ll find Hedingham Castle, where you’ll discover one of the country’s best preserved Norman keeps with medieval re-enactments loved by children and adults alike.
Also near the castle within the village of Castle Hedingham you’ll find the Colne Valley Railway heritage railway, with its short running line and activities for families including demonstration train rides. For more information visit http://www.colnevalleyrailway.co.uk