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10 of the prettiest places to live in Essex

PUBLISHED: 17:02 02 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:02 16 March 2017

'Thaxted: Town Street', David Nicholls, Flickr CC 2.0

'Thaxted: Town Street', David Nicholls, Flickr CC 2.0

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Lots of the towns and villages in Essex have fascinating histories and beautiful buildings making them wonderful places to live. We’ve selected 10 of our favourites

'Thaxted: Guild Hall and Stony Lane', David Nicholls, Flickr CC 2.0 'Thaxted: Guild Hall and Stony Lane', David Nicholls, Flickr CC 2.0

1. Tillingham

The small village of Tillingham in the Maldon district has a population of just over a thousand. The village itself is built around the main high street with the centre having been designated as a conservation area by the district council.

This quintessential villages has two local watering holes. The Fox & Hounds sits on the beautifully picturesque village green overlooking the church, perfect for a pint in the summer months. The Cap & Feathers dates back to the 15th century and has an incredibly lively and sociable atmosphere, hosting curry nights, karaoke and BBQ’s in the summer. There is also one primary school, St Nicholas Church of England recommended by Ofsted for its strong links to the community.

2. Tollesbury

Located on the Essex coast at the mouth of the River Blackwater is the village of Tollesbury, which for centuries has been known for its exportation of oysters and has survived ever since on this trade. It has lots of historic features which make it a wonderful little village to explore.

The centre of the village or ‘The Square’ as it’s known is lined with beautiful cottages many of which are made from locally manufactured bricks. There is also Woodrolfe Creek where you’ll find a public salt water lido, the Woodup Pool, which is the ideal spot to cool off on a hot summer day. For those who want to check out the local, The King’s Head is a traditional village pub with home cooked food, weekly quiz nights and excellent beer.

3. Castle Hedingham

Built around the 900-year-old Hedingham Castle, Castle Hedingham is a village still strongly connected to its historical roots and has a vibrant and active community.

With three excellent pubs, The Wheatsheaf, The Bell and the Rising Sun there is no shortage of places to choose from if you’re looking for a pint. There is also The Old Moot House Restaurant and the Magnolia Tea Rooms should you be in the mood for something more formal. It has many timber-framed medieval buildings that give a unique old world charm to the village.

4. Battlesbridge

Known for being a hub for antiques and collectibles, the village of Battlesbridge in Rettendon has a very vintage feel with classic car and motorbike shows held annually. It has very close ties with the River Crouch and for centuries was a popular base for river industry; even today this connection can still be seen in its surroundings.

It’s home to a couple of excellent local pubs with great character and even better beer. The Barge Inn and The Hawk Inn are both traditional country pubs with simple rustic charm serving homely comfort food you’ll love.

5. Thaxted

Arguably one of the county’s prettiest towns, the striking combination of historical architecture and rural countryside makes Thaxted a real joy to explore. The brightly coloured houses with their timber frames and thatched roofs are incredibly pleasing to the eye and with the beautiful church and windmill dominating the skyline it truly is a sight to behold.

There are plenty of places to choose from when you’re feeling peckish or looking for a drink. Popular country pubs The Maypole and The Farmhouse Inn both offer delicious home cooked food and real ales, the latter offering stunning views of the Chelmer Valley. The town’s primary school, Thaxted Primary is very involved in the community.

6. Manningtree

Prospering from the wool trade in the 15th century, the town of Manningtree was once the headquarters for the Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins whose accusations of local women resulted in their executions in 1644. Margaret Thatcher also lived in Manningtree. It now has plenty to see with interesting Georgian facades on buildings.

Despite it once being known as the smallest town in England there is an abundance of things to do in Manningtree perhaps the most notable are the Mistley towers, the remnants of the 18th Century church are a wonder to see up close. With a wonderful selection of pubs and restaurants such as pizza and pasta at Lucca Enotecca or real East Anglian ales at the Red Lion, the town’s oldest pub. There are two schools in Manningtree, Highfields Primary and Manningtree High both of which have glowing Ofsted reports.

7. Ingatestone

The affluent commuter town of Ingatestone was established in Saxon times and was a coaching town in the 18th century. With lots of old and fascinating buildings including Ingatestone Hall, the Tudor house that Queen Elizabeth I stayed in, there is a lot to do here.

There are over a hundred shops and businesses and an excellent selection of pubs and restaurants among them the Prince Albert and The White Hart both cosy and comfortable pubs serving great food with welcoming atmospheres. The Star Inn on the High Street is the town’s oldest pub dating back to the 15th Century. It may be small but its low beamed ceilings and huge open log fire make it perfect for a drink on a winter night. There are three schools, infants, junior and secondary all of which have strong involvement in the community and a successful background in sports. With the M25 just 10 minutes away, Ingatestone has excellent connections to London for commuters.

8. Rochford

With landmarks such as Rochford Hall, the village of Rochford has a rich history along with being a picturesque little town teeming with beautiful historical buildings and resplendent scenery.

The village also has a vibrant nightlife with an abundance of pubs and restaurants. For a few casual drinks look no further than the White Horse, the Marlborough Head or the Plough and Sail with its toasty log fire. For those who enjoy the occasional game of golf, Rochford Hundred Golf Club is the traditional members club on Hall Road with a stunning 18-hole course and even has part of the Grade I listed Rochford Hall as its clubhouse. Just a 45 minute train journey from London, it’s in an ideal location for commuters and with nearly 65 miles of unspoilt coastline and ancient woodland there’s plenty to explore in the Rochford District.

9. Stansted Mountfitchet

Stansted Mountfitchet dates back to Saxon times and with an abundance of 16th and 17th century buildings and the historic windmill from 1787 dominating its skyline, to stroll through is like stepping back through time.

There are three schools, Bentfield Primary and St Mary’s and the high school Forest Hall. There is a wide selection of wonderful pubs and restaurants to choose from such as the dog friendly Dog & Duck known for its steaks and Sunday roasts, or The Rose and Crown for real cask ales and ciders. The village is also home to what is supposedly the largest toy museum in the world with over 80,000 toys, The House on the Hill Toy Museum is next to Mountfitchet Castle.

10. Wivenhoe

With a population of over 10,000, Wivenhoe has an eclectic mix of residents, it has long been a hub for an artistic community as well as commuters and – as it is the home of the University of Essex – students.

There is a lot going on in the town to keep people busy with coffee and tea shops, such as Tudor tea rooms, delicatessens, and an assortment of local pubs and restaurants. The Black Buoy is the ideal local watering hole with delicious pub-grub and an excellent selection of real ales. Wivenhoe is also well known for its maritime history; a visit to the quay could see you enjoying a trip on the ferry or learning how to build a boat at the Maritime Institute.

After hearing your feedback, it’s clear that we missed a few of your favourite places in our list. So, here are 9 more of the prettiest places in Essex - all suggested by you!

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