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PUBLISHED: 12:17 05 August 2014 | UPDATED: 12:17 05 August 2014

EXG AUG 14 MALDON

EXG AUG 14 MALDON

Archant

Maldon is famed for the many attractions of its delightful high street and port, but Lily Floyd reveals there are many hidden gems that you may not have necessarily discovered in this rural town

MALDON is one of the oldest recorded settlements in the county. Located on the beautiful Essex coast, this charming ancient town has a rich and varied history including an attractive market and harbour, which situates on the largest estuary in the county, the Blackwater Estuary.

Over the coming months there is more reason than ever to visit Maldon with the arrival of The Maldon Art Trail from September 27 to October 4. The trail will be hosting a mixture of regular and new exhibitors to showcase their work to the Maldon art scene. Founded in 2007, The Maldon Art Trail combines the wealth of artistic talent in the area together with the support from local residents, businesses and the council.

Chris Smith, chairman of the Maldon Art Trail, explains: ‘The attractive market town of Maldon is renowned for its independent shops, boutiques and cafés, and is worth a day out in its own right. Even in recent economic difficulties, while some businesses have regrettably been closing, new ventures like the art trail, are springing up to refresh and revitalise the town centre.’

Chris continues: ‘The trail is run by volunteers who give up their free time to help bring art to everyone, while promoting local artists. Our Sculpture Trail will be held again at the Museum of Power in Langford while the free children’s art workshop will be even bigger and better, with a wider selection of artists and artistic styles. There will also be a children’s art competition running again in Maldon Library.’

Artists can enter a wide range of art work including paintings, photography, sculpture, arts and crafts. Daniel Diaz, a volunteer at Maldon Art Trail, explains how he would like to encourage more people to attend this year’s event. Daniel says: ‘It really brings a great sense of community spirit and is jolly good fun. It’s a free day out with lots to see and do. There are so many great artists in the Maldon area, so it’s an ideal way to show off their work. Shop owners also get involved by kindly donating some of their window space for artists to show their work and there is a great range of things to see all the way up Maldon High Street.’

One attraction you may be surprised to learn of in Maldon is The Combined Military Service Museum (CMSM). The CMSM is a perfect example of an attraction that deserves further national recognition and is worthy of many more visitors. It boasts a collection of artefacts from Britain’s proud military history, for the education and enjoyment of both present and future generations. Richard Joseph Wooldridge opened the museum to the public on July 5, 2004, and it quickly gained the support of the council, government and local residents with its captivating background.

Richard explains: ‘Personally I would say it was a hobby gone mad. The museum’s first seeds were sown one summer’s afternoon in 1968. As a seven-year-old boy, I was sitting in the back of my father’s car with my sister and as we passed through a rural area I saw a 1937 pattern backpack in the ditch. 
I shouted to my father to stop, which he did, and I begged him to let me take it home. Over the years my relatives realised I was serious about collecting the family’s military artefacts and I was supplied with more and more items.

‘As a teenager, with a little more money in my pocket, I set up a mini museum in my bedroom, much to my mother’s dismay. In my teens my friends and 
I were busy with metal detectors scouring the local woods, fields and beaches for military finds. A Dornier 17Z, Spitfire, and countless rounds of ammunition and shrapnel were among the finds over the following ten years. The collection constantly grew and when I purchased my first house I converted the garage into a museum, which quickly filled to capacity. I was aware something would have to change. Either I had to realise the dream or scale down the collection.’

Fortunately Richard continued with his collection and the government later reviewed the artefacts and declared them to be of national importance. They assisted in setting up a registered charity to provide a building to house the collection.

The museum houses only genuine period items and takes great care to ensure the accuracy and detail of all its displays. There are many worthy items on show including Army, Navy and Air Force memorabilia, weapons and secret service collections, which cannot be seen in any other museum.

Angela Bliss, manager at the CMSM, explains why people are blown away as there is so much on offer at the museum. Angela says: ‘This place is infectious as there is so much enthusiasm, passion and knowledge from the people that work here. There is never a day when I wake up and think I have to go to work, as there is a common interest among us all and I’m always learning.’ n

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