Five Christmassy Essex Things
PUBLISHED: 12:16 19 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:16 19 December 2016
Nicholas Henshall, Dean of Chelmsford, picks five of his favourite things to do to make an Essex Christmas special
Nicholas Henshall, Dean of Chelmsford
Nicholas moved to Chelmsford at the beginning of 2014 after a lifetime in the north of England. He grew up in Manchester and, after nine years as a student, was a vicar in Newcastle upon Tyne for 14 years, then 6 years at Derby Cathedral and 5 years in Harrogate. Here in Chelmsford he leads the Cathedral Community which is both a thriving church and a wonderful space enjoyed by thousands each year for concerts and conferences, as well as a place of quiet reflection.
1 Bond Street, Chelmsford
When we first arrived in Chelmsford, Bond Street was just a car park. We live just round the corner in the centre of the city, so we got used to going for evening walks along the river watching everything being rebuilt. For the first time, this Christmas Bond Street is a whole new world with John Lewis and other fantastic shops and restaurants. The rest of my family will certainly be taking advantage of the new shops this Christmas, but what I still love most is walking along the river with a group of swans swimming by and the lights from John Lewis and the cinema playing on the water.
2 Breakfast with Santa at Colchester Zoo
I hadn’t been to a zoo for years before we moved to Essex, and we were bowled over when we discovered Colchester Zoo! What an extraordinary place. And at Christmas it becomes extra special with reindeer, elves and santa – all the wonderful Scandinavian traditions of Christmas. I’m also very fond of Santa because we share a name – Santa Claus is simply a shortened version of Saint Nicholas.
3 Midnight Mass at Chelmsford Cathedral
Well, this is my day job – leading the worshipping community here at Chelmsford Cathedral. In the run up to Christmas we see thousands and thousands of people at carol services, from schools, hospices, community organisations and beyond. It’s fantastic. In the last week before Christmas there are a whole series of both informal and formal Cathedral Christmas services (and the informal ones come with mulled wine!) But for me the highlight of Christmas is Midnight Mass, starting at 11.30pm. It’s an amazing atmosphere of awe and wonder as we sing the great carols and everyone is invited!
4 Walking in Heybridge Basin
This walk is really great on a crisp, frosty day with a hint of snow in the air as the sun gets lower in the sky. You set out from Heybridge Basin along the canal, turn left at the main road and then left again through the industrial estate. Then you are on a beautiful path that seems to be going straight out into the Blackwater. It is extraordinary as the birds fly by, with great views back to Maldon. If you’re quick, before it gets dark, you can grab a cup of tea and a cake at the excellent Tiptree Tea Shop back in Heybridge Basin.
5 New Year’s Day Breakfast
New Year’s Day is after Christmas, of course, in fact it’s the eighth day of Christmas. I love the week after Christmas. It’s time to relax with family and friends and the one week of the year when most of our family are actually here. But on New Year’s Day 2017 (yes, it really will be!) let me invite you to join me 6 am to 9 am on BBC Essex as I will be presenting the Sunday Breakfast Show. I know it is bright and early, and for me it means I’ll need to be in bed early on New Year’s Eve and leave the partying to the kids!