30 of the best spring and Easter days out in Essex
PUBLISHED: 16:23 20 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:40 20 March 2018
Holly Eells brings together 30 weird and wonderful ideas on how to make the most of the Easter break
On the Egg Hunt
1) Beth Chatto Gardens - 24 March to 8 April
Elmstead Market, Colchester CO7 7DB
Join in the great annual Easter Egg Hunt at the horticultural home of the award-winning plantswoman Beth Chatto at Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmstead Market. Explore the beautiful, inspirational gardens and see signs of blooming spring as you find the hidden eggs on your way.
Once you have completed the hunt, don’t forget to collect your Easter treat! Throughout the Easter holidays there will be a self-guided trail running every day. This event is really something for everyone to enjoy and will keep you and the children entertained.
Admission: Adults £6.95 and children £1.50, or free if you book your adult garden entrance tickets in advance online. 01206 822 007
2) Epping Ongar Railway - 30 March to 2 April
Ongar Station, Station Approach, Ongar CM5 9BN
Epping Ongar Railway’s beloved Bertie Bunny will be leading what is probably the longest Easter Egg Hunt in Essex. Running the length of the railway track, from Ongar through to Coopersale, the distance covered is equivalent to 131,579 eggs placed end to end! Upon arrival, children will receive a sheet with clues, before being asked to find as many numbered eggs as they can, which Bertie has sneakily hidden along the railway.
There will also be lots of fun activities including face painting, The Bunny Hop Children’s Disco, John Clayton’s Magic Show and Lennie Nova’s balloon modeling.
Admission: Prices vary. Early booking discount available.
3) Copped Hall Trust - 1 April
2pm to 4pm
Stables Courtyard, Copped Hall, Crown Hill, Epping CM16 5HS
No matter how old you are, you can enjoy an Easter Egg Hunt. Don’t miss out on all the fun as children meet the Easter Bunny and join in a fun-filled Easter Egg Hunt extravaganza, while adults (if they want to) can enjoy the beautiful spring flowers.
There will also be tea/coffee and homemade cakes available until 4pm and the gift shop will be open until the same time, giving the adults some relaxing time too.
Admission: Entry is £5 per person. Egg hunt is 50p per child taking part
Sounds Like Fun
4) Honk the Musical - 28 and 29 March
7.30pm and 1pm
Mercury Theatre, Balkerne Gate, Colchester C011PT
Ugly looks quite a bit different from his darling duckling brothers and sisters. The other animals on the farm are quick to notice and point this out, despite his mother’s protective flapping. Feeling rather foul about himself, the little duckling finds himself on a musical adventure of self-discovery, all the while unknowingly outwitting a very hungry cat.
Along the way, Ugly meets a whole flock of unique characters and finds out that being different is not a bad thing to be.
Admission: £17 01206 573948
5) Easter Weekend at Snape Maltings - 30 March to 2 April
Snape Maltings, Peter Pears Gallery, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
Snape Maltings definitely knows how to host a special celebration any time of the year, and this Easter it is doing just that! Celebrate the Easter holidays with a weekend of fantastic events including free family activities such as a chocolate-filled Easter Egg Hunt, art activities and a special Easter Farmers’ Market featuring local fresh food and drink from some of the region’s best independent producers.
There will also be concert music bursting with drama, performed by the finest emerging professional and local musicians, and one of this country’s standout early music ensembles. Snape Maltings is making sure there is something for everyone this Easter!
6) Easter Special at Chelmsford City Racecourse - 31 March
Gates open at 3.45pm
Chelmsford CM3 1QP
Proving once again, that the venue offers more than just racing, Chelmsford City Racecourse will be celebrating Easter in style with a full evening of entertainment. With a DJ set following an action-packed evening of live, floodlit racing, the much anticipated heavyweight fight between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker will be screened throughout the Grandstand.
There will also be a thrilling card of seven exciting races before the evening entertainment begins. So why not make this Easter something special with a night out at one of the shining lights of the Essex social circle?
Admission: Tickets start from just £20 per person
7) Essex Easter Jazz at Brentwood School - 3 to 6 April
Middleton Hall Lane, Brentwood CM15 8EE
Brentwood School is hosting Essex Easter Jazz which has quickly become a highlight of the musical year and is the perfect opportunity to develop your jazz playing. Open to all instruments, the four and a half day course includes instrument tuition, band workshops, tutor Q&A sessions, vocal and percussion warm-ups and a welcome pack including all of your music (available to download in advance).
They also have a range of lectures which have previously covered building confidence, advanced harmony, extended chords and directing a band, along with tuition form some of the finest tutors in the country. Past tutors include Jason Rebello, piano player for Sting; Derek Nash, saxophonist for the Jools Holland Orchestra and Eric Clapton, and Phil Scragg, bass man for Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin.
8) The Jungle Book - 5 April
2pm and 6.30pm
Towngate Theatre, St Martin’s Square, Basildon SS14 1DL
Back by popular demand, Immersion Theatre brings a brand new musical adaptation of family favourite, The Jungle Book. This show is a perfect Easter treat with catchy music, audience interaction and the chance to meet the characters after the show.
You are invited to join Mowgli and his friends, Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther, on a madcap jungle adventure as they meet and attempt to outwit a slithering snake, some cheeky monkeys and the fierce tiger, Shere Khan! Funny, exciting and wildly entertaining, this larger-than-life musical will have you howling with laughter this Easter.
Admission: £13.50 01268 205300
More to Explore
9) Easter at Hyde Hall - 26 March to 15 April
RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Rettenden CM3 8ET
Hop down to RHS Garden Hyde Hall this Easter and enjoy a host of fun family activities to help you celebrate the Easter holidays the fun way. From the Lindt Gold Bunny Trail and the Higgledy Hyde play tower to art and craft workshops and face painting, there’s plenty to keep the little ones amused.
Explore the beautiful gardens, make special family memories and discover where the Lindt Gold Bunny is hiding at this Easter’s Lindt Gold Bunny Hunt. Complete the trail and see what Lindt chocolate treat the Easter Bunny has in store for you this spring.
Admission: Prices vary.
10) Easter Special at Audley End Miniature Railway - 30 March to 15 April
10am to 5pm
Audley End Road, Saffron Walden CB11 4JB
Start by taking an enchanting trip on one of the trains deep into the woods. You will then stop and meet the Easter Bunny and all of his friends at their woodland house. Each child will receive a gift from the Easter Bunny. Test your I Spy skills and see if you can find all of the animals, nests and eggs through the Easter Trail, and don’t forget to collect your gift afterwards too!
You can also hop into the craft tent to create your very own Easter craft to take home with you. Included in the ticket price is a train ride, meeting the Easter Bunny and his friends, the Easter Trail, craft making and a gift.
Admission: £10 to £12. Booking is required. 01799 542134
11) Spring Time at Marks Hall - From 30 March
Doors open at 10am
Coggeshall, Colchester CO6 1TG
The Gardens and Arboretum at Marks Hall are blossoming into life at this time of year and a visit is truly rewarding. The 18th century Walled Garden reopens at Easter and is now one of the highlights of the Arboretum.
Families visiting during the Easter holidays can enjoy the children’s trail, which this year is all about eggs. Marks Hall is home to many species of bird, some resident and others who migrate here as the seasons change. In spring these birds begin building nests in preparation for egg-laying.
This trail through the Arboretum explains more about these charming Marks Hall residents and once completed, participants can return to the Visitor Centre to collect their prize.
Admission: Normal admission applies. Trail costs £1.50.
12) Gilwell Park Easter Extravaganza - 31 March
10am to 5pm
Gilwell Park, Bury Road, Chingford E4 7QW
This event is not called an extravaganza for nothing, with its various fun-filled activities making it something for everyone to enjoy, and not just the kids! Expect shopping and craft stalls, kids rides, face painting, donkey rides, an Easter Bunny and mascot appearances, delicious food and drink, pond dipping, fire lighting, shelter building and much more.
Also, don’t miss out on the Easter Egg Hunt around the beautiful grounds, following the clues to find the prize, plus bushcraft activities too.
Admission: Prices vary. 07550 851655
Easter on the go
13) Easter Activities at Layer Marney Tower - 1 to 2 April
11am to 5pm
Layer Marney, Colchester CO5 9US
Fancy getting involved in some old fashioned fun this Easter? Look no further than Layer Marney Tower, which is hosting exciting activities for all age ranges to get involved in.
Expect an Easter Egg Hunt for toddlers, egg and spoon races for older children, bottle feeding the ever so adorable lambs, an Easter quiz, plus the chance to climb the tower, explore the grounds and much, much more. If you want to bottle feed the lambs again, there will be an opportunity until April 5.
Admission: Children £5, adults £9, family £25 (two adults and two children) 01206 330785
14) FootGolf Competition - 1 April
Lee Valley Golf Course, Meridian Way, Edmonton N9 0AR
Edmonton’s Lee Valley Golf Course is going to host its first Lee Valley FootGolf Open this spring and it’s commencing over the Easter weekend. It will be open to players of all ages and abilities to compete as teams for the chance to take home the FootGolf Open trophy.
Combining two of the nation’s favourite sports, FootGolf takes place on a traditional golf course but replaces a standard golf ball with a football.
With participants discarding their usual clubs in favour of moving the ball with their feet alone, the object of the game is to get the ball into each hole in the fewest number of ‘shots’ possible.
Admission: £12 adults and £6 children
15) Wild Forest – Easter Scavenger Hunt - 5 April
10.30am to 12pm
Wild Forest, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, CM15 0LA
Calling all outdoors children! How does 90 minutes of obstacle and mud fun with a twist sound to you? It is a fantastic activity for children to run about and have a sense of freedom which they will not experience on a daily basis.
The added bonus is parents can enjoy a delicious cup of tea in the heated hub facilities while the children run around in the forest looking for lots of yummy chocolate eggs on their scavenger hunt. And don’t worry, hot showers are provided afterwards so there will be no mud joining you back home.
Admission: £16.50 per person
16) Step into Spring at Barleylands Farm Museum - 30 March to 15 April
Barleylands Road, Billericay CM11 2UD
From seeing the Easter Bunny and taking part in hands-on animal activities to following the Giant Easter Egg Trail and biscuit decorating, you are sure to have an eggs-ellent day out! You can also visit the Animal Barn to see the lambing and all the other baby animals as Barleylands ‘Steps into Spring’ down on the farm. The Easter Bunny will be doing his rounds every day to make sure the Giant Easter Egg Trial has something for everyone.
The trail is self-guided and will be available throughout the day. Also, lambing is still in full swing which means there are dozens of baby lambs to see and bottle feed.
Admission: Prices vary.
17) Easter at Colchester Zoo - 30 March to 15 April
Colchester Zoo, Maldon Road, Stanway, Colchester CO3 0SL
Looking for something fun to do over the Easter holidays? Why not head to Colchester Zoo for a day of fun with your loved ones?
As you walk around the zoo you will see many species from around the world and can learn more about them at eggs-ellent daily encounters, including the chance to hand-feed the elephants and giraffes yourself at daily public feeds and walk through a 24m underwater tunnel as sea lions swim overhead!
You can also take part in some fantastic activities that will be happening throughout the day.
Admission: Prices vary
18) Easter Weekend at the Farm - 30 March to 2 April
10am to 5pm
Lee Valley Park Farms, Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey EN9 2EF
Enjoy an egg-stra special Easter designed for the whole family to get stuck into at Lee Valley Park Farms. Meet the babies recently born on the farm, join the fun-filled Easter Egg Hunt, travel to the dairy farm on Tex the Tractor and look for the Easter Bunny along the way.
However, the fun doesn’t end there. Children can play indoors and explore the great outdoors as well as meet farmyard friends and more exotic animals, while parents can sit down and relax with refreshments in the café.
Admission: £10 for adults, children aged two to 17, senior citizens or registered disabled. £9 for groups of seven or more
19) Easter Holidays at Rainham Marshes - 31 March to 15 April
Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve, Purfleet Environmental and Educational Centre, Purfleet RM19 1SZ
Drop in to Rainham Marshes this Easter to take part in some fabulous family activities! You can pick up an adventure trail sheet at the visitor centre and take part in self-guided activities. Also enjoy family pond-dipping at the Woodland Discovery Zone.
Grab a net and investigate what creatures you can find living in the ponds. Don’t worry, you don’t need to bring any equipment, everything you need will be there. Or try the Adventure Playground where a team will have lots of activities to help your family discover nature.
20) Easter Monday Falconry at Hedingham Castle - 2 April
10am to 5pm
Castle Hedingham, Halstead CO9 3DJ
Fancy experiencing something different this Easter break? Perhaps head down to the 900-year-old Norman Keep of Hedingham Castle to witness something spectacular.
It is proud to be hosting Coda Falconry, an award-winning bird of prey centre who are will be presenting two flying displays, with a chance to meet the birds in between. You can also learn even more fantastic facts with an amazing air show that will take your breath away.
The dedicated falconry team can give you all the ins and outs of what it’s like working with such remarkable animals. Plus, the castle will be open with tours available.
Admission: Prices vary
A touch of history
21) Operating Day with Steam - 30 March to 2 April
Colne Valley Railway, Castle Hedingham, Halstead CO9 3DZ
All aboard! Don’t miss out on this chance to sample the atmosphere and take a ride on an award-winning period country railway. Fun for the whole family to enjoy, this pretty line, almost a mile long, has relocated station buildings, signal boxes and bridges all lovingly restored and rebuilt.
Experience a large and varied collection of vintage steam and diesel engines, carriages and wagons that represent much of our railway heritage. The Colne Valley Railway runs diesel operating days on Saturdays throughout the season, but on Sundays you’ll also find the steam engines out and maybe a special visitor.
Admission: Prices vary
22) A Very Victorian Easter - 30 March to 15 April
The Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey EN9 1JY
Looking for something to do with the children this Easter? Get ready to journey back to Victorian times as the Royal Gunpowder Mills plays host to A Very Victorian Easter.
Open daily between 30 March and 15 April, there’s fantastic Victorian-themed arts and crafts, eggs-ellent Easter science fun and much more madness in store with Professor Nitrate and crew.
The Easter weekend will see special visits from The Pygmy Goats & Ducklings (March 30 and 31) and The Van Buren Show (April 1 and 2). This is something for the whole family to enjoy!
Admission: Prices vary 01992 707 375
23) Transportfest Show - 1 April
Museum of Power, Langford Road, Hatfield Rd, Langford, Maldon CM9 6QA
Boys who love their toys pay attention! This spectacular Easter show is something you should definitely not miss.
Expect more than 280 vehicles of all types and ages, including everything from classic cars to military vehicles, plus much more. There will be a variety of craft stalls, live music from the Bocking Brass Band and Zorb Balls.
Also, the miniature steam train will be open for rides (extra charge applies), Marshall the Lilleshall pumping engine will be run by steam and other oil/diesel engines will be running. Then there is the Astaria model village which will be open too.
Admission: Adult £6, concessions £5, children (five to 15) £2.50, children under 5 free
24) The Squadron at North Weald Airfield - 1 April
1pm to 6pm
Merlin Way, North Weald CM16 6HR
Come and celebrate with The Squadron, North Weald Airfield as it marks the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force at the Squadron North Weald Airfield Hangar with a Dance and Vintage Afternoon Tea.
There will be lots of fun and dancing to be enjoyed with The Wield Glenn Miller Tribute Band 22-piece orchestra playing live, an Aviation Gin Bar, licensed bar, afternoon tea supplied by Tiptree of Maldon, a large dance floor and much more. Get your dancing shoes on!
Admission: £18.50 per person
Food, Glorious Food
25) Farmers’ Market at Barleylands Farm Museum - 31 March
8.30am to 12.30pm
Barleylands Road, Billericay CM11 2UD
Enjoy picking up delicious food and handmade treats for the weekend? Head to the Barleylands Farmers’ Market for all your delicious Easter goods. It’s a great opportunity to buy local handmade goods from farmers and small businesses.
They can never guarantee which stalls they will have at any particular market (or how many), but goods for sale often include muffins, bread, pastries, pork, lamb, sausages, honey, pies, chutneys, preserves, fresh fish, cakes, sauces, olives, plus lots more treats. The Farmers’ Market is held outdoors along the walkway leading into The Village from the main car park.
Admission: Free entry and car parking.
26) Galvin Scotch Egg Challenge! - 31 March
Galvin Green Man, Howe Street, CM3 1BG
Well if this isn’t exciting enough for you, I don’t know what is this Easter! Four amateur cooks and ten professional chefs from some of the best restaurants and pubs across Essex get together to take up the challenge to make the winning Scotch egg which will be blind-tasted by a panel of exceptional judges.
Spectators and Scotch egg tasters are welcome to join in on this very entertaining event which is something not to be missed this Easter. May the best chef win.
27) Easter Tea Afternoon - From 1 April
Strattons Hotel, Restaurant & CoCoes Café Deli, 4 Ash Close, Swaffham, Norfolk PE37 7NH
Strattons is an award-winning boutique hotel, restaurant and cafe deli offering cool contemporary style with originality.
This Easter break you can enjoy afternoon tea and cocktails, a light lunch from the cafe deli or a delicious dinner in the chic restaurant with a loved one.
If you want to extend your break further, perhaps stay in one of the 14 individual, sumptuous and eclectic bedrooms, with a Jacobean four-poster bed, a freestanding bath at the foot of the bed with room for two or a cinema screen to really enjoy the long Easter break.
Admission: Prices vary
28) Farmers and Crafts Market at Hylands House - 1 April
10am to 4pm
Chelmsford London Road, Writtle, Chelmsford CM2 8WQ
The Hylands Farmers’ & Crafts Market runs on the first Sunday of the month and it is definitely a market not to be missed for all your delicious fresh produce.
It’s based in the beautiful surroundings of The Stables and the market features many craft stalls and local producers who are passionate about food. The stalls sell a range of produce including locally reared meat, artisan delicacies, hand-crafted gifts, freshly-baked bread and wonderful sweet and savoury pastries. In addition, Hylands House and the artist studios are open free of charge for you to browse and walk around at your leisure.
The Art of Easter
29) Sudbourne Park Printmakers - 30 March to 4 April
Snape Maltings, Peter Pears Gallery, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
Fancy browsing around some fabulous exhibitions this Easter? Sudbourne Park Printmakers is an established group of artists based in a well-equipped workshop near Orford, Suffolk.
They produce a diverse range of exciting original prints and are returning to the Peter Pears Gallery this Easter to showcase their work. A wide variety of printmaking techniques will be represented including woodcuts, etchings, monoprints and screen prints.
Framed and unframed work will be for sale. Afterwards, be sure to mooch around Snape Maltings as there are some fun activities for all to get involved in.
30) Easter Fun at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge - 2 April
1pm to 4pm
The View, Rangers Road, Chingford E4 7QH
Come along and join the Easter fun with activities such as egg decorating, Easter crafts and a woodland trail. The day will start with egg rolling hard boiled eggs (provided for £2) and children can decorate their egg. At 2pm there will be running races outside the Hunting Lodge with winners getting a delicious chocolate treat!
For the Easter Trail, pick up an answer sheet and follow a trail through the woods, searching for clues. Once you complete the answer sheet, pop it back to The View for a chocolate treat too!
Also, the Easter Bunny will be around the Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, so come along and take a picture with Epping Forest’s favourite bunny.
Admission: Free, no booking required. 020 7332 1911
For anything else not on this list, check out our regularly updated round-up of weekend events!