10 Easter days out in Essex
PUBLISHED: 11:53 27 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:53 27 March 2017
Looking to get away for an Easter break? Adam Jones explains why you don’t have to go very far at all for a great day out – and you can even beat the airport queues
Joining the throngs at a rammed port – either air or sea – with the prospect of spending half the value of your house in a boutique hotel isn’t your only option for making the most of your Easter break. Instead, why not plan a ‘staycation’ and unwind within (or just outside) your own county. After all, if you want sunshine, golden beaches, quaint villages, great wines, beers and food, plus friendly locals – Essex has it all!
There’s a lot to be said for staying at home. No airport delays, currency exchange rates or language barriers to contend with – you can just jump in the car (or on the train) and let the adventure begin. And even if the county’s famed weather doesn’t quite live up to its billing – of course, Essex is the warmest and driest part of the UK – at least you’ve already got waterproofs and wellies close at hand.
The term staycation slipped into the lexicon in 2009 when recession-hit Britons were driven to ditch their passports in favour of domestic holidays. But let’s face it: there are plenty of reasons to take a break on home turf aside from the ongoing financial implications of Brexit. Essex is a rich and diverse county that warrants some serious exploration. But with so many gems to discover, where do you start? From the high culture and history, to the wild and rugged beauty of the coast, here are a few top destinations to help inspire you.
Perfect for… foodie families
Mistley Kitchen is running a series of kids cookery courses during the Easter holidays. From making pizza and homemade pasta to cookies and cupcakes, these two-and-a-half hour courses will not only entertain and educate your little ones, but make sure you all have something tasty to enjoy when you get home. And of course, while the children are cooking up a storm in the kitchen, you can saunter next door for brunch at the renowned Mistley Thorn.
Perfect for… history buffs
The history of castles and weapons have been popular subjects for some of our leading TV historians and on Sunday, April 16 and Monday, April 17, the two topics come together – literally – at Hedingham Castle’s Jousting with the Knights of Middle England! Unleash your inner Dan Jones or Lucy Worsley as you watch a vivid recreation of a medieval jousting tournament. Plus there will be archery demonstrations by the Norfolk Longbowmen and the chance to test your own skills, a thrilling display of birds of prey in action, comedy grave diggers, musicians, donkey rides, a maypole, tours of the castle and much more Middle Ages merriment besides.
Visit www.hedinghamcastle.co.uk for details and tickets.
Held at Cressing Temple, between Witham and Braintree, the International Living History Festival (April 8 and 9) does exactly as its name suggests and is ideal for with an interest and love for history. Including an historical market, living history displays, lectures, seminars and immersive have-a-go hands-on history activities, the festival attracts participants and experts from across Europe.
In many ways, it is Cressing Temple itself that is every bit a star of the event as the wonderfully detailed and observed re-enactments. Given to the Knights Templar in 1137, its 13thcentury Grade I-listed Barley and Wheat Barns are among the oldest timber barns and few surviving Templar buildings in England. The Walled Garden is faithfully reconstructed as a Tudor pleasure garden - one of only a handful in the country. Click on www.visitparks.co.uk/places/cressing-temple and www.livinghistoryfairs.co.uk for more information.
Perfect for… petrol heads and steam punks
Transportfest (April 16) at the Museum of Power near Maldon is certainly one of the county’s most unusual Easter attractions. Fans of vintage cars, buses, lorries, tractors, motorbikes, military vehicles and, of course, steam engines will be in seventh heaven. Rides on a miniature steam train, live music and craft stalls make this a power-packed day trip with a difference. More details about the museum and Transportfest are available at www.museumofpower.org.uk
Perfect for… pint-sized palaeontologists
If you’ve had your fill of chocolate by Easter Bank Holiday Monday then head over to Essex’s own Jurassic Coast and go on a dinosaur hunt. Between 10am and midday, at the Naze Education and Visitor Centre, discover what it was like when these magnificent monsters ruled the earth by following Essex Wildlife Trust’s dinosaur trail and make your own crafts to take home afterwards.
Perfect for… adventurous types
If you want to see Britain’s best canoeing stars battle it out and then have a go yourself, then paddle over to Lee Valley White Water Centre for some wet and wild action. It’s free to spectate at the British Selection event, running from Saturday, April 15 to Monday, April 17, so watch them fight for a place to represent Team GB in the European and World Championships, before wriggling into a wetsuit and seeing if you’ve got what it takes in this thrilling sport.
The activities are designed for complete beginners as well as more practiced white water paddlers. For details and to book, visit gowhitewater.co.uk
Perfect for… Junior Indiana Joneses
Audley End is inviting families for a weekend of adventure and asking, can you be a challenge champion? You’ll be greeted by a character from the past - perhaps a king, a butler or a Roman centurion - who’ll be able to help you crack the clues as you explore Audley End House and Gardens. There’s a chocolate reward for successful adventurers, so be sure to join in the fun. For those still with some energy to burn off, visit the children’s play area with its very own mansion to climb and wooden horses to ride – and then say hello to the resident horses in the stable block.
If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to experience life above and below stairs, get ready to pop on an apron or swish your riding crop as you meet some of the grand house’s characters, such as Mrs Crocombe the cook, the stable-hand tending the horses and the housekeeper, Mrs Warwick, plus a whole host of others as they organise the house for the day.
These events run daily between Friday, April 14 and Monday, April 17. For details visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/audley-end-house-and-gardens
Perfect for… art lovers
In 1995 the future Turner Prize winner Martin Creed caused a bit of a stir in the world when he created Work No. 88, a sheet of A4 paper screwed up into a ball. Today, it is worth a lot of money. So Lucy Vigor’s Sculpting with Folded Paper workshop at the Minories Galleries in Colchester on Saturday, April 15 could set you on the road to artistic superstardom. During Lucy’s two-hour session you will learn techniques that will help you to transform an ordinary piece of paper into an extraordinary sculpture. Click on art.colchester.ac.uk/about/the-minories to book.
Perfect for… jovial jugglers
The internationally-acclaimed Chinese State Circus returns to the UK with a spectacular new production - DYNASTY. From Tuesday April 18 to Sunday, April 23, the circus arrives at the Orsett Showground and will feature 30 world-class Chinese acrobats, aerial artistes and jugglers plus the super-human physical skills and dexterity of the masters of martial arts - the legendary Shaolin Warriors. Find out more at www.chinesestatecircus.com or call 0844 4155 228
Perfect for… inspiring ideas
Take a trip slightly further afield to enjoy an Easter Weekend at Snape Maltings from April 14 to 16. There will be free craft activities in the Concert Hall Café from 1pm to 4pm on all three days plus, on Saturday, a Special Easter Farmers’ Market until 1.30pm food tasting with Charbonell and Walker truffles in the Food hall and a Kadai fire bowl demonstration in the House and Garden Courtyard from 11am to 3pm. On Sunday there will be a family Easter Egg Hunt from 11am to 4pm. Visit www.snapemaltings.co.uk/season/easter-weekend/
Perfect for… you!
Of course, no mention of Easter is complete without mentioning chocolate. If you’re keen to put your sleuthing skills to the test and join one of the many trails in search of coveted chocolate eggs, hop over to www.visitessex.com and type ‘Easter’ into the search bar. You’ll soon find a feast of fun to be had near you.