A day out in Chelmsford that wont cost a penny
PUBLISHED: 12:40 10 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:38 20 February 2013
With austerity the buzz word and the excesses of Christmas now passed, <br/><br/>Nicky Adams plans a day out in Chelmsford that won't cost you a dime
January can be a tricky month for entertainment. With the Christmas wrapping only just put out for the bin men and the last of the turkey recently consigned to the freezer, the inclination to spend more money whiling away the chilly days of the New Year is often hard to muster. Luckily though, a trip to our county town of Chelmsford neednt be expensive. In fact, there is plenty to do that wont cost anything at all, which is good news for the post-festive bank balance.
If you havent paid a visit to the newly-revamped Chelmsford Museum then now is the time to go and, youve guessed it, admission is entirely free. Reopened last year, the museum in Oaklands Park, off Moulsham Street, is now double the size and a smart contemporary two-storey extension replaces the shabby black brick wing that was tacked on to the impressive original Victorian building in 1973. Inside exhibits are arranged to tell the story of Chelmsford, from its Ice Age origins to the present day, and there are numerous displays focusing on local geology, art and wildlife, plus a new area on festivals and music in the social history section. You will even find a reconstructed Victorian kitchen in the community section, which really brings this fascinating part of our history to life.
A brand new addition to the museum is the Bright Sparks gallery, which is devoted to the towns unique industrial heritage as the home of the worlds first radio factory, the UKs first electrical engineers and the first British manufacturer of rolling bearings. There are also examples of some of Chelmsfords more surprising products as well as hands-on interactive displays to illustrate the principles underlying the technological developments that were achieved locally.
A favourite feature of the museum is the Essex Regiment Museum and The Essex Yeomanry permanent exhibition, which now has more space in which to tell the tale of the countys regiment from its origins in 1741 and throughout the major conflicts of the British empire, the two world wars and the Korean War. A new exhibition follows the Yeomanry, from its founding in 1794 as a volunteer cavalry formed by prominent landowners until its absorption into the Territorial Armys 71 (Yeomanry) Signal Regiment in the Royal Corps of Signals.
Fresh air is free in Chelmsford and more than 1,700 acres in the borough is devoted to parks and green spaces, with many open areas right in the middle of the town. Central Park runs alongside the River Chelmer and has a playground and a skate park (also free to use), and there are many others in neighbourhoods all around, complete with football pitches and playgrounds.
If you havent paid a visit to the newly revamped Chelmsford Museum then nows the time to do it admission is entirely free
The jewel in the crown of Chelmsfords parkland is of course Hylands Park 574 acres of recreational ancient woodland, grassland, lakes, ponds and gardens surrounding the historic Hylands House. It costs nothing to stroll the tranquil grounds and gardens and only a small fee to explore inside the beautifully-restored Queen Anne style 18th century house, with its lavish state rooms including a stunning gilded drawing room and ornate banqueting room.
Hylands Park is open every day from 7.30am and, as well as the open grassy parkland, there are formal gardens, including the Pleasure Gardens (once the site of a magnificent 300-foot glazed conservatory to the west of the house) which are planted in a variety of styles typical of the Victorian to Edwardian eras, including a small rectangular goldfish pond with an arbour on either side.
Another highlight is the One World Garden, a contemporary garden inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and designed to celebrate the World Scout Jamboree held at Hylands Park in 2007 with a series of garden areas representing a childs journey through life to adulthood.
Theres also the Serpentine Lake and the recently renovated Stables Visitor Centre houses a caf, gift shop and second-hand bookshop. Works by local artists are also displayed here and for children, the new Hylands Adventure Castle play area is open at the Writtle end of the park.
On your bike
When it comes to getting around the town, walking and cycling are two modes of transport that are immune from soaring fuel prices. There are excellent paths in and around Chelmsford, but if youre keen to get together with other walkers, then the local council along with the Primary Care Trust runs an excellent Heart and Sole healthy walks scheme that organises walks every day of the week in various areas of the town. Each walk is led by a trained leader with a back marker, so walkers can go at their own pace and not have to worry about being left behind. The walks, which are not too demanding and suitable for all, are very sociable occasions with chatting and staying on for a cup of tea or coffee afterwards positively encouraged.
Nature also costs nothing in Chelmsford and Chelmer Valley Riverside Local Nature Reserve is well worth a wander. Covering an area of 21.8ha, the reserve follows the River Chelmer for a mile and a half from where Victoria Road crosses the river past Anglia Ruskin University up to Springfield Hall Park and takes in unimproved grassland, old hedges, scrub, river-lined woodland, a seasonal pond and the river itself. The keen eyed can spot otters, kingfishers, pyramidal orchids and mistletoe among other rare species of
flora and fauna.
Chelmsford has nine libraries and as well as lending books for free of course they provide all sorts of other services that dont cost even a penny. CDs, CD-Roms and DVDs are also available to borrow and the librarys computers can be used to access the internet as well as the librarys online reference service, homework helper and family history information. Libraries also have free wi-fi or you can try the What should I read next? service which helps you find books to suit your reading preferences.
Find fun in Chelmsford
Open Mondays to Saturdays (including Bank Holidays except Good Friday) 10am to 5pm and Sundays: 1pm to 4pm. Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day. Admission is free. For information telephone 01245 605700
Hylands Park is open to the public every day throughout the year. The gates at the park entrances are opened at 7.30am and are closed and locked at 5pm in January. Visiting Hylands Park, the One World Garden, the Pleasure Gardens and the Stables Visitor Centre is free. The One World Garden is open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, Monday to Friday 8am to 3.30pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 4pm in the winter. For information telephone 01245 605500. Hylands House is open to the public 10am to 4pm (Sundays only) in winter, including bank holidays. Last entry is one hour before closing. There is a small admission charge to visit the house, which contributes to the restoration fund for the estate. Admission is 3.60 for adults and 2.60 for concessions, while accompanied children under
16 are free.
Heart and Sole walks are organised every day of the week in one of the following locations: Bell Meadow, Riverside (Chelmer Valley Walk), Great Baddow, Boleyn Gardens, Hylands Park, Writtle, Galleywood Common, Moulsham Mill and Admirals Park. For information telephone 01245 606208.
Chelmsfords libraries are open 8.30am to 7pm on weekdays, 8.30 to 5.30 on Saturdays and 12.30 to 4.30 on Sundays. For information telephone 01245 492758.