Places to visit
‘North East Essex’ maybe not the first place that springs to mind for a visit. Birds Farm is in the ideal location to explore this area and its near neighbour Suffolk.
Locally, we are just a mile away from the village of Elmstead Market with its local shopping facilities.
Beth Chatto Gardens
Elmstead Market is the home of Beth Chatto Gardens.
These beautiful gardens, only 1 mile away, were created by award winning gardener, author and lecturer Beth Chatto, who won 10 gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, in 10 consecutive years. Now, they are an inspiration to gardeners and garden lovers and welcome visitors from all over the world.
They are also a renowned nursery and stock over 2,000 varieties of plants, many propagated from plants in the gardens. They are open every day, all year round, except for Christmas and New Year.
Green Island Gardens
Green Island Gardens are private gardens, open for the public to visit in Ardleigh near Colchester, Essex. Professionally designed by its owner Fiona Edmond, Green Island Gardens are laid out as a series of structured gardens displaying a huge range of unusual trees, shrubs, perennials, and bulbs – ‘A Plantsman’s Paradise’.
Surely one of the best gardens open to visit in Essex. Recommended in Great British Gardens 2016 and Essex Days Out.
Wivenhoe has plenty of delights to charm the visitor. Its history involves fishing, yachts, dinghies, ships and smuggling; a pretty church, with a distinctive cupola on top of its sturdy tower, stands on the site of the first church, built in Saxon times. The streets are small and quaint, leading into each other and ending at the picturesque waterfront where fishing boats and small sailing craft bob at their moorings.
(10 minutes by car, to the west of Birds Farm)
Some of the most important events in British history have taken place in and around Colchester over the past 2,000 years. The Romans, Saxons, Normans and Victorians have all left their mark here which you can discover today.
But it’s not just history. Colchester today is a modern and fast growing town with many award-winning places to visit and eat. People love the shopping here too with its excellent range of small, specialist shops alongside all the big-name stores in a compact town centre bordered by the most complete Roman wall in the country.
Colchester Zoo is home to over 260 species set in 60 acres of parkland and lakes and are proudly listed as in the top 2 zoos in the UK as part of the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Attractions.
During your visit you will see species from around the world and learn more about them at daily encounters, giving you the chance to see the animals being fed, watch a training session or perhaps just quiz the keepers!
As you navigate your way around Colchester Zoo you’ll visit many different habitats; from the humid home of our Komodo Dragons to the zoo’s very own Africa plain, Kingdom of the Wild, home to white rhino, giraffes, ostrich, zebra and kudu.
You can also take part in some fantastic activities with the opportunity to hand feed the elephants and giraffe at daily public feeding sessions! Colchester Zoo also has many undercover areas so you can stay warm and dry on even the wettest of days!
(10 minutes by car, to the east)
An ancient maritime town, Brightlingsea is located at the mouth of the River Colne. It’s a major yachting centre with the harbour and promenade bustling with activity. The town has a history of shipbuilding and seafaring. There are disused oyster pits near the Town Hard, where the Colne Smack Preservation Society can also be found. In 1347 five ships and 51 men were sent to the siege of Calais. ‘William of Brightlingsea’ was in Sir Francis Drake’s fleet which vanquished the Spanish Armada.
Brightlingsea has the distinction of being the only Cinque Port outside Kent and Sussex having been a limb of Sandwich since 1360. The 13th Century Jacobes Hall in the town centre is timber-framed with an undulating tile roof and external staircase.
All Saints Church, which is sited on a hill about a mile inland from the town, was mainly built circa 1250. Its impressive tower 97ft high is visible from 17 miles out to sea. A light was placed in the tower to guide fishing vessels home. The Church contains some Roman brickwork and a frieze of memorial ceramic wall tiles commemorating local residents whose lives were lost at sea.
(30 minutes by car)
The most easterly inhabited island can be reached road, by crossing a causeway known as the Strood. High spring tides can cut the island off from the mainland.
It’s situation that has allowed the re- introduction of red squirrels onto the island a few years ago, the only place to have them in the wild in eastern England.
Whether, it’s West Mersea with its boats and oysters, or the quieter eastern side.
There’s something for everyone.
Essex Sunshine Coast
It’s nearby at around 15 miles to the east. Although it has the following seafront towns, it’s an area of wide open spaces, river estuaries, villages and countryside.
The port of Harwich is a must-see destination for history-lovers. It is the place where the Pilgrim Fathers built the Mayflower and where its captain, Christopher Jones, hailed from. Visit the yard where the Mayflower Project is underway with the building of a replica of the famous ship that sailed to America and see the work in progress. The plan is to sail to America in 2020 for the 400th anniversary.
Other attractions include the Electric Palace, one of Britain’s first cinemas (which has local actor Clive Owen as its patron), and the atmospheric Redoubt Fort, which dates back to the Napoleonic Wars. Have a wander around Harwich and imagine yourself in the days of famed diarist Samuel Pepys, who was actually MP for the town.
The town illustrates the character of an early Victorian seaside resort. The seafront was developed in 1825 and Marine Parade, then named The Crescent, was built in 1832. Its Pier was originally constructed of wood in 1830 and was 330 feet long. It was extended to its present length of 2,610 feet in 1898 when the electric train service was started.
The Naze, made up of red sandstone cliffs formed during the Ice Age, is rich in fossils. The octagonal brick Naze Tower was built as a beacon in 1720 to warn sailors of the West Rocks offshore. The Saltings at Hamford Water were featured in Paul Gallico’s novel ‘The Snow Goose’ and Arthur Ransome’s children’s story ‘Secret Water’.
With a reputation as an exclusive resort, Frinton retains an atmosphere of the 1920/30’s. Tree-lined avenues sweep down to the elegant Esplanade and cliff-top greensward, with its colourful Victorian-style beach huts.
The sandy beach is quiet and secluded. The sea front is still lined by many Victorian style beach huts, reminiscent of the days when the town was a favourite retreat for the aristocracy and even royalty.Play a game of golf or tennis, followed by a cream tea.
Clacton-on-Sea, the largest town on the Essex Sunshine Coast, is a bustling but affordable seaside resort. It boasts an array of entertainment facilities including a pleasure pier, arcades, the Princes and the Westcliff Theatres, a golf course, seafront walks, water sports and an airfield offering pleasure flights.
The main shopping area contains many of the more familiar national chains, independent stores as well as a variety of eateries to tantalise your taste buds which is a common theme throughout the area. Just outside of town is Clacton Factory Outlet offering a wide range of individual stores with famous name brands at discounted prices.
An eclectic annual events programme including fetes, fairs, carnivals and the two day annual Clacton Airshow in August will keep you occupied throughout your stay.
A renaissance of the seafront is underway in the form of a £36 million pound coastal defence project from Clacton Pier to Holland Haven covering 5kms creating 22 new glorious beaches in separate bays which can be enjoyed at all states of the tide.
Dedham Vale & Constable Country
Further reading: The Hay Wain (Wikipedia)