Jane’s guidebook

Marks Hall Arboretum

Uncover the hidden gem of North Essex at Markshall Estate, a picturesque heritage landscape spanning over 2,350 acres of the county's countryside. This expansive estate boasts diverse features, such as broadleaved woodlands, a world-renowned Arboretum with rare trees from around the world, The Wild Wood family play area, serene lakes, and the county's longest herbaceous border within the Walled Garden.

When the estate is open, indulge in seasonal delights at the Orchard Kitchen cafe, serving meals, light refreshments, and delightful cream teas throughout the day. For a special experience, inquire about our afternoon teas and stay tuned for exciting special events. Gardening enthusiasts can find inspiration at our Plant Centre, directly sourced from the Arboretum.

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Hatfield Forest

Hatfield Forest National Nature Reserve stands as the foremost surviving illustration in Britain of an almost intact Royal Hunting Forest. Its ownership has spanned various individuals, from monarchs to ordinary people, and nowhere else on the planet captures the ambiance of a medieval hunting forest as authentically.

This managed landscape, shaped by centuries of human involvement, adheres to traditional woodland management practices like coppicing, pollarding, and grazing that persist to this day. Housing a diverse array of over 3,500 wildlife species, some facing rarity and threats, Hatfield Forest provides a sanctuary for some of its rarest insects, lichens, and fungi amid ancient trees that have endured for over a millennium.

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Highlands Park

Hylands Estate stands as a distinguished Grade II* listed public park, spanning 574 acres of historic parkland.

The Stables, within the estate, houses a welcoming café, an information point, a second-hand bookshop, and artist studios and shop featuring items crafted at Hylands. The park boasts formal Victorian Gardens, accessible ancient woodlands, and an award-winning Adventure Playground designed for accessibility to children. Every day, visitors can delve into the Estate's history through the Multimedia History & Gardens Tour, accessible via headsets available at The Stables Information Point or by scanning QR codes on signposts with a smartphone.

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Mersea Island

As the easternmost inhabited island in Britain, Mersea Island stands as a unique realm in its own right. Embarking on a journey to Mersea Island evokes a distinct sense of adventure. Connected by a causeway from the mainland and secluded at high spring tide, this compact eight-square-mile destination requires careful planning to reach. The island reveals two distinct personas.

Most visitors gravitate toward West Mersea, firmly established as oyster territory and the undisputed capital of the island. Here, you'll find shops, guesthouses, and restaurants. The pleasures are simple yet delightful: unwinding on the beach, engaging in crabbing from the jetties, observing the bustling boat-repair yards, and immersing yourself in the dramatic expanse of wide skies and estuary views. Of course, no visit is complete without indulging in the feast of fresh native oysters.

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Colchester Zoo

Nestled in 60 acres of parkland and lakes, Colchester Zoo is home to approximately 180 species, showcasing diverse habitats ranging from the humid abode of Komodo Dragons to our exclusive Africa plain, Kingdom of the Wild. This habitat is inhabited by white rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, zebras, and kudus.

Colchester Zoo features numerous undercover areas, ensuring a warm and dry experience even on the rainiest days. Explore Rajang’s Forest and test your endurance against an orangutan's hanging skills, or venture into Australian Rainbows, a tropical walkthrough aviary where you can feed rainbow lorikeets. Additionally, wander through areas like Worlds Apart, an ideal spot to warm up on chilly days.

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Colchester Castle and Park

Nestled in the heart of Colchester town center, Castle Park is the shining jewel in Colchester's crown. This oasis offers an ideal setting for various activities, whether it's a leisurely stroll, playing in the children's play area, enjoying a picnic surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers, or marveling at the impressive historical backdrop provided by Colchester Castle. On a summer's day, the Cafe in the Park is the perfect spot for light refreshments, and you might even be serenaded by the sounds of a band playing in the Victorian Bandstand.

Throughout the year, Castle Park hosts an array of events, including shows, festivals, and concerts, making it a vibrant hub of activity. In the lower park, you'll discover a mini-golf course, and during the warmer months, swan pedalos gracefully navigate the boating lake.

Maldon Promenade

Step into Promenade Park in Maldon, a century-old Edwardian gem that boasts an ornamental lake, an expansive water Splash Park, charming beach huts, engaging sandpits, a playful galleon ship, an exhilarating aerial zip-wire, and multiple picnic areas. With its rich history and diverse attractions, the park has become a beloved destination, attracting over 300,000 visitors annually.

Established in 1895, 'The Prom,' as it is fondly referred to by locals, was envisioned as a valuable amenity for the people of Maldon. This picturesque park not only offers a scenic stroll but also provides an excellent vantage point to observe the river's activity. With numerous events hosted throughout the year and stunning river views over the Blackwater, Promenade Park stands as a popular choice, promising an unforgettable family day out.

Frinton Beach

Frinton-on-Sea is a serene beach retreat ideal for families. Its gently sloping sandy shore is renowned for its cleanliness and refined atmosphere, making it a perfect spot for relaxed family enjoyment by the sea. Take leisurely strolls along the expansive greensward or venture into the town center, offering a complete array of shopping amenities. A stroll in one direction leads you to the vibrant seaside resort of Walton on the Naze, while heading in the opposite direction takes you to Holland Haven Country Park, a charming local nature reserve.

Layer Marney Tower

Layer Marney Tower, situated near Colchester in Essex, boasts the title of the tallest Tudor Gatehouse in the UK, a majestic structure soaring 80 feet high amid breathtaking grounds. Originating in the 1520s, construction of the Tower, initiated by Lord Henry Marney—a close associate of Henry VIII—stands on the banks of the river Blackwater. Although the Gatehouse and adjoining structures were intended to be part of a grand palace, construction halted following Lord Henry Marney's son's demise. What remains today provides a glimpse into the opulent aspirations of a 16th-century lord. It has since become a family-operated venue, welcoming the public at specific times each year, consistently leaving a lasting impression.

Layer Marney Tower hosts various events throughout the year, often on bank holidays or weekends, featuring an engaging blend of historical and contemporary activities:

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Papermill Lock tea rooms and canal walk

Canal cruises, river trips and waterside walking trails with lunches in converted stable tearoom.

Tiptree Jam Museum, Factory and Tea Rooms

The Tiptree Tea Room, Museum & Jam Shop welcomes visitors seven days a week, only closing for the Christmas break. Within the Tea Room, experience traditional table service in a cozy atmosphere, offering high-quality food featuring a diverse selection of 'Tiptree' products. We prioritize sourcing ingredients from local suppliers, preparing and cooking all dishes on-site.

In the summer, you have the option to dine in the 'Secret Garden,' a delightful sun trap providing a perfect vantage point to observe the activities at the factory and visitor center. Additionally, we've recently introduced the new Tiptree Marquee, perfect for enjoying on warm summer days.

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Coastal walks at Goldhanger

Goldhanger offers enchanting walking trails, and we are fortunate to be surrounded by miles of sea wall tracing the Blackwater Estuary. This scenic path extends to Maldon on one side and Tollesbury and beyond on the other, providing captivating views. The estuary is a haven for birdlife, offering a fascinating and inspiring experience, whether the tide is high or low. After your explorations, the village awaits with inviting establishments, perfect for reviving and refreshing yourself.