Essex – Don’t Judge By Reality TV (Part One)


I can see your hand on the mouse now, poised to move on to the next post without reading this one. The Essex media image has admittedly not been helped by recent reality tv programmes, and the media in general has a rather low-brow expectation of Essex and it’s inhabitants. I would like to offer a different view, one in which you can enjoy a short break with lots to do and at a very reasonable price too. I am going to ‘cheat’ by including South Suffolk in this blog. You can save money by staying in Essex rather than Suffolk and still see the same sights, allbeit with some more driving or public transport costs involved. This is offset by a shorter initial journey from, for us, Surrey.
May we suggest alternative accomodation that is very  budget orientated?  Have you considered a caravan holiday at all?  I  know some of you will be turning your nose up at the very thought. These  days caravans can be rented that have central heating, flat screen tv, double glazing  and a varandah, for a high price, of course. Alternatively, ‘low spec’  caravans still have a gas fire in the lounge, to ward off those chilly  mornings, if holidaying out of the main season. Book for out of the  summer season (April, May and June also September & October) go  Monday to Friday, and book as late as you can, and you should get a  relative bargain compared to a hotel. Especially if you can get four adults or more to go.
We  have used this company in the past and have  really enjoyed the freedom of not being tied to mealtimes. Do try and  get the best grade you can for a great price, although the bronze  caravans are perfectly acceptable. As shown below.

If travelling by train, then the Weeley Bridge site should be your destination of choice, Weeley station is adjacent to the park entrance. Trains from Wheeley go to Colchester Town, Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze. Connections available at Colchester main line station for destinations further afield, e.g. Great Yarmouth or Lowestoft. Weeley has an owner/rent rate of 80/20%, so if you go Monday – Friday it should be relatively quiet, as the owners tend to use their caravans for weekend breaks. The caravan sites near to Clacton are usually the cheapest area on offer on the website.

Close to Weeley Excursions

Walton-on-the-Naze Just a few miles East of Wheeley on the B1033, and signposted through Frinton and Walton to ‘The Naze’. The tower below can be climbed for a fee.

We decided to walk around instead as the views from ground level are pretty good anyway;

There is a charge for the car park . Have a good look at the map in the car park as there are numerous walking opportunities.
Colchester I would ‘save’ this Roman City for a rainy day only, take the train rather than use a car too. Use Colchester Town not Colchester, the latter is just a station on the outskirts of the town on the ‘fast’ main line to Ipswich/Norwich. The Castle is the ‘must-visit’ sight in Colchester, it had the largest Norman keep ever constructed. Do visit the museum which tracks the town’s history from Stone Age to the English Civil War.
There are various other museums to keep out of the inevitable rain, wind, hail, thunder, lightning and other Summer British weather hazards,  There are surprisingly few interesting places to visit that are not museums. Considering this is Britain’s oldest rcorded town, maybe there should be a ‘look at how many buildings we demolished through the ages museum’ as well. This website is a treasure trove of information about Essex/Suffolk towns and villages worth seeing, and the surrounding area. Have a good nose around the website, it is well worth your time if you are considering a holiday in the region.

A little bit further

Shotley Penninsula & Flatford Mill (30 miles approx. to Pin Mill)
From Wheeley – A133 &A120 to Jct 29 of A12. Head North toward Ipswich and take the A14 (Signposted Felixstow)just South of Ipswich. After one junction number 56 come off onto A137 Ipswich. at roundabout turn right  B1456 and stay on this road until village of Chelmondiston. In this village there is a left turn for the pretty hamlet of Pin Hill.
From Pin Hill go back along the B1456 to a junction with B1080 to the left. Follow this road to the A137 and turn left (sign Manningtree) Look for a sign for East Bergholt on you right and head into the village. This is Constable’s birthplace, and the site of his first studio. Also there is a unique bell cage alternative to a bell tower that has lasted nearly 500 years. From East Bergholt head towards Jct 31 of the A12, head southbound for one junction and follow signs to Denham and Flatford Mill. Flatford Mill is famous for being the location of Constable’s ‘The Haywain’.

The scene has inevitably changed over the centuries, but you do get a flavour of the original painting:

This area is administered by the National Trust, which also runs the cafe here too, not bad for some tea and cake. Car park charge even for NT members.   There are some nice riverside walks from the opposite side of the river to the cafe. These are well signposted, and help you get away from some, if not all of your fellow sightseers. To get back to Wheeley- go back the way you came and turn right on to the B1070 towards A137. Join A137 at roundabout, (3rd exit towards Manningtree) continue past Manningtree to Lawford village, take left turn on B1352. Look for left turn B1035 (Clacton Road), follow until village of Tendring and a sharp left bend. There is road straight on (Crown Lane) take this, and follow to A133, turn left and you are nearly at Wheely.

Hadleigh, Kersey, Lavenham(30 miles)& Long Melford
Follow the previously covered route to our old friend the A12. Head towards Ipswich and come off at Jct. 31, Signposted Hadleigh B1070. If this sleepy market town has not enough appeal, then continue on to the picturesque village of Kersey (left, off the A1141).  (There is a button for Hadleigh on the toolbar)
From Kersey to Lavenham, just follow the A1141 in the Bury St Edmunds direction.   Lavenham is one of our favourite places to visit in the whole of the UK. It is a medieval masterpiece choc full of half-timbered cottages. The central market place gets very crowded in Summer as Lavenham is a well known tourist haunt, in this square is the fine Guildhall which is under the care of the National Trust, which is a must see. I know we mentioned that we try and avoid busy and popular places. But Lavenham is worth the crowds, such is it’s beauty.

Look in the tourist information (Lady Street, CO16 9DH) for a leaflet/map that shows a walking route around the village, with explainations of the various buildings. Including these from the ‘been there-done that’ website;

You may want to take some sandwiches with you if here around lunchime. This is a prime tourist trap, and the gastro pubs/restaurants/cafes charge accordingly.
When you eventually have seen all that Lavenham has to offer visually, exit the village on B1071 (direction, Sudbury) and look for a signpost to your right for Long Melford.
Long Melford has two main sites to visit. The church of Holy Trinity is huge for ‘just’ a village church;

It has a remarkable Lady Chapel, some medieval stained glass, and an alabaster ‘Adoration of the Magi.’ The village main street is lined with Tudor, Georgian and Victorian buildings, as well as being known for it’s independent antique shops. If you have any spare time after today’s sensory overload, there are the villages of Cavendish and Clare to visit along the scenic views of the A1092.  If your feet are up to it, here’s what is in store, Cavendish; for Clare village picture gallery.
From Clare, Cavendish or Long Melford, head towards Sudbury by B1064, and at roundabout take A134 avoiding town centre. keep following A134 until sign for left turn B1068 (Leavenheath/Stoke-by-Nayland) follow this road until A12 from where there are prevoious directions back to Wheeley.

Tips for caravan holidays (and train journeys, btw)

A waiters friend corkscrew with bottle opener top. No need to get thirsty is there?

Take your own pillow, or if no room take a pillowcase. Fill the pillowcase with clothes for a makeshift pillow or just put over pillow provided. We are not casting aspersions on the cleaniness of pillows and pillowcases in any holiday rental establishments, we just prefer our own. ok?
Part two to follow, along with the ‘And another thing’ rant, more travel tips for caravan holidays, (take a big brolly) any other stuff we can get away with posting, and nuclear fusion explained in German. One of these things, unsurprisingly, will not make it in to the part two blog. All comments welcome.
Thanks for reading, Mr and Mrs G


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