Ashlyns – Great Bardfield
An organic farm shop with animals, coffee shop and events held throughout the year.
Tel 01371 811716
Boydells Dairy Farm – Wethersfield (MG2a)
A small family farm specialising in Sheep milking, there is a wide range of other farm animals and plenty of hands-on experiences. A fun and educational guided tour ensures a good time for the whole family. The picnic/play area has a very shallow stream, expect wet children!
Open 1400 to 1700 1st April – 30th September, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and every afternoon in Essex School Holidays.
Tel 01371 850481
Colne Valley Railway – Castle Hedingham (MG2b, DL)
Sample the atmosphere and ride on an award winning period country railway. A relocated station, lovingly restored, signal boxes and bridges with a large collection of operational vintage steam or diesel engines, carriages and wagons. Special events are held all year round including ‘a day out with Thomas’ and ‘Santa Specials’.
Please contact us for opening times and timetable.
Tel 01787 461174
Colne Valley Farm Park – Castle Hedingham
Set in 30 acres of traditional river meadows; explore the peaceful and natural setting by the River Colne. Enjoy the wealth of traditional farm animals and regular sightings of riverside birds, reptiles and mammals. Bring a picnic to make the most out of the day.
Tel 01787 461157
Dorewards Hall Farm
Dorewards Hall is the remaining part of a much larger early Elizabethan house built for Edmund Thursby in 1579, the last Doreward descendent to live on the estate. The barns alongside the Hall overflow with local seasonal produce, flowers and gifts, and special events are organised throughout the year. Outside geese, donkeys and many other farmyard animals roam.
Please contact us for opening times.
Tel 01376 324646
Gosfield Lake Resort (MG4)
A family run Leisure Park set in the heart of rural Essex. The 36-acre lake provides a natural beauty spot, where clear summer evenings give way to spectacular sunsets. Activities on site include fishing, camping and waterskiing, as we as a large lakeside picnic area, there is an onsite café and Indian restaurant, and Camping is available.
Open 0930 – Dusk, April – October
Tel 01787 475043
Great Bardfield ‘Gibraltar’ Tower
This fine tower mill is probably the oldest (c 1660) in Essex. The tower itself has a very steep steps and is unusual in that although having an octagonal base with chamfered corners, it becomes sixteen-sided half way up and is round at the top.
Great Bardfield Cage (MG2a)
The Cage is a nineteenth century lock up that held drunks and other minor criminals until they were brought before a magistrate. The date 1815 is on the door. Unusually this lock up has two cells, possibly one for men and one for women.
Open 1400 to 1730, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays from Easter to the end of September.
Tel 01371 810516
Great Leighs Racecourse
Set in 120 acres this exciting new attraction will be opening in the winter of 2006. It will be the first racecourse built in the country in 80 years.
Tel 01245 362412
Hedingham Castle (MG3)
Come and see England’s finest and best-preserved Norman keep. Children love to explore the interior of the castle, 110 feet high with walls 12 feet thick. Built c1140, home to the De Veres, Earls of Oxford for 550 years and still owned by their descendants.
Open 1000 to 1700, Sundays Only. Also open Sunday – Thursday in school holidays.
Tel 01787 460261
Ponyland at Dutch Nursery – Coggeshall
A rescued pony centre with houses mainly Shetland ponies, which you can pet and groom. The centre runs children’s pony camp days and birthday parties. Ponyland is based at the Dutch Nursery Garden Centre.
Tel 01376 561376
Roundwood Garden Centre – Bocking (MG1b, SHS)
Set in 5 acres, Roundwoods has many facilities including an arboretum, tea garden, drought garden, café, home cooking, craft area, childrens play area and conference room. There is a large car park and excellent facilities for the disabled.
Open 0915 to 1700, Monday – Friday and Sunday’s in May for plant sales.
Tel 01376 551728
Sioux Ceramics Café
Paint your own pottery ornaments, trinkets, mugs, plates or bowls. Tea’s, coffee and cold drinks available, ideal for parties.
The Chocolate Lady – Steeple Bumpstead
Situated on a working farm in the delightful village of Steeple Bumpstead. Julie Haylock-Sherry is the Chocolate Lady; she has been a chocolate maker for 22 Years. Julie offers a demonstration of chocolate making techniques in a light hearted manner, with tips you can try at home, and then the opportunity to purchase her goods at favourable prices. Julie caters for group demonstrations.
Open 0900 to 1400, Monday – Thursday shop only. Demonstrations by appointment.
Tel 01440 730346
The Original Great Maze – Great Saling (MG2b)
Discover a new maize maze of adventure waiting to be explored at The Original Great Maze. Weave your way through miles of maize and sunny sunflower pathways to finally conquer this years amazing challenge. Come and ‘get lost’ for a fun family day out, whatever the weather!
Open 1000 to 1700 from 07 July – 09 September.
Tel 01787 315742
Unex Towerlands – Bocking (MG2b)
Unex Towerlands leads the way for top equestrian facilities in the country with two fully equipped yards and an international size arena. Unex Towerlands has facilities for exhibitions, conferences, dinners and many other leisure activities. A major refurbishment programme is underway to transform The Unex Towerlands Centre into a sporting and leisure venue fit for the 21st century. Unex Towerlands also holds a number of gigs and concerts throughout the year.
Tel 01376 326802
Bustling Market Towns
Our district has four delightful market towns, Braintree, Coggeshall, Halstead and Witham, each unique in their own way and worth a visit.
Braintree (and neighbouring Bocking) the largest of our towns has a long and fascinating history – emerging from a Bronze Age valley settlement as an important and flourishing market town located at the crossroads of two Roman roads.
The 14th century woollen cloth trade brought prosperity to the area leaving a legacy of fine architecture and listed buildings whilst the 18th century heralded the arrival of silk weaving and the famous Huguenot name of Courtauld. Generations of this generous family not only provided the increasing population with work and housing but also donated many public buildings including the magnificent former Town Hall. The grand central tower with striking clock dominates the Market Square whilst inside murals by Maurice Greiffenhagen depict scenes of Braintree’s history. A bronze fountain of a young boy with shell and fish, designed by John Hodge, standing alongside St Michael’s Church was yet another gift to the people of Braintree. By the mid 19th century the opening of a railway line offered the opportunity to transport bulk materials, which led to the establishment of large engineering firms such as Crittall’s metal window company and Lake & Elliot iron foundry. A full story of Braintree’s diverse industrial heritage and traditions is told at the District Museum in the town centre.
Newly opened in 2005 is the lottery funded Warner Textile Archive. This nationally important archive is a unique record of the history of textile manufacture since the 18th century and includes examples of woven and printed fabric produced by Warner’s as well as examples produced by other companies.
In 1199 King John granted the town a charter to hold a weekly market. Today the market is held twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when the streets abound with colourful stalls and friendly faces. Discerning shoppers are attracted to the town throughout the year by the traditional and specialist smaller shops while bargain hunters are well served by the discounted designer village on the outskirts of the town at Freeport.
Braintree offers a warm welcome to all visitors throughout the year, with a variety of street festivals, a carnival, busy events diary and traditional lights and celebrations over the Christmas period.
Just east of Braintree lies Coggeshall, a lovely ‘olde worlde’ village with a lot to offer. Coggeshall’s attractive centre is made up of numerous timber-framed buildings, some dating back to the 14th century. Paycockes, owned by the National Trust, is a fine example of a 16th-century wealthy wool merchant’s house. The National Trust also owns Grange Barn, which in the Middle Ages belonged to Coggeshall’s Cistercian abbey.
Coggeshall had a cloth trade, the wealth of which built Coggeshall’s magnificent ‘wool church’. The industries of silk and velvet weaving, tambour lace making, brewing and seed growing also played an important part in Coggeshall’s prosperity. Discover more by visiting Coggeshall Museum.
Today it is a thriving community and in 2003 won the title of East of England & Home Counties “Village of the Year” in national competition. There is a market on Thursday morning and with colourful streets, specialist shops, fine eating places and historic buildings, Coggeshall has a unique charm. The Parish Council website is full of information about Coggeshall, visit it at www.coggeshall-pc.gov.uk. The Parish Council website is kept up to date and includes details of events on a ‘Monthly Diary’.
The Directory page has details of schools, health care, library, clubs and societies as well as details of Coggeshall’s Community bus – in fact almost everything! The site also includes a shopping page and a ‘services’ page and links to other useful and interesting local sites. The site covers many aspects of Coggeshall life, but is designed to be very user-friendly (as comments to the webmaster have proved).
Each year Coggeshall holds its Carnival on the 3rd Saturday in July. The parish church of St Peter-ad-Vincula has a 4-day Flower Festival at August Bank Holiday weekend and this is usually combined with an evening concert, a local Art Show and extra openings at the museum. The church, which has very fine acoustics, hosts musical and choral events throughout the year. The Coggeshall Chamber of Trade usually organise a Christmas shopping event – the date is variable but can be found on the website.
Seven miles to the north of Braintree lies Halstead an attractive, traditional market town with a wealth of shops, restaurants and interesting walks. The town developed from pre-historic origins and a Roman settlement that included a villa complex.
Wool and weaving provided the mainstay of business over the centuries and the surviving Townsford Mill, which straddles the River Colne, was built in 1788. The mill is a picturesque reminder of the towns’ industrial past and now holds one of the largest Antiques Centres on the Essex/Suffolk border and is the perfect location for shopping and lunching.
Halstead is a friendly place to visit with a wide variety of individual shops and a market, which was granted in 1251, is held on Fridays and Saturdays, all set on a steep High Street.
Welcome to the historic town of Witham set in the heart of the Essex countryside. Witham has two shopping centres and numerous retail outlets and many restaurants and pubs within the town centre. If you enjoy detective stories you will know Dorothy L. Sayers, author of the Lord Peter Wimsey books was a resident here. A fine statue of Dorothy still watches over her former home in Newland Street. The Tourist Information Office is located in the Town Hall in Newland Street.
After you leave the town centre, why not enjoy a stroll along our beautiful River Walk that leads to historic Chipping Hill, a settlement since the Iron Age and the main site of occupation until the 12th century when the Knights Templar moved to the present town centre.
Local website addresses:
Gentle Countryside and Pretty Villages
Our district is blessed with quietly attractive countryside, winding leafy lanes and picturesque villages with historic period buildings, thatched cottages, village greens, traditional welcoming pubs, coaching inns and unique parish churches. With so many splendid villages to choose from here are a few:
Alphamstone & Lamarsh, Ashen,
Alphamstone & Lamarsh
The name Lamarsh is Anglo-Saxon (with the accent on the first syllable) and not, as many people believe, French. Early records show the spelling Lamers and Lamersch. This means Lam is a forerunner of the word loam and Erse means stubble land, a good description of the light arable land in much of the parish. Of the 60 or so properties in the parish, 22 are listed, mostly Grade II, a remarkably high proportion for a tiny village, but which underscores its antiquity and its attractions.
ALPAMSTONE, a small village on an eminence overlooking the vale of the Stour, 5 miles North East by East of Halstead.
Local website addresses:
Situated on the south side of the Stour Valley in a Special Landscape Area, the Village of Ashen had in 2001 315 residents living in some 120 dwellings. The parish boundary runs along the River Stour to the north and abuts the parish boundaries of Ridgewell, Ovington and Belchamp St Paul on its other sides. At its centre is a conservation area and the parish contains a wealth of listed buildings and other remains, including the 12th c. church, which is listed grade A and is of national importance. The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book (please see the separate pages on the history of the village and the church).
Local website addresses:
BARDFIELD SALING, or Little Saling, 5½ miles North East of Dunmow, and North West of Braintree. It adjoins Great Saling, and in some records it is called New Saling, and in others Little Saling.
Local website addresses:
Belchamp Otten & Belchamp St Paul
Belchamp St Paul and Belchamp Otten are situated in the beautiful Stour Valley on the Suffolk/Essex border, whose distinctive landscape and many ancient villages have inspired such famous artists as John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough. The Belchamps were mentioned in the Domesday Book.
Local website addresses:
The name Belchamp is derived from the old English word ‘Bylcham’, which means a house with a beamed roof. Belchamp Hall featured in the series Lovejoy and can now be used for weddings and functions. A folly can be seen from Belchamp Hall, built at the beginning of the 18th century this ‘eye catcher’ entertains the eye as you look out over Belchamp Hall’s 1500 acres of land.
Local website addresses:
St John the Baptist – Finchingfield
There is a decorated arch to the west of the tower that is well worth seeing. The lower portion of the 14th century rood screen is one of the most elaborate in Essex. A guidebook is available in the church.
St John the Baptist – Little Maplestead
This church is attractive, unusual and unique in Essex and is one of only five round churches in the country. Its design is modelled upon the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Open daily, 0900 to 1630.
St Katherine – Little Bardfield
The nave and tower are fine examples of Anglo-Saxon church architecture. The East window is considered to be one of the great windows of Victorian England and there is a rare 17th Century organ.
Museums & Heritage Centres
Bocking Windmill (MG2b, DL)
A fine post mill with a two-storey brick roundhouse, recently restored and a rare example containing much original equipment, which is preserved although not working. Believed to date from around 1721, it was moved to its existing site from further down the hill in Bocking around 1829. Climb to the top for magnificent views. Guided tours available.
Open 1000 to 1700, May 7 & 13 and 1400 to 1700, May 28, June 24, August 27 & 30th September.
Tel 01376 541339
Braintree District Museum (MG1b, IL)
This award winning museum is based in the converted Courtauld School and has displays from Crittall steel windows to Warners royal silks, Castle Hedingham pottery to Edward Bawden prints. The Museum tells the fascinating story of a hidden artistic and industrial heritage. Visit the frequently changing exhibitions, a Victorian Schoolroom, John Ray natural history gallery, café, craft and gift shop.
Open 1000 to 1700 Monday – Saturday and Bank Holidays
Historic Houses & Gardens
Bardfield Vineyard (MG3)
This small vineyard forms part of an arable farm in North Essex, not far from Braintree, Finchingfield & Thaxted. Take a tour of the house, gardens and vineyard together with wine tasting. Open Monday to Friday, 1000 to 1600, Easter – 30 September. Other times by arrangement. www.thegreatlodgeexperience.com
Tel 01371 810776
Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens
The gardens span five acres and include over 250 trees, many of which are of native origin and also a number of special interest such as a Blue Atlas Cedar, three Deodars, a young Wellingtonia, and a Lucombe Oak. Tennis courts also available.
Tel 01376 328714
Coggeshall Grange Barn
A National Trust property, this magnificent timber framed barn on Grange Hill dates from the 12th century and was constructed for the monks of the nearby Cistercian Abbey. The barn is one of the largest in England and has recently been restored to house an exhibition of the history of the barns and a collection of farm wagons and carts. www.aboutbritain.com/CoggeshallGrangeBarn.htm
Tel 01376 562226
Arts, Crafts & Antiques
Blake House Craft Centre – Great Saling (MG2b)
Wander around the fine variety of art and craft shops in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, where there really is something for everyone! From antique furniture to animal toys, Steiff bears to stuffed olives and electric guitars to elegant fabrics, you can treat yourself or find the perfect gift. There is a tea room/restaurant and numerous events are held throughout the year. Open daily. (individual shop hours vary) www.blakehousecraftcentre.co.uk
Tel 01376 344123
Empire Theatre – Halstead
Since the closure of the cinema side of the business in July 2004, the Empire is now an independently run theatre for the Halstead area, run on a voluntary basis and something the town is proud of. The Empire brings us a wide and varied series of entertainment, which includes pantomime, concerts, jazz and country music and much more. www.empire-theatre.co.uk
Tel 07778 025490