A Travel and Lifestyle Blog
I know what you’re thinking. Essex? History? The land of skycraper heels, sequins and “proper diamond geezers”. Am I insinuating that we actually have some history in Essex? That we do indeed have a bit more than Sugar Hut and blowdry bars? Well actually, yes! Yes I am. The County of Essex, here in the South East of England, might surprise you what we have to offer. I wanted to feature a little more of my home County on the blog this year. Perhaps give a different view to what you see on TOWIE.. So, leave your pre-conceptions at the door. I am going to take you on a little tour of just some of the historical places in Essex.
In this post, I wanted to introduce you to some of the historical places we have for days out with kids. I will do another post on places that the kids might not be particularly interested by. Let’s face it, most kids just want to be able to run around letting off steam so all these suggestions have facilities for that. Good for the kids, good for the parents! Hope I can inspire you with some suggestions for family days out in sunny Essex.
Address – Mountfitchet Castle, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex CM24 8SP
Mountfitchet Castle is a historic monument. Throughout history, people have settled here including Romans, Vikings and Saxons. Many artefacts found on the site support this. In 1066, the site was attacked by the Normans. A Duke of France (Robert Gernon) was a relative of William the Conqueor. On his arrival in England, he was awarded the Lordship, and with it many pockets of lands. The Castle was attacked in 1215, stones from the ruined castle were taken by the villagers to build their own homes. The castle lay in ruins for 700 years.
Now, the site is a reconstructed Norman Village. Totally interactive, the village even has farmyard animals running around! The castle is not how you imagine a traditional stone castle. It is not grand and full of turrets. But, it is unique, great fun for kids and full of history. I also love the fact that Mountfitchet’s many animals roaming freely, are rescued animals. Ex-battery farm chickens, deer injured on the roads and unable to survive in the wild and goats with nowhere else to go all make up this happy herd.
There is also the House on the Hill museum located here. It houses the largest toy collection in the world, dating back from the Victorian era. Haunted manor is also part of the museum. Take a walk through the eerie chambers to the Victorian bedroom….if you are brave enough…..
The details – Open from mid March, until 1st week of November, 10-5. Entrance fees – Children 3-13 £10 and adults £12. There are concessions for OAP’s.
Address – Cressing Temple, Witham Road, Braintree, CM77 8PD
The Knights Templar hold a slight fascination for many. This band of military monks had a duty to protect travellers to The Holy Land. They were mysterious and diligent in their duties. The fantastic book/film The Da Vici Code added to that interest for me. It is beleived that the order disbanded around 700 years ago. However, there are some people that think the order went underground, and still excisits in some way to this day. Who knows? Maybe we have a Templar or two wandering around Essex….
If we do, they would feel right at home at Cressing Temple Barns. The temple itself was given to the Knights Templar in the 1100’s. The 13th century barley and wheat barns are said to be the oldest Templar buildings in England. Now a popular wedding venue, it’s a beautiful, picturesque place to visit. Events go on here throughout the year, including Christmas wreath making, wedding fares and family craft days. There is also the fabulous Tiptree Tea Rooms on site. Cream tea anyone….??
Worth noting – The barns, grounds and tea rooms are open 10-4. It is always worth checking prior to visiting if a wedding is on as this changes access.
Address – Crown Buildings, Kelvedon Hall Lane, Kelvedon Hatch, CM14 5TL
Yep, a secret bunker….that is advertised! Always made me confused as a kid! The bunker was built to house up to 600 people, (including the PM), in the event of a nuclear attack. Now a warren of tunnels and rooms, my boys loved this place as kids. It ignites their imagination as well as teaching them some history. There is also a high ropes course and wild forest obstacle course at the site.
Opening times – The bunker is only open 1st March to 31st October. A family ticket, (2 adults, 2 children) costs £18
You can do a guided tour of the site, and they do an adults or a children’s one. Children (adults too if that’s your thing), can dress up in military gear and totally feel the part. The adults tour could include details of when Most Haunted visited the bunker over night……
Address – Princess Margaret Rd, East Tilbury, Tilbury RM18 8PB
One of our favourites when our kids were small. In fact, we still walk our dog around the fort sometimes. Set right on the edge of The Thames, the fort was an important part of the defence of this part of Essex and London. Built in 1861, it was the latest in defence structures that stood on the site.
Decommissioned in 1949, it is now a fabulous place to have a day out with kids in Essex. Coal House Fort has slowly been restored over the years by a dedicated band of volunteers. A Lottery grant then helped even more rooms in the fort to be opened. Lots of events go on at the Fort throughout the year, including open days, and an amazing (and terrifying) halloween fright night! We may or may not have been the bad parents that took our kids and their friends to the fright night when they were about 9 and 11……….Kids sleeping is for losers anyway right…?
Top tip – Take a picnic. The grounds around the Fort are lovely and free to enter. Open 8-7, there is a children’s play area, lake and cafe (open 10-4). You also have the WW2 gunner towers and structures along the Thames to walk to.
Address – Colchester Castle Museum, Castle Park, Colchester CO1 1TJ
My final suggestion for days out with kids Essex is this beauty. Built on the foundations of a Roman temple, Colchester Castle is the largest Norman keep in Europe! Right here in little ole Essex! Now a museum, it is full of interactive displays and historical treasure. Roman hoards of silver and gold, Celtic coin collections and Bronze Age cauldrons are just some of the things on display.
Lots of events go on here, one of the most visited historical places in Essex. Events for families and adults only, exhibitions and daily tours are all available. The roof and Roman vaults tour is a great one. They also do an Autism Friendly tour, which I think is amazing.
Entrance price and opening hours – Open 7 days a week, 10-5, except Sunday when it opens at 11. Entrance fee is £5.25 for children 4-16, and £10 for adults. Family tickets, student concessions and memberships are also available.
Address – Beaulieu Dr, Waltham Abbey EN9 1JY
Kids will love this place! Starting its life as a humble family business, it grew so much that it is said to have created and shaped Waltham Abbey. The Gunpowder Mills had a huge part to play not only in Englands defences, but in industries such a quarrying and mining.
Ticket Prices – Children from age 3 £8.50, adults £10.50. Family tickets are available from £24.75.
Now, the Mills are a fun and interactive attraction. There is always plenty going on in half term and school holidays. Kids can even see “Mad Professor Nitrate” demonstrate hands on experiments. With an outside area full of nature and wildlife, there is something for everyone at Gunpowder Mills.
Opening hours – The Mills only open for events, open days and pre-arranged group tours. See the ‘whats on‘ page for full details.
So, that is it for this post. I know it is a little different to my usual “couples travel” type posts. I really wanted to showcase a little of my local neighbourhood this year though, so thought I would have some Essex chat over here! I want to give you a more rounded view than you may have of the County. I mean, I bet you didnt know we even have award winning wine vineyards in Essex did you?????
I hope I have given you a little introduction to what Essex has to offer. A little inspiration for days out in Essex with kids. We have so much! Through this new little mini series, I hope to introduce you to a few things that might surprise you! I would love to know what your thoughts are on Essex. Have you visited the County? Do you have the impression of it through programmes like TOWIE? I would genuinely love to know what impression you have! Let me know xx
If you would like to see some picturesque places around Essex, my lovely fellow Essex gal Grace has you covered. See her post just here.