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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Essex discoveries part 1










Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell love travelling around the UK. Here's some ideas to fill your holidays and keep your carbon footprint low. This post about Essex is by Nicola

It's a swap thing: Pete was born in Herts, and I was born in Essex. But he's all Essex humour and I'm the posh bird from Hertfordshire. Although we didn't meet until I was 29 years old for a time we'd both lived pretty much equi-distance from Bishop's Stortford, the Hertfordshire market town that protects us from Essex. Or vice versa. Anyway, ahhh.

Nell, 9, is intrigued by Essex, she's hardly ever been there and yet there's a map on our corridor wall with rings around all the places that are family important (and yes, Nasty and Ugley, High Easter and Cold Christmas - we lost control of the highlighter pen!). And so the plan is get-to-know Essex better. It also means we've got a travel theme and Nell hopefully won't feel so cheated by her friends and their climate-bashing tales of "when I was at the airport...".


We've started well this Essex-themed Easter holidays well with a quick walk through Hatfield Forest, just outside Bishop's Stortford. Hatfield Forest is a remnant of the Great Essex Forest, mimics a medieval working woodland and is now run by the National Trust. As an added bonus it's opposite Stansted Airport working as a seriously green lung by the bypass and perimeter fence. Using a very easy to follow map we walked around the lake created by the one-time owner, a Hugenot refugee, who built a shell house for picnics - the shells (see pic left) are from the Caribbean and Africa, brought to the UK in the ballast of the ships that created such wealth for some of the old families (there's clearly a link to slavery here). The nice volunteer guide inside the Shell House encouraged the girls to play with these shells... And I swear I spotted the shells of African land snails too...

A family hunt
Next stop was just outside Great Dunmow (a place Pete could remember his Dad recalling the Saracen's Head and his mum rolling her eyes at the metropolis) for Great Garnetts farm by Barnston. This is where his dad, Denis May, had his first tenancy farm, eventually moving to the other side of Essex when offered more land for his dairy herd.


The big house at Great Garnetts was Elizabethan, with tall chimneys. There's still an interesting arch in or out of the stable yard and we hope to find out more when we go to the farmers' market held just about once a month (except August when everyone's too busy harvesting) - in 2010 they are on the 2nd Saturday of each month so try 10 April, 8 May, 12 June, 10 July, 11 Sep, 9 Oct and 13 Nov.
When Pete's mum, Sheila, moved in to the semi-detached farm cottage (see pic above) there was no heating except wood fires. I think she said there was no water as well. It must have been terrible for her especially looking after a four year old and Pete for his first eight months. No wonder he puts up with the cold... The farm cottages look picture perfect now and I think Lola and Nell were a tad jealous of the three children rolling outside with a pack of black labradors.

We also went to the pub that Denis used to walk to after his chores were finished. Lucky for us The Spotted Dog, in Bishop's Green (tel: 01245 231598), a lovely old thatched place, had just been redone and opened on 1 April (five days ago) as a gastro pub which still served real ale. We had our dog, so we ate on a bench outside, thinking about Denis all those years ago propping up the bar with a few old farmer friends. Maybe.
It's an irony that Denis felt so strongly that organic was a fad, and now even the old pubs are going all foodie and his old farm has recreated itself as a farmers' market. Obviously it's not all organic, but the locally grown element - pork and turkey - is key to this farming renaissance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you considered putting information and photos about walks, interesting places etc. on There and Where?