Step back in time at Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome

Visit Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome, near Maldon in Essex, and be part of history in the making. The aerodrome, established in 1916 as the base of the Royal Flying Corps 37 (Home Defence) Squadron, two years after the First World War began, is open for the public to enjoy.

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There’s plenty to see at this unique venue, all year round. Learn about the aerodrome and WW1 through an interactive history of the site in the new museum, where children can experience sitting in a simulated Sopwith 1½ Strutter plane.

Walk around the conserved buildings, which are rare survivors of WW1, plus learn about 37 Squadron in the museum. Hangars of late production/replica WW1 planes are sure to wow and visitors can take a tea in the wartime café.

Whether you’re interested in history or aviation, education, or looking for a family fun day out or special interest group, Stow Maries welcomes you.

Open from 10am – 5pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays.

Pre-arranged group visits, including coach trips, are also welcome to visit on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Children under 16 visit free with adult tickets costing £8.

For more information visit the website


Five Essex gardens to visit this Spring


WITH spring in the air, here are five gardens in Essex you can enjoy as flowers are starting to bloom this weekend and find inspiration for your own green space…

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RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Rettendon enjoys panoramic views across the rolling countryside, with vast, open skies overhead. The garden itself is composed of an eclectic variety of horticultural styles that provide year-round interest and colour. Highlights include the traditionally-styled Hilltop Garden with its lush green lawns, ponds, and roses, and the Mediterranean Dry Garden which showcases drought-tolerant plants.

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The Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmstead Market cover six acres and have become world famous. Creative use of the space has seen Beth and her team transform a wasteland into both a visitor attraction and important resource. There are four principal gardens across the site; scree, gravel, woodland and water all with lush planting around a series of natural ponds.

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The Gibberd Garden, Harlow. Horticulturalists will adore the formal terraces, lawns, pools and avenues, romantic woodland glades and multitude of streams which characterise the shady lower areas of the garden. Art lovers will be drawn to the extensive collection of modern sculpture by celebrated artists including August Rodin, Dame Barbara Hepworth and Sir Henry Moore.

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Marks Hall in Coggeshall. A tree collection from all the temperate areas of the world set in more than 200 acres of historic landscape provides interest and enjoyment throughout the year. Follow the paths through the Arboretum, where you can see beautiful vistas and a host of exotic trees. Highlights include the Millennium Walk, designed for structure, colour and scent; the largest planting in Europe of Wollemi Pine and the inspired combination of traditional and contemporary planting in the 18th century walled garden.

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Bridge End Garden, Saffron Walden. Tucked away in the back streets of pretty Saffron Walden, this lovingly restored Grade II gem consists of seven interlinked gardens laid out in the nineteenth century, and features a formal knot garden, kitchen garden and a popular hedge maze. These Grade II listed gardens are open to the public each day free of charge.

For more glorious gardens to visit please see our website.

It's Easter time

Top Easter Activities For Families In Essex

Keep the kids sweet without a bottomless supply of chocolate with these fantastic fun-filled ideas for everyone.

Easter (Friday 25th to Monday 28th March 2016) is made for children, and with bunnies, egg hunts and loads of events taking place throughout Essex, there’s plenty to see and do.

Lambs at Lee Valley Park Farms.
Lambs at Lee Valley Park Farms.

Go wild in the country at Lee Valley Regional Park’s Easter Country Fair (Sunday 27th to Monday 28th March). This two-day event features medieval jousting and swordplay displays, birds of prey flying demonstrations, stalls selling arts and crafts, plus a Goat Show. This is your chance to bottle feed cuddly lambs and kids.

Camping at Lee Valley Regional ParkMake a weekend of it and camp at Lee Valley Caravan Park, Dobbs Weir. From there you can explore the rest of Lee Valley and for the intrepid, try your hand at white water rafting, canoeing and kayaking at the nearby watersports centre that featured in the 2012 London Olympics. For more information click on

Lovers of Essex’s great outdoors will also love Hanningfield Reservoir. The surrounding woodland plays host to an abundance of fascinating flora and fauna, with none cuter than its population of native British owls.

Imperial Birds of Prey AcademyNigel King of the Imperial Bird of Prey Academy will be sharing his expertise and wealth of knowledge during his captivating Owl Evening (30th March). Nigel has a reputation for sparking people’s enthusiasm and interest in wildlife and this interactive event will give visitors a chance to get up close and personal with these magnificent birds. Booking is essential, so visit, or call 01268 711 001.

Over at the world famous Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmstead Market, little ones can take part in a traditional Easter egg hunt (Friday 25th March to Sunday 10th April). There’s a reward for bold explorers who complete the challenge. Children go from just £1.50 each on the day but are free if you book online. Adult tickets are priced at £6.95 per person. More information about this and other events throughout the year can be found at, or by calling 01206 822 007.

Beth Chatto Garden
Beth Chatto Garden

Southend’s historic Belfairs Woods is a hive of activity most days, but on Good Friday there’s extra fun and adventures to be had. Starting out from the award-winning woodland centre Forest Friday is an event for little ones aged eight or under. Packed with stories, crafts and activities with an Easter theme, this is a great opportunity to let the kids go wild in the country. Spaces are bound to be snapped up quickly, so do book in advance by calling 01702 477 467.

Colchester Hollytrees Museum
Colchester Hollytrees Museum

Picturing the Victorians (Wednesday 30th March) at the Holly Trees Museum, located in Castle Park, Colchester, has to be one of the most unusual events happening during the holiday. In a rare and truly hands-on experience, visitors can handle some of the earliest cameras and learn how they worked. There’s also a display of photographs by Colchester’s pioneering 19th century photographers. You can also dress up and have your portrait taken by the museum’s resident Victorian Photographer. Sessions run at 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2pm and 3pm. Book via 01206 282

Located in the heart of beautiful Constable Country, Dedham Vale Vineyard’s Easter Egg Hunt (Friday 25th March) will keep the children happily entertained, whilst the grown-ups sniff out something delicious themselves. Of course, no visit is complete without taking a bottle or two of Dedham Vale’s award winning wines home with you. For more details click on

It almost goes without saying that springtime and Easter are synonymous with new life, so where better to celebrate the festivities than down on the farm? Join in ‘egg-stra’ activities at Barleylands, including lamb bottle feeding, biscuit decorating, an Easter Egg Hunt hosted by the Easter Bunny, and meet babies galore from cute chicks, piglets, and bunnies to snakes and lizards in the huge Reptile House! You Chelmsford City Racecoursemight be lucky enough to see lambs being born too! More at


For those whom find the prospect of a mere chocolate egg not quite enough to stiffen the sinews and quicken the blood, there’s always the thrill of a race. Coral Romford Greyhound Stadium is holding a meeting on Easter Bank Holiday Monday, while Chelmsford City Racecourse is hosting an evening race meeting on Thursday 31st March.

Browse all our Easter events

Picture of the outside of the building

Behind the scenes of Epping Forest District Museum

In 2013, Epping Forest District Museum in Waltham Abbey closed to the public to embark on a major redevelopment project after securing £1.64 million funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project will make the museum a fully accessible space with a new lift. As well as this, the museum will become an expanded facility with more storage space for the museum’s fascinating collection, a new gallery, a community and education room and new temporary exhibition space.

Since the closure a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes including packing away the entire collection to be moved and stored and preparing the building for construction work to begin.

The building work began in 2015 by award winning construction specialists Coniston who have worked on a number of museum based projects including the Imperial War Museum, The British Museum and are also currently working on the refurbishment of the Europe Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Epping Forest District Museum as it was.

The museum  is extending into the first floor above the local library. The new stairs and lift have been installed to make the museum fully accessible. Another major part of the project is the opening up of the front door to 39 Sun Street which will form the new main entrance to the Museum.

This image shows what would have been the original front door to the house.

Tudor Gallery
Tudor Gallery

Another key area for the project is a chance to interpret the Tudor part of the building. The house itself has a fascinating history and the team are very keen to share and expose the story of the building. Along with new galleries and a new entrance, the museum will have a dedicated community and education space. The room will be able to fit a class of 30 children making a better visitor experience for school groups but also be equipped for lectures, talks and presentations providing a fantastic new space for the museum.

Core gallery
Core gallery

A new gallery ‘The Core Gallery’  will feature key objects from the collection and give visitors the opportunity to see behind the scenes into the stores, and people at work caring for the collection.

Along with the new on-site storage, there will be the chance for visitors to see into the stores through glass viewing areas allowing them to experience some of the fantastic pieces of art in the museum’s collection, even when they are not on display.

The Museum will re-open on the 19 March. We look forward to welcoming you then.

Get active at RSPB Rainham Marshes

Active nature logo 2Swap the sofa for the great outdoors this January as part of a new RSPB partnership with Sport England. Here at Rainham Marshes nature reserve, you can beat the festive blues and combat the mince pies by running, climbing and cycling with wildlife. This new project is aimed at increasing support for wildlife by giving people new opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and get Active in Nature.

We will be hiring out bikes of all sizes (including a baby buggy!) which will allow you to explore along the river wall part of the reserve, taking in views of the Thames and upriver towards London. Rainham is ideally positioned for a cycle adventure, with easy access to Sustrans Route 13 and further afield, exploring Beam Valley and The Gaynes Parkway.

We will also be offering guided cycle rides so you can discover more about the marshes and appreciate the stunning views and wildlife.

If you have your own bike and can’t seem to fix that pesky puncture, or your gears are grinding, then bring it along to one of our Dr Bike maintenance sessions where we can fix your bike (or point you in the direction of a local shop) as well as give you key tips to keep you and your bike safe!

A father and daughter cycling through the nature reserve.
Cycle at RSPB Rainham Marshes.

Feeling extra adventurous? Come and explore our nature inspired climbing activities within the reserve. Here you can try out slacklining to test your balance (a bit like tightrope walking on a taught line) and at the end of the month we will have climbing boulders to test your strength and spirit on the variety of routes – all accompanied by the reserves soothing soundtrack of birds and other wildlife. Challenge yourself by seeing how high you can get and have a go at some of the games and activities on offer. The boulder grades range from beginner to more advanced (V0 – V5) to develop your climbing skills.

RSPB Rainham Marshes bouldering
Bouldering at RSPB Rainham Marshes

Mix up your leisurely stroll around the reserve trails with our Nature Navigators orienteering trail. Can you navigate your way between the various clues around the reserve with a map and compass to unlock the mystery posed by our trail master?

New Year, New You? Take your running off the treadmill and into the great outdoors! If you’re completely new to running or have been going for a while – there’s a session to suit you at Rainham Marshes. The Rainham Harriers running club offers you an opportunity to move your weekly road run into a wildlife rich environment, taking in the sights and sounds along the reserve’s river wall.

Throughout January we will have a whole range of free taster sessions to get you active outdoors!

For more about the Active in Nature project go to the RSPB website.

The Essex Country Show

12 – 13 September 2015

Celebrating the best of rural Essex, past and present, the Essex Country Show at Barleylands brings together the very best arena events, demonstrations, attractions and exhibitions. Now in its 29th Year, this year also sees a jousting, motorcycle displays from Britain’s Got Talent runners up Bolddog Lings, steam engines, rural crafts and so much more.

Celebrating their 10th anniversary, The Knights of The Damned Jousting Stunt Team will be grabbing their lances, donning their armour and getting on horseback to wow show goers with an awesome display of stunts and horsemanship. Heroic mounted knights will attempt to unhorse each other in the joust and visitors will be awed as they watch as the knights hone their skills by striking the man-shaped target and attempt to spear peasants’ heads off the ground at speed.

Britain’s Got Talent runners up Bolddog Lings will be one of the highlights as they bring their breathtaking motorbike displays to the show’s main arena.

OXY by Dan Whitby, Photo byTracy Whittington
OXY by Dan Whitby, photo byTracy Whittington

Honda’s official UK stunt team and the UK’s number one freestyle motocross team are set to take Essex by storm with two displays each day  packed with gravity defying stunts enabled by their highly advanced and sophisticated landing ramp.

Alongside spectacular shows,  fascinating demonstrations and family attractions, over 200 vintage cars, motorbikes, military and commercial vehicles will gather at the show. One of the standout classic cars on display will be a gleaming Citroen Rosalie 10HP Deluxe owned by local classic car aficionado Charles Morlham from South Woodham Ferrers.

Citroen Rosalie 10HP Deluxe
Citroen Rosalie 10HP Deluxe

The car is extremely rare, in fact there is only one other on the road, has also appeared on screen in the TV series ‘Under Suspicious Circumstances’ starring Edward Woodward.

The beautiful Snow Sisters, appearing for the first time at the show, will be getting the crowds singing along to some very familiar tunes. The sisters are hoping to be able to meet their fans for photographs too.

The Snow Sisters
The Snow Sisters

Visit the website to book your ticket.

Six weeks of summer fun

Stuck for ideas of what to do this summer with the children? Read our blog for inspiration on great days out.Family fun this summer

With the six-week summer holiday stretching out in front of you, the first place you need to check out is our website, which is jam-packed with great things to explore, experience and enjoy.

To help families make the most of the break – and give parents some much-needed retail therapy – Freeport Braintree has launched its brand new Summer of Fun, a jam-packed programme of free, fun events every Tuesday to keep the whole family smiling and happy. Check out events with names such as We’re Going to the Zoo, Prince and Princesses Day and Superheroes and Villains. Make sure you pick up a Summer Fun voucher booklet during your visit, offering extra discounts across their 85 stores and other local attractions, including Marsh Farm, Rollerword, Quasar, Adventure Island and Sea-Life Adventure – so you’ll have even more pocket money for yourself!

At Marsh Farm you can test your skills in the Farm Yard Olympics, try welly wanging and take part in their Inflatable Grand National. Plus you can meet all your farmyard favourites, including sheep, pigs, cows and ponies plus birds of prey.

Over in Billericay, at Barleylands there is the chance to meet some amazing, scary and very deadly creatures, go on a treasure hunt and laugh at crazy entertainers.

Get hands on with farmyard favourites at Marsh Farm
Get hands on with your favourite animal at Marsh Farm
Meet some more exotic animals at Old MacDonald's farm
Meet some more exotic animals at Old MacDonald’s farm
Get up close to farmyard favourites at Lee Valley Park Farms
Get up close to farmyard favourites at Lee Valley Park Farms






At Old MacDonald’s Farm, near Brentwood, TV Actress Nicky Kemp, from the animated series The Tidings, will bring you Richard Digance’s Animal Alphabet fun and educational show; an ideal educational activity for children from 3 to 7 (and their parents too).

If you’re a budding Chris Packam or Ellie Harrison, test your bird and animal spotting skills by exploring Essex’s amazing wildlife and nature reserves – try Copt Hall Marshes at Little Wigborough on the Blackwater Estuary, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Or are you looking for a challenge, a thrill and an amazing view? Take to the Sky Ropes. Feel the thrill of high places and have an unforgettable adventure with family and friends at Sky Ropes, Great Notley Country Park’s brand new high ropes experience. Or have a fun packed exhilarating day with the kids on 31 obstacles plus 32 jumps in a 20 acre beautiful forest at the Wild Forest Gym near Brentwood.  Its fun…fun…fun all the way.

There’s lot to do at Lee Valley Regional Park  this summer too. Have double the fun on two wheels at the VeloPark, make a splash and lots of waves at the White Water Centre or soak up the sunshine down at the farms. Get stuck in to all the special summer activities running throughout the holiday and release the animal within as you venture around the farms, discovering all its furry, feathery and scaly residents too!

Relive the age of steam at the East Anglian Railway Museum, the Colne Valley Railway and the Epping Ongar Railway; you might even come across Thomas and his Friends.

Get hands on at Colchester Castle Museum, explore the Roman vaults, have a go at building a Norman archway, or try your hand at excavating a Roman doctor’s grave. Explore the reconstructed Norman castle at Stansted Mountfitchet; then relive your childhood days at the toy museum.

For some more history and a bit of gunpowder, head to the Royal Gunpowder Mills. Brilliant for families, this museum not only explains the history of the factory that began producing explosives during the 17th century, but also offers fun and interactive opportunities for kids, including a Military Truck Tour and Professor Nitrate’s Mad Lab.

From big outdoor thrills to Blue Flag beaches crying out for some serious bucket and spade action check out our website  and plan to have fun this summer – whatever the weather.