Dust off your paintbrushes, charge up the iPad, sharpen your charcoal, whatever your chosen art form, on Sunday 12 June you can join in the Constable Challenge at Wivenhoe House, Colchester for free.
The grounds of this Grade II listed hotel are being turned over to artists young and old for everyone to create their own landscape masterpiece. It’s a chance for artistic stardom as all artworks will be considered for an autumn exhibition at the hotel, opening on Sunday 18 September.
This is all part of a year of celebration at Wivenhoe House, marking 200 years since Britain’s much loved landscape artist, John Constable, painted Wivenhoe Park for the estate’s owner, Major General Francis Rebow.
It’s a story of love as Constable took on the commission to earn 100 guineas to prove he was a worthy catch to the father of his fiancée, Maria Bicknell. Constable completed the painting, which now hangs in pride of place at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, in the middle of September 1816 and married Maria on 2 October.
It was an auspicious early work for Constable who went on to create such well known masterpieces as The Haywain and Flatford Mill, two historic paintings which draw people to Dedham Vale every year to see the original settings.
The University of Essex will also be running one of its fantastic free arts outreach events for children at the hotel on the same day from 2pm until 4pm. Places are limited so must be booked in advance.
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.
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.
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…
RHS Garden Hyde Hallin 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Make 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 www.visitleevalley.org.uk
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.
Nigel 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 www.essexwt.org.uk/reserves/hanningfield-reservoir, 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 www.bethchatto.co.uk/events, or by calling 01206 822 007.
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.
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 282 941.www.cimuseums.org.uk
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 www.dedhamvalevineyard.com
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 www.barleylands.co.uk.
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.
Step into the boots of a zoo keeper and find out just what it takes to care for some of the most incredible creatures on the planet!
Escorted by Colchester Zoo’s dedicated keepers, you will get the chance to venture deep behind the scenes, learn new skills and get up close and personal to some of Colchester Zoo’s animals!
With three experiences to choose from there’s something for everyone!
Experience A is bursting with big personalities, and they don’t come any bigger than the mighty African elephants! Along with Sun bears, anteaters, skunks, parrots and coatis you’ll meet some of the most charismatic creatures around!
Experience B introduces you to a host of magnificent animals including giraffes, rhinos, meerkats, otters, lemurs, lions and the critically endangered Amur leopards! Offering a wonderful variety of experiences and some incredible animal interactions!
Experience C combines sealions, penguins, orangutans, monkeys, cheetahs, hyenas and many more, exploring the lives of animals from across the globe – this experience is truly out of this world.
The day also includes full entry to the zoo, a lunch voucher and fantastic souvenir pack to remember the experience of a lifetime!
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are a number of interesting facts about the county that you might not know. Do you know other interesting facts about Essex? Why not email us and we will share them.
Essex is home to Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester. It was the first capital the Romans established in Britain
Greensted Church is the oldest wooden church in the world. It was built in 1081 AD.
Great Dunmow is home to the oldest recorded competition in Britain still running today, the Flitch Trials. Mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and believed to have begun in the 13th century, the Trials aimed to find a married couple who had not quarrelled or repented their marriage during the preceding year and a day. A mock court of locals would test the veracity of stories of marital bliss, with a flitch of bacon the prize for success. It takes place every four years like the Olympics. This year’s date is the 9 July.
The oldest timber-framed barn in the world is at Cressing Temple near Braintree. The huge Barley Barn was built by the Knights Templar.