Penguins at Colchester Zoo.

Step into the boots of a zoo keeper

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!

Sun Bear
Sun Bear

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!

Feeding the giraffes.
Feeding the giraffes.

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!

To book an experience at Colchester Zoo, visit the website.

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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.

Quirky Essex – did you know?

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’s oldest:

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    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.
  • National Trust’s Northey Island is where the battle of Maldon took place in 991, making it the oldest battlefield in Britain.
  • The James Stevens No.14 was the second RNLI lifeboat at Walton-on-the-Naze. She has been restored and is now the oldest surviving motor lifeboat in the world.

Essex’s smallest, largest, longest, tallest and more…

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For more unique Essex facts visit our website.

Aerial shot of the island

5 movie locations in Essex

The Woman in BlackOsea Island. The island in the River Blackwater (5 miles off Mersea Island) is connected to the north bank of the river by a causeway which is covered at high tide, and in 2012 it was the setting for the Hammer Horror film The Woman in Black. Harry Potter star Daniel Radclifffe plays Arthur Cripps, a young lawyer who visits spooky Eel March Island (which is also cut off from the mainland by the tides) in order to arrange it’s sale after the death of its owner.

Amazing sunset over the Blackwater Estuary.
Amazing sunset over the Blackwater Estuary.

Goldfinger London Southend Airport. A British United Air Ferries Carvair is seen transporting villain Goldfinger and his car in the 1964 James Bond film from Southend Airport to Geneva. In the scene, filmed in 1963, Sean Connery as Bond drives his Aston Martin DB5 into Southend Airport (having tracked Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce to the airport – the first use of what would become Sat Nav on screen), and takes it to Switzerland in pursuit of Goldfinger via the Carvair.

Southend Airport
Southend Airport

Ivanhoe Hedingham Castle. The Normal motte and bailey castle has often been the location for films and TV programmes. It was mostly notably featured in Ivanhoe, the 1997 BBC TV mini-series of Sir Walter Scott’s novel set in 1192 AD about a disinherited knight who is accused of treachery in the Crusades starring Steve Waddington, Susan Lynch, Ciaran Hinds and Christopher Lee.

Hedingham Castle
Hedingham Castle

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Tilbury. The third of the Indiana Jones trilogy starring Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. The search for the Holy Grail takes our hero Indy to Venice. Although the Venice waterfront starts out as real, we’re soon back in Essex, with the high-speed chase through the waterways of the Italian city actually being filmed around Tilbury Docks.

Tilbury Docks
Tilbury Docks

Batman BeginsCoalhouse Fort. In this 2005 reboot of the caped crusader, the ‘Bhutanese’ prison in which Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) hits rock-bottom before being found by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), is actually Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury. The Victorian fort, built around 1870, was intended to protect London from French invaders and now stands in a pleasant green park on the north bank of the Thames, protected by its moat.

Coalhouse Fort
Coalhouse Fort

Visit our website for more ideas on places to visit and things to do.

5 places to explore the Tudors in Essex

Layer Marney Tower
Layer Marney Tower

1. Layer Marney Tower. This tallest Tudor Gatehouse in England is one of the finest examples of Tudor architecture. Built in the same year that Henry VIII met the French king, Francis I at the Field of Cloth of Gold. Henry stayed in the impressive tower in 1522. Climbing the 80 ft tower’s 99 steps is well worth the effort, as the reward is a breath-taking view across the north of the county.

Hadleigh Castle
Hadleigh Castle with magnificent views over the Thames Estuary.

2. Hadleigh Castle. The romantic ruins of the former hunting base of Edward I and royal retreat of Edward III had once been an impressive fortress built to repel French invaders during the 100 Years War.  During the reign of Henry VIII, Hadleigh was gifted to Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr. You can explore what remains of the castle and the beautiful Hadleigh Country Park.

Aerial view of Tilbury Fort
Aerial view of Tilbury Fort

3. Further down the Thames Estuary from Hadleigh Castle, is one of the most famous sites of Tudor history –Tilbury Fort. Built by her father Henry VIII, Elizabeth I famously rallied her forces in the face of the oncoming Armada in July 1588 with her famous speech I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king.”

Tilbury Fort offers a great day out for history buffs to explore the site, including its magazine houses used to store gunpowder and feel what it was like to live there as one of the soldiers responsible for defending London.

Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge
Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge

4. Learn about life in Tudor times at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, right next to The View Visitor Centre in Epping Forest. Built by Henry VIII in 1543 and later renovated by Elizabeth I, it’s a remarkable and rare survival of an intact timber-framed hunt still standing and surrounded by its medieval royal hunting forest.

Marygreen Manor Hotel
Marygreen Manor Hotel

5. With a history that links it to the court of Henry VIII, the restaurant at Marygreen Manor in Brentwood is appropriately called Tudors. Not only that, the sensitive décor harks back to the 16th century, adding to the sense of grandeur. However, the food and service is very much 21st century and award-winning to boot with 2 AA Rosettes, complemented by a comprehensive award winning wine list. With snail ravioli, veal sweetbreads, quail and venison on the menu, you’ll be sure to dine like a king.

For more ideas on where to visit historical sites in Essex visit our website.

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.

Quirky Essex – the fat man of Maldon

Have you heard the story of the Fat Man of Maldon, Edward Bright who died in 1750 weighing 44 stone, reported to be the fattest man in England at that time. While that title has now been surpassed by some 20 stone, Edward’s story is perhaps a little more interesting.

 Edward Bright lived in a house on Maldon’s High Street, and is buried in Maldon’s Church of All Saints in a specially constructed coffin. So large was the coffin that he had to be winched out of the upper story of his house.

 But his story did not end there, after his death two men are said to have been speaking in a local pub about how large Edward was. One man claimed he could fit ‘seven hundred’ men into the waist coat of the late Mr Bright. The second man, being a bit of a gambler, thought this was impossible and a bet was struck.

 However, the gambler lost his bet, as seven men from the ‘Dengie Hundred’ were promptly rounded up and stood inside Edwards Bright’s waist coat. This, apparently, fulfilled the criteria of the Seven Hundred Men. What do you think?  You haven’t heard of the Dengie Hundred? Well I guess neither had the gambler.

 In 2000, a bronze relief of seven men in Bright’s coat was installed at the King’s Head Centre off Maldon’s High Street, near Bright’s former home.

Fat Man of Maldon
Bronze relief of seven men in Bright’s coat