If you – like me – live in the postindustrial wastelands that is modern day South – East Essex, you will be delighted if you get out of the concrete desert from time to time and get some fresh air and get away from the NEETs. Surprisingly, this is actually not that, hard, as the County and District Councils run a surprisingly large and diverse collection of country parks. To find the best ones, may I recommend the following little tome:
‘Secret Basildon’ by Sue Ranford is a little gem of a book with 15 medium and short range walks around some of the nicest nature reserves you would hope to find. Sue makes the walks easy to find and to navigate, adds helpful little maps and gives you even a little hint or two on what to look out for.
Today we walked around the lovely Northlands Wood Country Reserve which is literally 5 minutes by car from Basildon proper and (apart from the constant din from the A13) lets you forget that you live in one of the most unappealing places in England. Quite a feat.
Just around the corner from Basildon. Really?
If you have a look at the map of Basildon, that semi urban poster child for 1960’s ‘New Town’ inspirational architecture, you’ll notice that over the years it has spilled over it’s borders (set by large bypass roads) and incorporated its surrounding villages (infecting them with similar architecture). Apparently the oldest of these hamlets is Laindon, now a small sleeper town with the probably most dilapidated ‘shopping centre’ ever. In the north of Laindon is a single hill, overlooking post industrial South East Essex featuring a lovely 14th century church.
St Nicholas Church
St Nicholas Church and its surrounding cemetery is a lovely spot to soak up the sun and enjoy the surprisingly green surroundings.
The only thing you won’t escape is the constant noise from the surrounding roads. Especially the A127 is relentless with its continuous low frequency hum from thousands of tyres rolling up and down the countryside. The CHurch is quite well connected. It has it’s own website and even a ‘friends of…’ site (which needs some tlc btw), which, as I am reliably informed, has been set up by the very people who turned the little hill into the lovely spot that it is now by tending the plants, looking after the graves, etc.
Isn’t it comforting to know that even behind the most anonymous of sleeper towns there is still a group of people looking after its heritage?
A very comforting thought.
Today the Echo-News website reliably informed me that Southend on Sea, a town in South East Essex, is going to bid to become the United Kingdom’s ‘Capital of Culture’. According to the Department of Culture’s website, the chosen city (town) should be able to deliver:
- A high quality cultural programme that reaches a wide variety of audiences, and is a fitting follow-on from Liverpool Capital of Culture and the Cultural Olympiad;
- A programme that uses culture to lead to lasting social regeneration by engagement, widening participation and supporting cultural diversity;
- A demonstrable and significant economic impact from the programme;
- Credibility in their plans (including support from key partners) and track record in delivery; and
- A clear approach to maximising legacy and being able to evaluate impact
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Southend (or ‘Saaaafend’, as the indigenous population calls it), but on first impression it doesn’t strike you as a particularly highbrow place. It has three theaters (which admittedly isn’t bad), numerous casinos, arcades, 7000 fish and chip shops, 19000 bars, a sea front with a pier and millions of East Enders populating these attractions on the weekend. This being a sea side town in South- East Essex, the stilettos are high, the ladies very blond, the tattoos manifold and the lager cheap. If a week in Ayia Napa is your sort of thing thing then Southend is the place to be.
Even if Southend Council would be able to deliver the above list of cultural highlights, I would be concerned about the size of the audience attending the events. I think it would be more realistic if Southend would bid for the title of “Party Capital of the UK”. The winning town would get 1 year of central government funded increased street cleaning, heavier police presence, more prison cells, a bigger A+E and a Liver unit.
I am sure Southend would benefit more.
Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and the best girlfriend and I decided to try out one of our many guidebooks and opted for ‘Pub Walks in Essex‘. With the weather being absolutely rubbish we opted to cancel the ‘walk’ bit and instead headed directly for the pub. With us being currently stranded in a rather unfashionable bit of the notorious South East of the Essex, only the car was able to take us to a decent watering hole and so we made our way to the village of Stow Maries, a surprisingly lovely bit of countryside in this rather drab area. The Prince of Wales, the villages only pub, is a surprisingly comfortable and cozy pub, run by an unusually (well, at least for the area) friendly team of landlords and has an amazing selection of real ales and belgian beers (Kriek on tap. Yum!). With me driving I was unfortunately only allowed to try a modest amount of their wares, but the best girlfriend already promised me to drop me off there for an saturday afternoon. Yeah! For those who don’t want to drive home, there is a nice B+B attached and the food is supposed to excellent. They even have proper website. Good on them.
The best girlfriend and I were in absolute pub heaven and the easter sunday brightened up considerably. Heartily recommended.