Essex's coastline, with its estuaries and islands, is more than 350 miles long. Some of its green spaces and small towns have inspired artists and musicians - notably John Constable in the Dedham Vale (now an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and Gustav Holst in Thaxted. Some of its green spaces have a special legal status, including the Lee Valley, Epping Forest, Dedham Vale, and seven National Nature Reserves. Colchester lays claim to being Britain's first capital city. Southend Pier, at 1.33 miles, is the longest in the world. Its county town is Chelmsford.
Towns and villages
- 1 Chelmsford – county town
- 2 Basildon
- 3 Billericay
- 4 Braintree
- 5 Brentwood
- 6 Brightlingsea
- 7 Burnham-on-Crouch
- 8 Canvey Island
- 9 Clacton
- 10 Coggeshall
- 11 Colchester – Britain's first Roman city which also features the largest Norman keep in England
- 12 Epping – charming commuter town on the end of the London Underground's Central line
- 13 Frinton-on-Sea
- 14 Great Dunmow – ancient flitch town, worth a walk up and down the high street
- 15 Halstead
- 16 Harlow
- 17 Harwich
- 18 Leigh-on-Sea
- 19 Maldon
- 20 Rochford
- 21 Saffron Walden - a picturesque English town with a market dating back to 1141
- 22 Southend-on-Sea - classic and extensive seaside town
- 23 Thaxted - with a packed calendar of musical events and Morris dancing, Thaxted lends its name to the popular hymn tune "I Vow to Thee, My Country"
- 24 Tilbury
- 25 Waltham Abbey
- 26 Wickford
- 27 Witham
- 28 Old Harlow
- 29 Stansted Mountfitchet – with Mountfitchet Castle, a living reconstruction of a Norman village and close to Stansted Airport
- 1 Dedham Vale - an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with walks along the River Stour
- 2 Epping Forest - once a royal forest, now protected in law for "the recreation and enjoyment of the public"
- 3 Foulness Island - Essex's largest island under Ministry of Defence ownership, with restricted access
- 4 Hatfield Forest - more than 1,000 acres of woodland managed by the National Trust, with some trees over 1,000 years old
Contrary to popular belief and stereotypes, Essex is not actually an urban wasteland. Most of the county is rural, and has some very beautiful scenery that is not widely known to outsiders. Saffron Walden, in the north-west of the county, epitomises this defiance of the classic Essex stereotype, as do many of the smaller towns and villages. Essex is bordered by Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, the North Sea to the east, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the south via the Thames Estuary and Greater London to the south west.
Many Essex residents especially in the southwest of the county work and commute in London. Most say it's like their second home. But do not tell people from Essex they're Londoners despite some southwestern parts being inside the M25 circle.
Accents vary in Essex. In the northern and rural areas of the county, you are much more likely to hear the traditional East Anglian accent. But in the south of the county the most commonly heard is known as the estuary accent; some say this is a cross between Cockney and East Anglian.
Some foreign languages are heard in some major towns and cities due to tourism and business, you will mostly hear their language in the southwest bordering Greater London. But in rural areas, locals only understand English.
Major roads into the county include:
- the M11 motorway (London - Cambridge) in west Essex;
- the M25 motorway (London Orbital, onward connections to Heathrow Airport) in south Essex;
- the A11 (London - Norwich) near Saffron Walden;
- the A12 (London - Lowestoft) past Brentwood, Chelmsford and Colchester;
- the A13 (London - Southend) past Thurrock;
- the A120 (Puckeridge - Harwich) past Stansted Airport, Braintree and Colchester;
- the A127 (Romford - Southend) past Basildon and Southend Airport;
- the A131 (Sudbury - Chelmsford) past Braintree;
- the A414 (Hemel Hempstead - Maldon) past Harlow and Chelmsford.
- 1 London Stansted Airport (STN IATA) is near Stansted Mountfitchet and the M11 motorway;
- 2 London Southend Airport (SEN IATA) is near Southend-on-Sea and the A127.
Beyond Essex, nearby airports include London City Airport (LCY IATA) in East London, London Luton Airport (LTN IATA) which is also in the East of England, and London Heathrow Airport (LHR IATA) west of London.
- 3 Harwich International Port is in Harwich - ferry connections to Hook of Holland, The Netherlands, and Felixstowe, Suffolk. Road connections via the A120.
National Rail from London
- 4 London Liverpool Street - Fast and local trains by Greater Anglia towards Audley End for Saffron Walden, Braintree, Brentwood, Clacton-on-Sea, Chelmsford, Colchester, Harlow, Harwich International Port and Southend Victoria. Stansted Express trains towards Harlow and Stansted Airport. Elizabeth line trains towards Shenfield via Brentwood.
- 5 London Fenchurch Street - Local trains by c2c towards Basildon, Southend Central and Thurrock.
- 6 London Stratford - Fast and local trains by Greater Anglia towards Braintree, Brentwood, Clacton-on-Sea, Chelmsford, Colchester, Harlow, Harwich International Port and Southend Victoria. Elizabeth line trains towards Shenfield via Brentwood.
- Tottenham Court Road in the West End, London Paddington and Heathrow Airport. - The Elizabeth line, which calls at Brentwood and Shenfield in Essex, also calls major London stations such as
- London Underground Central line calls at some towns and villages in Essex, including Chigwell, Epping and Loughton. Central line stations in Essex fall in fare zones 4-6. - The
National Rail into Chelmsford and Colchester
- - Greater Anglia runs fast and local trains between Norwich (Norfolk)/Ipswich (Suffolk) and London. Most services stop at Chelmsford, Colchester and some smaller stations in eastern Essex.
National Rail into Audley End, Harlow and Stansted Airport
- - Fast Greater Anglia trains from Ely/Cambridge to London Liverpool Street call at Audley End for Saffron Walden and Harlow Town in Essex.
- - Local Greater Anglia trains from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street call at stations throughout west Essex.
- - Local Greater Anglia trains between Norwich, Cambridge, Audley End and Stansted Airport.
- - CrossCountry runs a fast train between Birmingham New Street, Leicester, Peterborough, Cambridge and Stansted Airport.
Essex is excellent for car travel due to the rural nature of the county. Avoid the M25 and southwest Essex if you can as extremely congested traffic is common. But away from the M25, it is easier to drive around. Some towns and cities experience the usual rush hour, i.e., 7-9AM and 4-6PM.
Essex has a good railway network like the rest of the country with frequent trains into London and Suffolk. In the southwest of the county, the Central Line on the London Underground runs into London from Epping. Trains run frequently from early morning to night.
- Seals with orange fake sun-tans: this is the mark of any seal that dwells in Hamford Water near Frinton-on-Sea: the estuary mud contains iron oxides which stain the pelt. When these seals show up on beaches miles away, they stand out from the rest and are mocked as "Essex Girls".
- The Oak Trail is a walk through Epping Forest and nearby villages
- Watch cricket: Essex CCC play at the County Ground in Chelmsford.
Contrary to popular belief, Essex actually has one of the lowest crime rates in England. However some poorer towns in the more urbanised south and west of the county should be approached with caution, especially at night.
As with the rest of the UK, in any emergency call 999 or 112 (from a land-line if you can) and ask for Ambulance, Fire or Police when connected.