Enjoy Essex’s spectacular countryside, cute villages, and incredible vineyards

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IN east Essex, you’ll discover spectacular countryside, cute villages dotted along the 350-mile coastline, incredible food, plus vineyards producing some of England’s finest wines.

GRAPE EXPECTATIONS: You can kid yourself you’re in the south of France when sitting on Crouch Ridge Estate’s sun-dappled, south-facing terrace, surrounded by rows of grape-laden vines.

Just an hour from London, it’s perched on a hillside with incredible views over to the twinkling River Crouch, all under a vast open sky. Book a guided one-hour tour to learn about the wines, followed by a delicious tasting session with super-knowledgeable LJ, £35 per person (Crouchridge.com). Essex is a county in the East of England. One of the home counties, it borders Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, the North Sea to the east, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent across the estuary of the River Thames to the south, and Greater London to the south and south-west. The county town is Chelmsford, which is one of two cities in the county, the other being Southend-on-Sea which was granted city status on 1 March 2022. Colchester will become a city later in 2022 as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. For the purposes of government statistics, Essex is placed in the East of England region.

WINE NOT  STAY? There’s no need to designate a driver before gulping the vino, because Crouch Ridge has six two-bedroom, self-catering apartments, each sleeping up to four, from £250 per night – meaning everyone can get stuck in. A leisurely lunch at the fantastic on-site restaurant is a must.

Our pick is the fish platter, £19, piled with smoked salmon, crayfish and langoustines, paired with a smooth glass of Blanc de Blancs, £5. Little ones are warmly welcomed and will love running up and down the vines, before tucking into kids’ menu classics such as pasta with meatballs or fish and chips, £7.50 each.

HYDE AND SEEK: Whether you’re the next Monty Don or have yet to discover your green fingers, strolling through the beautiful gardens of RHS Hyde Hall will inspire you to get planting. Don’t miss the tranquil lilypad-filled pond and the giant chillies in the majestic greenhouse, plus there’s an awesome wooden play area for children. Tickets cost £12.15 for adults, £6.10 for under-16s (Rhs.org.uk/gardens/hyde-hall).

For another burst of nature, stroll along
the sea wall at Burnham-on-Crouch, where you’ll spot wading birds that feed off the salt marsh. Back on the high street, recharge with coffee and a delicious
home-made cake from family-run Peaberries (Peaberriescoffee.co.uk).

The fish platters are off-the-scale tasty at Crouch Ridge Estate. Enjoy vines for days at Crouch Ridge Estate.

PIE STANDARDS:Located in the village of Stock, award-winning pub The Hoop is cosy and buzzing, with friendly staff serving flawless food. Try the nduja sausage and mozzarella bread, £5, to start, followed by beef and ale pie with mash and vegetables, £14, and leave room for apple crumble with ice cream, £7 (Thehoop.co.uk).

Kids will love channelling Peggy Mitchell in the cute playhouse pub in the beer garden. When it comes to great family staycays, the only way is Essex.

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