Having lived away from home for four years and in my later teenage years decided to head to hangouts in the direction of the city, I decided to compile a list of some of my favourite spots in Essex to visit as I feel like I've neglected the fact I have some beautiful spots within arm's reach whilst also being able to enjoy the bright lights of London. Since the beginning of TOWIE, Essex has earned itself a bit of a bad reputation, when in fact it's actually a rather beautiful county! It's not all fake tan and white stilettos afterall - well a little bit is!
1. Visit Colchester Zoo
Here's a little fact for you that I remember from my school days. Colchester is believed to be the oldest town in Birtish history and was actually the capital during Roman Britain. It's also home to my favourite zoo I've visited in the UK! I've always much, much preferred it to the popular London zoo growing up as there are just so many animals to see and tons of activities for kids (or big kids like myself). In fact, I think I'm overdue a visit!
2. Spend a Day at Southend-On-Sea
You know around once a year there's any episode of Eastenders in where they visit the beach, grab some fish & chips and a bit of drama typically kicks off? Well most of the time they're at Southend-on-Sea on the East Essex coast. Southend was an annual trip in the six weeks summer holidays for me growing up. From spending the morning tottering around the pebble-dashed beach to an exciting afternoon at the small yet impressive theme park of Adventure Island and then a walk along the world's largest pier! Yes, the largest pier in the world is found in Essex and is 1.33 miles long, so have some comfy shoes ready! Southend is more of a lively, hectic experience and I'm told it has a great nightlife too. If you're after a more relaxing day out at the beach it's better to head to one of Essex's other coastal towns.
3. Get a Traditional Pie & Mash (with liquor)
Now this is a bit of an East London and Essex tradition that I personally insist is a must-do if you're ever to venture into Essex. Definitely indulge in the 'Essex cuisine' and experience my favourite meal of all time pie and mash with a dollop of liquor on top. Scotland has haggis, the north has chips and gravy, Cornwall has pasties and we have pie and mash! When I moved to Southampton I was a little distraught that there were no pie and mash shops around and even more horrified to find out no one outside of London or Essex even knew what a traditional pie and mash shop was! I was brought up on a solid diet of it every fortnight or so and it is one of my favourite meals that I'll never, ever tire of! Dotted all around Essex are independent, tradition little restaurants in where you can try it for yourself so definitely add this one to your list!
If you're after a more relaxing coastal experience than Southend, then head to Walton-On-The-Naze, a beautiful natural beach with the most magnificent cliffsides. I used to have a holiday home near the Naze, which meant I spent a good few summers there in my early teenage years exploring the area. It's a lot more peaceful than it's neighbouring touristy town of Clacton-On-Sea, which is only a short drive away if you fancy visiting. Also, in typical British seaside fashion there's plenty of arcades to waste your pennies on!
5. Take a Hike Through Epping Forest
I'm blessed to have Epping Forest within a ten minute drive from me and it boasts over 6,000 acres of historic woodland and lakes. If you want an idea of how big 6,000 acres is, it's the equivalent of around 3, 300 football pitches! It's a former royal forest and is a site of special scientific interest. If you're a forest baby like myself you could easily spend days getting lost in it's web of trees and beautiful surroundings.
If you're keen on visiting Essex then head over to this competition to win a short break for up to 10 people! Do you have any other must do's in Essex that I've missed out? I'm so eager to discover more of my home county!