Quiet Wrabness perches on the southern bank of the River Stour, not far from Harwich. Hollywood actor Clive Owen has a home here; Griff Rhys Jones likes to look out over at Wrabness from his home in Holbrook on the Suffolk bank of the river.

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Wrabness hit the headlines last year with the unveiling of Grayson Perry’s A House for Essex, known locally as Julie’s house after the fictitious character Perry created as its owner complete with back story. If you want to experience its eclectic and quirky interiors, the house is available to let as a holiday home – so long as you’re successful in the regular ballots – but the outside can be viewed by anyone at anytime.

The house faces arable fields and with its proximity to the river and to Stour Wood, it’s worth what will be a lengthy trip for most Essex residents.  In April and May, listen carefully and you might hear a nightingale sing.

The village church, with its bell housed in a separate cage instead of the more usual bell tower, is also worth seeking out.  The tower collapsed in the seventeenth century and the wooden cage was supposed to be a temporary fix…

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Wendens Ambo

It’s a strange name in a county that’s no short of some odd ones.  In fact, the curious name is a nod back to the time when Wendens Ambo was formed as the villages of Great (Magna) and Little (Parva) Wenden merged on 23 March 1662 to form Wendens Ambo. Ambo means “both”.  Wendens comes from Wendene, the valley in which the settlement is located.

It’s a chocolate box village, crammed full of historic homes and thatched cottages.

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A commuter village these days for both London and Cambridge, it was once a farming community.  Before that, it was settled during Roman times as evidenced by the remains of a Roman villa and perhaps even earlier following the discovery of some flint tools from between 200 and 300 BC.

Like many in the area, the church is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin.  Once constructed from wood, it was rebuilt in stone and over the centuries several alterations and additions have been made.

If you’d like to take a look around, perhaps time your visit to coincide with the National Garden Scheme Open Gardens event being held on June 5th 2016 from 2pm to 6pm.  Seven gardens plan to be open with proceeds going to a number of charities including Macmillan Cancer Support and  Marie Curie.  There’s a decent pub too.  Find out more about The Fighting Cocks at http://www.thefightingcocks.biz.


One thing Essex is not short of is places with chuckle-inducing names. We have Ugley, Messing and Mucking for starters. But it’s Fingringhoe, and especially the shortened F’hoe that we see on signs around here, that has me sniggering.

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The church at Fingringhoe, St Andrew’s

In fact, the name of the village is firmly rooted in its geography.  The original site nestles in a bend of the Roman River, a tributary of the Colne, and was once a thriving port.  The suffix “hoe” means a protruding piece of land like a heel which is likely to be that part of the village enclosed by the meander.  The “ing” comes from the ancient “ingas” or people and the “Fingr” is probably, like “hoe”, referencing the land’s shape.

Roman River by Bob Jones CC BY-SA 2.0 via geograph.org.uk 

These days, most visitors are drawn to Fingringhoe for the Essex Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve.  Opened in 1961, it was the EWT’s first site.  Overlooking the Colne Estuary, up to two hundred species of birds have been sighted here including the two dozen male nightingales that produce a rousing chorus each spring.  In addition there are plenty of avocets and other waders and wildfowl to be spotted.  Add to this the 350 or so species of flowering plants and you can see the attraction.

Germander speedwell on Fingringhoe Wick by Glyn Baker CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia