Coggeshall is the perfect spot to base yourself for exploring north Essex, situated halfway between Colchester and Braintree. The town grew up on a Roman road – evidence of a settlement goes back to Saxon times, and there are plenty of stunning historic barns and buildings dotted through the village that date back through the centuries.
One of these – Paycocke’s House – is now administered by the National Trust, although sadly it’s not open until April. The same is true of the medieval Coggeshall Grange Barn, but a similar collection of buildings can be viewed at Cressing Temple, a few miles south-west.
Other places worth visiting include Marks Hall Garden and Arboretum, and Heddingham Castle, though it’s only open on Sundays at this time of year.
If wildlife watching is your thing, try to find the time to head to the coast – Mersea Island or Walton-on-the-Naze are two good spots. There are also a number of Essex Wildlife Trust reserves within reasonable striking distance, from the closest at Brookes Reserve, to the more extensive reserve on the shores of Abberton Reservoir. RSPB members might also want to venture to Old Hall Marshes, which is the other side of Tiptree to the south of Colchester.
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