Essex ? Really ?

Yep, even though I haven’t had to do visit it too much since the blog started, it was a cert for the Top 10 Counties.

BRAPA was brought up there, for a start. I think he’s saving a return to The Walden for a special occasion.


Down the road from his baronial home of Audley End, he’ll find the White Horse Newport (Essex) a joy.


OK, OK. you won’t get the bar flies at the moment (for better or worse), but you will get the standard issue Essex pub experience;

Nice old building

Proper seating

Genuine welcome

Real mix of drinkers

Irritating pub dog/cat/Old Bloke drinking Guinness

Relentless banter, often based around the word “fack

Beers you’ve heard of, and can actually drink


Don’t take my word for it;

Some counties see their traditional Guide entries lost to craft beer shops every year (looking at you, Notts); Essex somehow preserves in aspic the proper boozers of Chelmsford, Rochford and Grays, whose Theobald Arms is an enduring classic. If only more people would tell BRAPA off !

Nicked off BRAPA

When I started the blog I raved about Estuary Essex, a landscape dotted with marshes, abandoned boats and weird isolated islands. The Essex that gets used on atmospheric BBC murder dramas rather than TOWIE.

Wide open skies of Dengie
View from Tilbury

A visitor from the USA, should they ever be allowed in again, would probably skip Essex in favour of boring places with more history.

But Colchester was created at THE EXACT SAME MOMENT (the Big Bang) as Bath and Bruges and Big Sur, and is also the place where I finished the Essex chapter of the GBG for this year, THAT’S history.


And the riverside towns like Wivenhoe are far better than your south coast pretenders.


Further down the Tendring Peninsula you’ll even find a village where they HATE PUBS, though Frinton-on-Sea is the best place for blue rinse Tories and fish and chips (Café 19).


There’s not a lot in Essex that’s world-beating, but importantly there’s literally nothing that’s rubbish. Folk here demand good quality, value and consistency.

My infallible spreadsheet shows 362 Essex ticks with an average beer score of a whopping 3.62. Don’t ask what the Fife score is.

If I had NCSS scores for cathedrals, the one at Chelmsford would score a 3.62, too. Simple, uncluttered, inspiring.


Lots of cosmopolitan dining in Essex; Chelmsford market will sell you Pad Thai and pork scratchings (top), though not on the same paper plate.

Across the dual carriageway, the Queen’s Head is a cathedral of swearing, and one of many gems in the Gray’s estate.


Veer east toward Maldon for less swearing at an otherwise salty (geddit ?, geddit ?) town overrun by gentlefolk but somehow coping.

Image result for maldon

To get away from tourists completely, head London-wards to Brentwood, whose Victoria is the best pub you’ve never heard of. And BRAPA has been now, so you’re safe.


Carry on westwards. DO NOT STOP IN HARLOW. Head for Epping Forest, where the Owl will treat you like King Henry VIII (don’t dwell on that one, ladies) and serve you a lovely pint of AK.

Which leaves Southend, a law unto itself in my NHS days and a unitary borough which entitles it to print its own money or something.

By law all Southend pubs must have old Space Invaders games terminals as tables. and have Bass signs on the wall.


One problem. On the Woke scale, Essex sits just below the Isle of Wight, with an algorithm score of 3.7.

If lack of Woke isn’t a concern to you, you’ll love Essex.


Unless you’re BRAPA trying to get the Guide entry at Andrewsfield Airport by air during a storm.

Actual GBG entry

35 thoughts on “TOP 10 COUNTIES – No.6 – ESSEX

  1. A much underrated pub county. My chief complaint is the tendency for the bar to be lined by blokes on stools with backs. But not a problem at present 😼

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s fair, and as you’ll know I’m no fan of bar flies !

      Essex does seem to attract more middle-aged couples to pubs than other counties, as well as the sweary retirees at the bar, but you’ll also see lads in their 20s in the same pubs as their dads.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Southend is the largest town in the UK I have never visited, not even to the extent of passing through by car or train. The nearest I got was the A120 to the west.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. If not for Southend then there would have been no Kursaal, and no Kursaal Flyers.

        I’m not sure whether that challenges or supports your claim though, to be honest, Paul.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. It lacks a “Must see”, but is full of “Well worth a visit” if you get my meaning. Opposite of, say, Lincolnshire, which is dull apart from must-sees of Stamford, Lincoln Hill and Cleethorpes.


  3. “I think he’s saving a return to The Walden for a special occasion.”

    Because he’s mad about Saffron (and Saffron’s mad about him)? 😉

    “Irritating pub dog/cat/Old Bloke drinking Guinness”

    That’s one of the reasons I decided to give up Guinness as I got older. 🙂

    “Don’t take my word for it;”

    Yes, yes. But Si finds ‘stuff’ like that wherever he goes! (I’m sensing a theme here).

    “a landscape dotted with marshes, abandoned boats”

    Do they turn the abandoned boats into homes like they do in northern France?

    “My infallible spreadsheet shows 362 Essex ticks with an average beer score of a whopping 3.62”

    Value and consistency indeed.

    “the Queen’s Head is a cathedral of swearing”

    My kind of place!

    “Veer east toward Maldon for less swearing at an otherwise salty (geddit ?, geddit ?)”

    Sigh. Nearby Saltcote Hall gave it away.

    “And BRAPA has been now, so you’re safe.”

    He’s like the Pied Piper of Covid!

    “On the Woke scale, Essex sits just below the Isle of Wight, with an algorithm score of 3.7.”

    Is that out of 5, 10, or 100?

    “If lack of Woke isn’t a concern to you, you’ll love Essex.”

    Ah. Out of 100 then. 🙂

    “Actual GBG entry”

    What? The plane?



    1. Yes, Russto, the plane is the entry. It is open at all of the stated times but takes off at unannounced times, making it a complete bugger for tickers as they risk turning up to find that the pub has flown off with all the customers for the day. I predict it will take 17 attempts for BRAPA to get the tick.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s right.

        They’ve had to move the pumps out of the waiting room that constitutes the bar and put them in the open air atop the aircraft wings, as part of Covid rules.


      2. “They’ve had to move the pumps out of the waiting room that constitutes the bar and put them in the open air atop the aircraft wings, as part of Covid rules.”

        I knew it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Enjoyed that! Am starting south n working my way up to North Essex gradually.

    Very excited about my ‘emotional’ return to the Walden. Sister wants to join me but she’ll make it a vegan restaurant crawl so trying to sneak it in when she isn’t looking.

    Hope you can join me on some of my more northerly trips , Andrewsfield I’ve been highly anticipating for years now!

    This is if us northerners are allowed to go daarn saarfstill after this week.


    1. I suggest we hire a plane and get Colin the Cauliflower to fly us into Andrewsfield Airport (will be an anticlimax if it drops out GBG now).

      It’s hard to think of many duff pubs in Essex. Not too much “churn” either, only 3 new entries this year.


  5. Not done much in Essex myself, though I had Chelmsford on my to do list before the new normal started. I was feeling a little underwhelmed by your post (sorry, but it’s a bit of a come down after the West Midlands), but your fantastic photo of a pint of McMullens AK, surely your best photo yet, made me come over all thirsty, so I’m off down the pub.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As the Southworths will confirm, Essex has gentler pleasures best experienced at a leisurely pace. The picture postcard villages like Finchingfield don’t really photograph well. You’ll struggle to get a beer below GBG standards anywhere, and I can’t say that about many counties.


      1. Maldon was great on an extended stay. One of our more relaxed visits to anywhere. Great coastline as well. Strongly recommend it. It’s only missing a railway station…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes Dave it can, just not an open one. Hull Corporation Pier and Kingswear are two very successful but now sadly closed railway stations which saw zero trains in their entire existance.


      3. Certainly. They are piers owned by the railway to serve railway owned ferries. Both had station buildings.

        Dartmouth is still open, albeit owned by a private local company it still has the ferries to its railway station without trains.


      4. This idea is funny and hard to wrap my head around. A successful railway station that has never serviced a single train. Really weird and very funny. Kind of like a successful restaurant that hasn’t served a meal. Still trying to work this out…


  6. I have never had a drink in Essex! Most of my pub adventures are canal based, which is something Essex sadly lacks!

    The pubs do look nice, but I may well never visit the county for a drink. Thinking about it, there are (probably) quite a lot of counties that I’ve never drunk (or been drunk) in! (Most of Scotland – I’ve never been north of Glasgow/Edinburgh – Cornwall, Devon, Dorset…I could go on, but life’s too short!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aren’t there any navigable rivers that could accommodate your barge Pete, or is it a question of them not being connected to the main canal network?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a bit of both! The only navigable river is the Lea, but that only forms the western border of the county. As far as I can see there are no other rivers that could connect to the main canal system.

        I can only assume that because it is a sea side county and in close proximity to London there was no need for any alternative forms of transport.


  7. Missed out on this post, first time around, but agree that Essex is a very overlooked county.
    Have made the occasional stop there on journeys back from Norfolk, and have rarely been disappointed. It’s just that chunk of water between Kent and Essex that seems to preclude more visits.


      1. There already are ferries between Tilbury – Gravesend and North Woolwich – Woolwich (granted North Woolwich is in Kent), what more do you need?


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