RDC News Make a point of visiting us weekly!        Tell a friend about us. A “Miscellaneous” Page The Gift of Essex To return to “Miscellaneous CONTENTS”, CLICK HERE

The Gift of Essex

The following were suggestions at the end of last year (2016) for how to enjoy Essex in the coming year with places to go and things to do, so we leave them here as a resource for readers (ignore seasonal events & dates - they are there throughout the year. Copy & paste links to your browser)

Dedham Vale Vineyard makes several delicious wines, including its excellent methode champenoise sparkling wine, famed Bacchus dry white and rewarding red, Dedham Vale Reserve. It also presses apples grown in the ancient orchards on Mersea Island to produce Carter’s Cider. The vineyard – set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Boxted - also offers gift vouchers, one of which offers the recipient a grand tour of the vineyard, wine tasting and lunch or afternoon tea for just £22. www.dedhamvalevineyard.com

Coggeshall’s West Street Vineyard also makes a crisp, dry white and rose that is the very taste of summer, whilst its sparkling white or pink bubbles will certainly add extra fizz to your Christmas lunch. West Street also offers gift vouchers, one of which is for its wine school, which will give the oenophile in your life a chance to explore some of the world’s different types of wine via their tastebuds. www.weststreetvineyard.co.uk

With the drinks nicely covered, don’t forget that Essex is a fabulous place to indulge your culinary passions. Did you know that 70% of the land remains rural and that the county’s coastline – at over 350 miles – is the longest in England? That means we’re home to incredibly flavoursome fruit, veg’ and meat, while our fish and shellfish are some of the finest you’ll find anywhere in the world. Fact.

Chef Sherri Singleton was working in a London restaurant and was so intrigued by the produce coming into her kitchen from Essex that she decided to visit the county. She liked the place so much that in 2001, she bought the Mistley Thorn and established the neighbouring Mistley Kitchen, which is now a must-go-to destination for amateur cooks of all abilities. Covering a range of different styles, from Indian to Italian, and techniques, including fish and seafood, plus better knife skills, Mistley Kitchen also attracts expert chefs to teach at its workshops. www.mistleykitchen.com

Similarly, Braxted Park Cookery School offers a tempting range of cookery courses designed to suit complete beginners all the way up to would-be master chefs. Set in a stunning location, Braxted Park attracts some of the UK’s finest chefs, including food writer and broadcaster Ursula Ferrigno, 2006 Master Chef winner Peter Bayless and international TV chef, Guy Moore. www.braxtedparkcookery.co.uk

If you know someone whose idea of fun is raising their heartrate rather than a souffle, then Essex is also a great place to unleash their inner adrenaline junkie. At Lee Valley in Waltham Abbey there’s a whole bunch of experiences that will rock the socks off people who love water and two-wheeled kicks.The highly popular White Water Raft Adventure experience is ideal for adventurous types and costs £65 for a voucher to ride down the 300m long Olympic course, where Team GB won gold and silver in the London 2012 canoe slalom event. Alternatively, a Hydrospeeding or Hot Dog session in one of the centre’s inflatable kayaks costs £100 for two people.

On the Visit Essex website, www.visitessex.com you’ll find a sackful of ideas and information about where to buy presents for all ages, tastes and passions. For those looking to escape the High Street, consider dropping into a local visitor attraction to see what they have going on.

At RHS Garden Hyde Hall, near Chelmsford, the Christmas Sparkle Gift Fair (3-4 December) is perfect for folks looking to find unique and unusual presents for green-fingered friends and family, or themselves. Hyde Hall is also hosting courses to guide you through making Christmas heart wreaths (9 December) and a beautiful flower arrangement in a decorative gift bag (20 December) to give to that special person. www.rhs.org.uk/hydehall

Meanwhile, on 3 December at Writtle College it’s time to get crafty in either of two half-day workshops, in which participants will make a modern, eye-catching door swag; an alternative to a traditional door wreath and an ideal present for those who love celebrating Christmas. The other three-hour session will help you to create a stunning table arrangement, using locally sourced foliage, flowers, candles and baubles. The finished product will be a show-stopping, table-topping centrepiece for Christmas dinner. For further details contact shortcourses@writtle.ac.uk or call 01245 424 200.

Despite living in Essex, many of us often forget just what a beautiful place it is. Visit Essex has an initiative called ‘Live Local, Love Local’ which is designed to help residents reconnect with their county. A great way to do this after partying hard throughout Christmas and New Year is to recharge your batteries in one of our superb hotels with a spa.

At Lifehouse Spa and Hotel near Frinton-on-Sea, you’ll find an award-winning contemporary spa hotel set in 130 acres of grounds (www.lifehouse.co.uk). Quite literally on the beach in Southend is the Roslin hotel and Retreat spa with its ‘atmosphere of relaxation and rejuvenation’ (www.roslinhotel.com). The splendid frontage of Down Hall in leafy Hatfield Heath is certain to impress but you’ll score extra Brownie Points when you step inside this luxurious Palladian-style mansion (www.edenspadownhall.co.uk) and for long-suffering golf widows, Stoke-By-Nayland Hotel Golf Spa is ideal. While ‘Tiger’ tackles the 18-hole championship course, you can sit back and relax in the Peake Spa (www.stokebynayland.com/spa).

And don’t forget Essex has a wealth of other shopping experiences, from Freeport Braintree – the premier outlet in Essex - to Clacton Factory Village and Intu Lakeside. For quirky crafts and unusual presents try Blake House Craft Centre,, Gosfield Shopping Village, Barleylands and Battlebridge Antiques Centre. Maybe theatre tickets from the Cliffs Pavilion (Southend) or the Mercury Theatre (Colchester).

With a wealth of attractions, from historic houses to seaside fun parks, farms and zoos, consider an annual pass for your favourite destination. This will ensure that, once the thrill of this season’s must-have toy or gadget has passed, the sheer joy of visiting your favourite place is available all year round.

To discover more ideas and destinations where you’ll find a great gift and enjoy a magical day out, take a sleigh ride over to www.visitessex.com/Christmas

If you didn’t do them last Christmas, they’ll no doubt be there for the next one so you can plan early.