Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Homage to Canvey Island

The Essex Liberation Front has finally happened. Never mind Catalonia. There's a big piece in the Guardian about the Canvey Island Independence Party. Angered by plans for more housing, Canvey Island is seeking to escape the yoke of Benfleet, Thundersley and Hadleigh and establish a council that is separate from the mainland borough of Castle Point. At this rate of Essex separatism there could soon be one almighty struggle over the jam fields of Tiptree. Click on the link to read.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The only drink is Essex

Seems like Essex is the place to drink. Beer-wise there's Billericay Brewing, purveyors of the excellently-named Billericay Dickie and Rhythm Stick beers. The micro-brewery and beer shop produces craft ales made from natural ingredients. Every second and last Sunday at 2pm they have brewery tours and tastings, explaining the brewing process and ingredients used. You can also be a ‘Brewer for the Day’ and return 2-3 weeks later to collect your pints.

Wine-wise, New Hall Vineyard in Purleigh is one of the oldest and first vineyards in the UK to grow the Bacchus grape, which is now one of their most popular wines and very drinkable. Essex’s newest vineyard, West Street in Coggeshall, won the gold award in the International Wine Challenge 2017. It's got a restaurant serving local produce, and of course lots of wine-tasting. 

While close to the Essex Way in Constable country is Dedham Vale Vineyard, where you can grab a bicycle and tour the great Essex countryside, before returning to try some of their wines and cider. It has guided tours and tastings and you can have a glass of wine overlooking the lake, or hold parties and weddings there. 

If ever they remake the great wine-tasting road move Sideways it will have to be in Essex.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Bog snakes in Leigh

No, they're not taking the hiss. Sympathy to Laura Cowell's five-year-old son who found a three-foot long baby python down the family toilet in Leigh-on-Sea. It seems the royal python had escaped from some neighbours who had left old vivariums in their garden and then travelled up the u-bend. It was left to heroic Leigh-on-Sea pet shop Scales and Fangs to rescue the bog snake and then nurse it back to full health after some scale-rot. Indeed, fangs can only get better. Pints of snakebite all round for the rescuers. There could be enough in this story to give fellow Leigh-on-Sea resident Phill Jupitus a whole new stage act. 

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Chateau de Essex

My daughter's pal Katy, who grew up in Brentwood, has just presented our family with some Essex wine as a thank you for holidaying with us. Bacchus 2016 Reserve is brewed by New Hall Vineyards in Chelmsford and is a fine fruity wine which we enjoyed drinking. Proof that Essex is very much the Bordeaux of England…

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Essex Yeomen go up the Junction

Visiting Upminster the other week I was surprised to find the Essex Yeoman pub by the station has now has changed its name to the Junction. The change happened back in 2015, but it's still a shame to lose Essex from a traditional pub name, even if Upminster is now in the London borough of Havering. As described in my book The Joy of Essex, I used to go in to the Yeoman for a pint with my dad after returning from West Ham games, before driving home to Great Warley. Where are the Essex Yeomen now? Probably all on Love Island, I guess.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Tiptree jam today in China

The Chinese are in love with Tiptree jam. BBC News' 'Tales From The New Silk Road' features footage from Wilkin & Sons' factory at Tiptree and an interview with Chinese brand ambassador Tingting He, who sells Tiptree products to Chinese hotels. In China they're developing a taste for British cream tea, scones and lashings of jam. Twenty five years ago the spoof Essex Liberation Front (namely Phill Jupitus, Richard Edwards and myself) predicted a UK economy based on Tiptree jam — and now it might just be the post-Brexit future. Click on the link to read the whole feature.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Walking class heroes in West Horndon

Just spent an afternoon walking in a sun-drenched West Horndon. After lunch and a half of IPA at the Railway pub we went under the railway bridge and straight out into the countryside. Here there are more than enough wheat fields for Theresa May to run through and within a few hundred yards of the station you're in a world of isolated farms, old barns, combine harvesters and huge tractors – the first real fields beyond East London. We ended up on China Lane and turned left for Bulphan (pronouced 'Bull-ven' by locals) where there's a very distinctive old wooden and flint church. That stretch of flat agriculture land stretching from West Horndon to Orsett and the Thames is another of Essex's underrated charms.