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Escape awhile at Woodbell Lodge where only the birds and your bubbling hot tub disturb the silence…
One of five luxury 5 AA star self-catering lodges we offer, Wakes Hall Farm offers dreamy escapism deep within the rural seclusion of north Essex near Wakes Colne in the breath-taking Colne Valley.
Woodbell Lodge offers the ultimate bolthole for couples or a family of four. Our oasis of five-star luxury is tucked away in an ancient meadow in undulating countryside, where in decades gone by heavy horses, cattle and sheep would have grazed.
Woodbell Lodge was made for making memories. You’ll approve of the well-equipped kitchen, the very best of open plan living, the sumptuous en suite bedrooms and the state of the art technology.
Outside on the south-facing veranda, the lake and woodlands serve the perfect backdrop. At night laze in the bubbling hot tub, clink your glasses and reflect beneath the stars with the distant sound of an owl in your ears.
Lose yourself in the 500 acres of secluded rolling private land and wander the woodlands that can offer a decent game of hide and seek or a stretching preprandial ramble. While away some time by the magnificent two acre private fishing lake stocked with carp and rudd. A playground for wildlife, you may be lucky to catch a glimpse of a kingfisher. Your furry friends will love it too – the woods with its little stream are pooch perfect for sniffing and moseying about in.
Our purpose built holiday lodge is approached by a mile-long private driveway through meadow land and woodland. Although you’ll feel completely disconnected from the rest of the world, the wealth of attractions on your doorstep will leave you spoilt for choice.
Wakes Colne is just a stone’s throw from the historical viaduct at Chappel where there is a shop and post office and a picturesque pub beside the River Colne that serves locally brewed beer.
A 20 minute drive takes you to Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester which offers a wide range of activities for all ages, from Colchester Zoo to the Roman Castle.
The world-renowned Constable country is within a 30 minute drive, where you can take a visit to Dedham Vale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, home of Flatford Mills, made famous by John Constable’s painting, The Haywain.
The beautiful village of Coggeshall just 12 minutes’ away, is steeped in history and the back drop to many television series including Lovejoy.
Expect lots of museums, stately homes and gardens. Highlights include the Gainsborough House museum and art gallery in Sudbury, Marks Hall Gardens & Arboretum, The Beth Chatto Gardens, Melford Hall and Kentwell Hall. All are within half an hour’s drive.
Within a 10 minute drive is the Earls Colne Golf & Country Club together with numerous other golf courses located within a short driving distance.
The prestigious beautiful Blue Flag beaches at Clacton, quieter Frinton and Walton on the Naze are all within 50 minutes' drive.
The other lodges we offer at Wakes Hall Farm are Campion Lodge (sleeps 2), Brook Lodge (sleeps 2), Ransom Lodge (sleeps 4) and Endymion Lodge (sleeps 4). Group bookings are welcomed.
So, whether you’re celebrating a special occasion, or just fancy a few days away from the hustle and bustle, why not unwind at Woodbell Lodge in the tranquil beauty of the Colne Valley?
"Peace, quiet and tranquility! Everything was great!" (Karen stayed at Ramson Lodge)
"A great place to stay. Quiet and private. Really great wifi which was great for working. Spacious, clean. Great kitchen with everything needed for cooking." (Lisha stayed at Ransom Lodge)
"Just amazing!! Beautiful accommodation, everything you could need including lovely welcome basket. Stunning & peaceful location."
"Amazing stay!" (Josh stayed at Ramson Lodge)
"Very lovely, everything was as expected," (Sahajan stayed at Ramson Lodge)
"Loved the location, kitchen very well equipped with everything you could think of needing during your time away." (Anna stayed at Ramson Lodge)
"Beautiful lodge in a stunning location. Staff were all friendly and passionate about the site and the levels of hospitality they wanted to achieve. The welcome basket was a lovely, unexpected touch." (Martyn stayed at Endymion Lodge)
"A wonderful short break with friends and dogs!.Our first impressions of the lodge when we arrived did not falter throughout our stay. Such spacious accommodation and so relaxing, dog friendly indeed. We enjoyed the fishing, and the two dogs enjoyed the walks! It took me a while to work out the hob but that’s just me. Lovely bathrooms, and about pristine. Just a couple of small things that I think would improve the stay would be a better recycling system, I hated not separating everything apart from glass. One or two dog poo bins and for the anglers maybe some different species of fish in the lake apart from tench and carp. And maybe a few games for rainy days." (Michael stayed at Endymion Lodge)
"This place is amazing! Seriously the pictures don’t do it justice. The rooms were immaculate and seriously impressive. Beds comfortable and the bathrooms were luxurious. Area secure for dogs too and hot tub wonderful touch, as was the hamper on arrival. Amazing!!" (Lauryn stayed at Ramson Lodge)
"Excellent as always!! We absolutely adore staying at this beautiful property, the Lodge is stunning, it is beautifully furnished and we always feel instantly at home. Booking communications are just excellent, I can highly recommend staying and will most definitely be booking again." (Lucy stayed at Brook Lodge and Ramson Lodge)
"Had such a wonderful stay here! Great communication, lovely house, great location… Will recommend and also stay again! Happy happy happy!!" (Chris stayed at Brook Lodge)
"This lodge is the perfect staycation. Stunning location!! Would highly recommend."
"A great place to stay. Lovely and spacious inside and cracking vista. You will relax here as the peaceful environment guides you. A lovely touch with the welcome pack. It didn’t go unnoticed. We would consider again. Very dog friendly. A most wonderful place for our little pup. He loved it and had his first time off the lead due to the very safe environment.....and he came back! Out of the five lodges. Woodbell has the best position! Thank you!"
"Thank you for a fab weekend, enjoyed it with my girlfriends. Will definitely return again. Many many thanks."
"Fabulous weeks holiday, lodge is so comfortable and well equipped. Very peaceful with beautiful views. Perfect place to relax, easy access for wheelchair (threshold ramps very helpful) and decking and hot tub great in lovely weather. Enjoyed day trips to Dedham, Dedham Vale Vineyard, Clacton and Southend. Managed to see RAF 100 Flypast, thanks to tip! Would love to return."
"Another lovely, relaxing stay. See you again next year."
"Found the perfect luxury lodge for ourselves and our dogs. The lake is a bonus. Will definitely be back. 5 STARS. Perfect weather too."
"Gorgeous setting, wonderful hosts and a totally relaxing experience. If you fancy a few days in stunning surroundings with 5* luxury this is the place to go! Fabulous lodge and only an hour and a half outside of London but you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere! It's perfect!"
"Very peaceful and tranquil location. The lodge is very well appointed although we did find that there wasn’t quite enough crockery. Loved the welcome hamper, very nice touch. Hot tub is excellent too! The surrounding area is lovely too and worth exploring especially Dedham and Nayland. Would love to visit again when the weather is a little better!”
"Relaxing stay before our baby arrives. We will be back!"
"Our 3rd visit, first time in Woodbell. It's so amazing, we'll be back again! Thanks so much for organising this lodge."
"First stay, fantastic, very clean. Loved the whole experience."
"Another super break here! Thank you for making lots of happy memories."
"Awesome. Great for the kids. So clean and user-friendly. Great facilities all round."
"First time visiting and we have been very impressed. Lovely Easter weekend. The lodge is very well equipped and the beds super comfy. We look forward to visiting again."
"Hi, we really enjoyed our stay, thank you very much. We’ve given the lodge 5 stars for everything although there are a few bits that would have made the stay even better, mainly relating to the kitchen. We all had a lovely weekend! Thanks so much, we will definitely come again."
"First time visiting and we had a wonderful time - despite getting towed out of the snow on our way here! Loved it so much, we've already booked again for later in the year!! Everything we wanted for a weekend break. Thanks!!"
"Absolutely beautiful for a quiet weekend in the countryside. Wonderful views, spotlessly clean, great communication and very luxury. Lots of lovely little touches and a lovely area. Stayed as 2 couples and pushed the single beds easily together in 2nd bedroom to make a 2nd double. Loved the hot tub. Already booked again for later in the year."
"Our second visit (won't be our last). Lovely luxurious break. Beautiful surroundings. Thank you!"
"We had a great 3 night break at the Lodge. Would absolutely come back. Great location."
"Our 2nd visit and we loved it. Lodge beautiful. Thank you."
"Amazing place and amazing time. We are talking about coming back. Stay topped off by SNOW - looked beautiful. Lucky Star Chinese restaurant recommended."
”Wow what a wonderful relaxing experience, fabulous lodge (Woodbell) overlooking a scenic hillside down towards the lake, lots of trees and well kept grounds. One twin room with en suite bathroom with rainfall shower (remember to take a shower cap if you don’t want to wash hair everyday) main bedroom huge bed again en suite bathroom rainfall shower and huge free standing bath, kitchen has most things you need though it mentions using only the microwave dishes provided they are very sparse! But suggest eating out as much as possible as plenty of good pubs to choose from. The rest of the lodge is open plan kitchen diner and sitting room with vaulted ceiling. Even a third toilet near front door so plenty to choose from. Outside the lodge has raised decking that is completely enclosed so great to keep dog or children within the bounds, also plenty of furniture and a fabulous well maintained hot tub which we were lucky enough to enjoy in the afternoons relaxing and catching up with good friends – perfect. Places visited Colchester Castle/shopping centre, The Railway Museum, The Ship, Flatford Mill returning via Dedham which has a craft/gift centre and a fabulous Tea Room lovely staff. The Lodge was immaculate and we enjoyed so much we wish we had booked longer but upon our return home rebooked for next year. Cannot recommend highly enough just worried in case it gets too popular though looks like it may already be. All the staff are so committed, helpful and pleasant making our stay very pleasant. Thank You.”
”We finally stayed at Wakes Hall Lodges in June after looking at it for some time but never got round to booking it, and we were not disappointed. We only wished we had come here before. After some bad experiences with other properties it’s nice to know what you are coming to so we have booked another week in February next year. The lodges are immaculate, spacious and the bathtub is worth a Calender girls photo shoot!! What can I say about the hot tub all year round Perfect!! Roll on Feb!”
”Probably the best self catering facility I’ve ever been in, can’t find anything to criticise at all which is unusual for me, very relaxing, & nice lake for the dog to swim in, immaculate furnishings, and the Wi Fi works, hopefully we’ll be back soon”
”This was our second visit to the lodges over new years staying at the 2 bed Woodbell Lodge. Both times were absolutely perfect, exactly what we needed after a hectic Christmas. Our son loves the hot tub and our dog enjoys the walks in the countryside. The lodge yet again was kept beautifully and has everything there you could possibly need. We will definitely be back and have told friends to visit to see for themselves. Thanks again.”
There are many reasons to be wild about Essex. Just a short distance from the capital, yet worlds apart, over 70% of the county is classified as rural – a peaceful patchwork of market towns, timbered villages and tiny hamlets linked by country lanes where all is quiet and slow.
Wakes Hall Farm is located in countryside only one mile from the village centre of Wakes Colne and Chappel in the Colne Valley. Chappel shares a Post Office, The Swan Inn and Chappel Viaduct – 32 arches spanning a length of approximately 1,136 feet providing the railway line which links trains from London Liverpool Street via Marks Tey.
The nearest railway station is Wakes Colne and Chappel. One stop away is Marks Tey connecting to London/Liverpool Street within 60 minutes. There is an accessible taxi service available Tel: 07777 692785. There is a regular bus service from The Street, Wakes Colne (1.25 miles walking distance) providing an hourly service to Halstead and Colchester (No 88 Bus).
Food & Drink
The Swan Inn, just under the viaduct at Chappel (1.3 miles), serve delicious food. They have their own pizza oven and also serve a most excellent burger. The Swan Inn pride themselves on being dog friendly too. Dogs are welcome in their middle and bottom bar areas, as well as the courtyard and garden outside areas. The main menu runs throughout the bar area and courtyard; whilst wthey run a slightly different garden menu – http://www.swaninn-chappel.com/
Riverside Spice Indian Restaurant, Earls Colne (1.3 miles) have attentive staff and authentic food – http://www.riversidespice.co.uk/
The Lion pub, Earls Colne (2 miles) is dog friendly – https://lionearlscolne.co.uk/
The Five Bells in Colne Engaine (2.6 miles) is dog friendly – https://www.fivebells.net/
The Thatcher’s Arms, Mount Bures (3.5 miles) serves great food and is dog friendly – http://www.thatchersarms.co.uk/
The Barn Brasserie is a lovely restaurant at Great Tey (3.7 miles) – http://www.thebarnbrasserie.co.uk/
West Street Vineyard, Coggeshall (7 miles) has a very good restaurant. They are dog friendly and have outside tables – http://www.weststreetvineyard.co.uk/the-restaurant.htm
A local convenience store at Wakes Colne and Chappel is open 7 days a week. The Co-op is available at Earls Colne. Larger supermarkets include Sainsbury’s at Stanway, Sudbury and Halstead and Waitrose in Sudbury. The Good Food Company is a high end deli in Marks Tey (20 minutes’ drive) and is also well worth a visit. You can also get your shopping delivered to the lodges if you’d prefer to have Waitrose come to you during your stay.
Farm shops include Blackwells in Coggeshall (4 miles), Assington Farm Shop in Sudbury (8 miles) and Greenstead Farm Shop in Greenstead Green (5 miles).
(DF = Dog Friendly)
The East Anglian Railway Museum (DF) in Wakes Colne/Chappel (1.5 miles). Adjacent to one of eastern England’s largest railway viaducts, this open-air museum houses 100 years of railway history with preserved locomotives, signal boxes, railway ephemera and special events and steam days aplenty including Days out with Thomas – http://www.earm.co.uk/
Grange Barn (DF) in Coggeshall (7 miles) is a vaulted, National Trust barn with a timber frame, housing local woodcarving and a tools exhibition plus events. A pleasant 3 mile circular country walk takes you from the Barn, via the Essex Way and along the River Blackwater footpath to Paycocke's House – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/grange-barn
Paycockes, Coggeshall (7 miles) is a National Trust Property built 1509/10. It is an attractive half-timbered merchant’s house and visitors can stroll around the lovely arts and crafts garden – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/paycockes-house-and-garden
Colchester Zoo (8 miles) has some of the best cat and primate collections in Europe. Visit Orangutan Forest or get closer to the Zoo’s Chimpanzees at Chimp World. The Zoo received special recognition for its work on projects across the board – https://www.colchester-zoo.com/
Colchester Castle Museum, Colchester (9 miles) takes you through 2000 years of some of the most important events in British History. It has a range of regular events – https://cimuseums.org.uk/visit/venues/colchester-castle/
The Colne Valley Railway (DF) at Castle Hedingham (10 miles). Railway history comes alive at this popular attraction with its steam and diesel rides, railway sheds and working signal box. A post office carriage, model railway, miniature train ride and museum, together with special event days and a woodland trail, add to the fun – http://www.colnevalleyrailway.co.uk/
Bourne Mill (DF) (National Trust), Colchester (10 miles). Pretty as a picture, this charming folly was converted into a watermill in the 19th century. The grounds are perfect for picnics, while a boardwalk, pond dipping and garden games promise to keep children entertained – www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bourne-mill
The Tiptree Visitor Centre (11.5 miles) offers farm tours (April-September), a tea room and jam shop – https://www.tiptree.com/
Museum of Power (DF*), Langford, Maldon (19 miles). Steam, water, nuclear, muscle – everything you want to know about powered energy is housed in this innovative museum set in a former pumping station. The grounds also include a miniature railway and model village (limited opening). *Dogs on leads welcome – www.museumofpower.org.uk
Combined Military Services Museum, Maldon (20 miles). One of the country’s premier military museums, and winner of the Museum of the Year Award for Essex, this fascinating museum tells the story of the British fighting force from the English Civil War to the present day. http://www.cmsm.co.uk/
The Stow Maries aerodrome (DF*) near Maldon (30 miles) is fascinating. It was from here that the Royal Flying Corps launched its assaults on German bombers headed for the capital during World War I. The only site of its kind to survive intact, the ramshackle buildings have now been lovingly converted into a museum, the silence that pervades them making for a poignant visit. *Dogs on leads welcome – http://www.stowmaries.org.uk/
Mountfitchet Castle (31 miles) is not a castle in the stones and mortar sense. This is a fabulous reconstruction of a Norman motte and bailey, complete with authentic village buildings – children will love the ducking stall not to mention the gallows with its gently swinging corpse! Included in the entry price is a ticket to the House on the Hill Toy Museum, a captivating collection of one man’s love affair with toys. There’s over 80,000 of them, including toys from every era, meaning the whole family will enjoy it – www.mountfitchetcastle.com
ARTISTS & GALLERIES
Rambling country houses, historic landmarks, striking contemporary galleries – all combine to make Essex a truly memorable place to soak up centuries of the county’s creative spirit.
Set in parkland sweeping down to Colchester’s Roman wall, this iconic golden-clad gallery (9 miles) features a changing programme of exhibitions by contemporary international artists as well as creative events and activities for the whole family, including films and workshops – http://firstsite.uk/
Next door to firstsite, this beautiful listed Georgian building is home to Colchester School of Art’s public gallery and showcases a range of contemporary art. It also includes an excellent café surrounded by a walled garden (9 miles).
GAINSBOROUGH’S HOUSE & ART GALLERY
This museum and art gallery is in Sudbury (10.5 miles) at the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough. It shows a large collection of his paintings, drawings and prints as well as temporary exhibitions. A beautiful garden is at the heart of Gainsborough’s House. Check out this link for its latest exhibitions and events – http://www.gainsborough.org/
WIVENHOE ARTISTS COLONY
Wivenhoe (13 miles) with its quiet quayside, was an artists’ colony in the 1950s. Painter Francis Bacon and photographer John Deakin both made their homes here, while later names have included primitive painter Ernie Turner and James Dodds, famous for his linocuts.
Lit by constantly changing East Anglian skies, the county’s rolling rural landscapes and beautiful fretted coastline have long been an inspiration to generations of artists. Most famous is John Constable whose rustic idylls are forever associated with the gentle Stour Valley north of Colchester.
The village of Flatford (18.5 miles) lies in the heart of Dedham Vale and was the inspiration for many of Constable’s famous works. It remains unchanged to this day and you can still explore the white cottage (which belonged to Constable’s neighbour, Willy Lott); Flatford Mill, which was owned by the Constable family; and Bridge Cottage, which houses an exhibition of Constable’s work.
Or set off on a lazy row through meadows grazed by silent cattle and drink in scenes little changed since he painted them. The rowing boat companies in Flatford and Dedham are dog friendly - your pooch is allowed on your boat under your own responsibility. Two signposted walking trails also allow you to get the most out of your day or you can join an organised walk.
Just upstream, colourwashed Dedham Vale (15 miles) is another of the celebrated paintings by John Constable, which depicts a scene from what is now the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You can explore this stunning landscape on foot via one of the many Dedham walks, following the valley through picturesque villages such as Flatford, Dedham, Stratford St Mary and Stoke-by-Nayland.
Alternatively, you could see Constable Country from the water, by renting or boarding a boat at one of several places along the River Stour.
THE MUNNINGS ART MUSEUM
Dedham (15 miles) is the setting for the Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum. Best known for his equestrian portraits, Sir Alfred Munnings lived in this large country house for 40 years. Restored today, it contains a superb collection of his paintings, including many of the rural scenes he loved, together with loans of other artists’ works – https://www.munningsmuseum.org.uk/
GALLERY IN THE GARDEN
Set in the Orangery in the beautiful 18th-century walled gardens at Saling Hall, the Gallery in the Garden (18 miles) showcases the work of upcoming contemporary British artists and craftsmen, together with regular exhibitions by well-known names – http://galleryinthegarden.co.uk/
VINEYARDS & WINE TASTING
(DF = Dog Friendly)
Did you know that Essex is one of the top wine-producing regions in the country?
West Street Vineyard, Coggeshall (DF) (7 miles) is a very good vineyard and restaurant. Vineyard walk and wine tours can also be booked for groups of two or more – http://www.weststreetvineyard.co.uk/
Dedham Vale Vineyard (DF) (10.5 miles) is set in 40 acres of glorious rolling English countryside, on the edge of the Stour Valley in the Dedham Vale. The vineyard produces six styles of award winning wines, and the Estate offers its proprietary cider, signature fruit liqueurs, tours, and a beautiful wedding venue. Dogs on leads are welcome to accompany owners exploring the trails around the Vineyard, the perfect starting point to explore the Essex Way and beautiful walks through the Stour Valley – https://www.dedhamvalevineyard.com/
The Wine Company in Langham (12 miles) boasts six generations of experience choosing wine. The finest place to awaken your senses is at one of the regular wine tasting evenings which are a must for any wine lover, from beginning to connoisseur – http://www.mrwheelerwine.com/
Carter’s Vineyards, Boxted (10 miles) – take a tour around the vineyards rounded off with a tasting of their award-winning wines – you’ll soon appreciate why.
CASTLES, HOUSES & GARDENS
Marks Hall Gardens & Arboretum (DF*), near Coggeshall (6 miles). Choose from a range of trails at this 200-acre estate, set around a formal lake. With an 18th century walled garden, exotic trees, play area and leafy woodland walks, it’s a beautiful place to witness the changing seasons. *There are over 5 miles of paths to walk with your 4-legged friends, although dogs are not allowed in the Arboretum – http://www.markshall.org.uk/
Hedingham Castle & Gardens (DF*) (10 miles). Clamber up the spiral staircase at Hedingham Castle’s sturdy Norman Keep to the Minstrel’s Gallery, and feast on the mighty Banqueting Hall spread out below. Or visit during a special event, from a medieval joust to Shakespeare under the stars, and drink in the historic backdrop. In addition, the beautiful gardens and wooded grounds have been painstakingly restored over the past few years, making them the perfect spot for a summer picnic. *Dogs are welcome, except on major event days, but must be kept on a lead at all times, and will not be allowed into the Castle. – https://www.hedinghamcastle.co.uk/. The Colne Valley Railway (DF) is also at Castle Hedingham – http://www.colnevalleyrailway.co.uk/
Layer Marney Tower (DF*) (11 miles) is one of Essex’s most unusual buildings, looming above the Essex landscape south of Colchester. With its striking Tudor gatehouse, the tallest in England, this imposing structure set in beautiful gardens was originally planned to outshine Hampton Court Palace. A circular trail leads through the rare breeds farm while there’s also a varied programme of events. *Dogs on leads welcome - they are not allowed in the tower. In addition to the house and gardens there are some lovely walks about the estate which you and your dog should enjoy – www.layermarneytower.co.uk
Green Island Gardens, Ardleigh (13 miles). This beautifully-designed 20-acre garden is brimming with unusual plants. Spring highlights include the camellias and azaleas in the woodland garden, carpeted with flowers – www.greenislandgardens.co.uk
The Beth Chatto Gardens, Elmstead Market (14 miles) is a triumph of planting in every condition, from the jewel-rich colours of the drought-resistant Gravel Garden to the Water Garden with its towering gunnera – http://www.bethchatto.co.uk/
Melford Hall and Gardens (DF*) (NT), Long Melford, Sudbury (14 miles). The hall also has Beatrix Potter connections. *Dogs are not allowed in the hall but are allowed in the surrounding parklands – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/melford-hall
Kentwell Hall, Sudbury (16 miles) offers a variety of events throughout the year alongside the stunning gardens -http://www.kentwell.co.uk/
Hylands House (DF*) (26 miles) nestles in the countryside just outside Chelmsford. Set in over 550 acres of parkland, best known as the setting for the annual V Festival, this beautifully-restored Grade II–listed mansion, open Sundays and Mondays during the season, comes as a surprise to many visitors, with its sumptuously gilded rooms and exquisite gardens. *Dogs are not allowed in the house but are allowed within Hylands Estate. There are some areas within the estate where dogs are asked to be kept on lead, for example the Pleasure Gardens, and there is a dog friendly courtyard next to the Stables Café for dog owners to have refreshments – www.chelmsford.gov.uk/hylands
The Gardens of Easton Lodge (DF*), Great Dunmow (27 miles). This idyllic Grade II-listed haven was designed by Harold Peto for renowned hostess and mistress of Edward VII, the Countess of Warwick, and has been partially restored to its former glory. *Dogs on leads welcome –www.eastonlodge.co.uk
RHS Garden Hyde Hall (28 miles). This stunningly-planted garden, with its sweeping panoramas and big open skies, is one of four RHS gardens in the country and is packed with interest. An excellent programme of holiday activities make it a great day out for both plant lovers and families – https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/hyde-hall
ARTS, CRAFTS & ANTIQUES
Dedham Art and Craft Centre (15 miles) and Blake House Craft Centre (16.5 miles) offer a range of craftsmen and specialist shops in beautiful historic settings selling everything from original art to handmade jewellery.
Over 14,000 listed buildings also make the country a renowned hunting ground for lovers of antiques. Browse the antique shops in Coggeshall and Long Melford, or potter around the Halstead Antiques Centre, which straddles the river in Halstead. Debden Barns (30 miles) is housed in a 17th century barn outside Saffron Walden or, on a larger scale, hop over to Battlesbridge (30 miles), the biggest antiques centre in Essex, housing over 80 dealers.
TOWNS, VILLAGES & SHOPPING
COGGESHALL (6.5 miles). Enjoy a history-filled day in the pastel-washed village of Coggeshall, bristling with antique shops – it was a location in the Lovejoy TV series. It’s packed with medieval and Tudor buildings including the ornate Paycocke’s merchant’s house (NT) and 13th century monastic Grange Barn (NT). Market day is Thursday.
COLCHESTER (9 miles) can be reached in just under 20 minutes and offers a wide variety of shops including a Fenwicks. There is a wide range of activities for all ages from Colchester Zoo to the Roman Castle.
CASTLE HEDINGHAM (10 miles). You can see Hedingham Castle for miles around, its sturdy Norman keep, the best-preserved in England, standing guard over the village. Climb the spiral staircase and soak up the atmosphere and stroll around the pretty village. Nearby is the Colne Valley Railway, where you can enjoy a ride on a restored locomotive.
SUDBURY (10.5 miles) is a pretty and ancient market town (market day Thursday and Saturday). Well known for its natural beauty, Thomas Gainsborough was born here and the surrounding countryside inspired much of his work. There are a wide variety of shops on offer (some may strike familiar from the Lovejoy TV series). Attractions include Gainsborough’s House and The Quay Theatre.
FREEPORT SHOPPING OUTLET (11.6 miles) in Braintree offers over 85 stores with up to 60% off all year round so you can hunt for a bargain or two! – https://freeport-braintree.com/
LONG MELFORD (13 miles) has the longest high street in Suffolk with antique shops, cafes, boutiques, restaurants and Tudor mansions. There are several tea rooms and pubs that welcome dogs too. Melford Hall and Gardens is nearby.
LAVENHAM (16 miles) is considered England’s finest complete medieval village with over 350 timber framed medieval houses and its magnificent church of St Peter & St Paul. Located in some of these medieval buildings you will find delightful shops, art galleries, tea rooms, good pubs and a number of Michelin starred gourmet restaurants.
FINCHINGFIELD (17 miles) is the most photographed village in England, appearing in films and TV programmes. It’s the perfect place to bring along a picnic and drink in the views. The combination of duck pond and village green presided over by colour-washed cottages, windmill and medieval church, lend this quintessentially English village an unbeatable series of vistas.
CHELMSFORD (23 miles) is under 40 minutes’ drive time and has a first class shopping centre including a new John Lewis.
TOLLGATE Retail Park at Stanway (6 miles) is a large out of town retail park.
THEATRES & CINEMAS
Mercury Theatre, Colchester (9 miles) is a 25 minute drive from the lodges – https://www.mercurytheatre.co.uk/
Quay Theatre, Sudbury (10.5 miles) is a stunning venue with a variety of productions – http://www.quaysudbury.com/
There is a Multiplex Cinema (Cineworld) at Freeport, Braintree (11.6 miles).
As well as multiple glorious walks through tranquil countryside on site, there are many walks on offer in the beautiful Colne Valley, including woodland walks at Chalkney Woods and Arger Fen, famed for its bluebells (Suffolk Wildlife Trust). Check out this link for some inspiration – http://www.colnevalley.com/walks.php
Alternatively drink in the watery views on the riverside path from Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester to the quay at Wivenhoe, a pretty fishing town that has inspired a wealth of contemporary artists and writers including James Dodds and Martin Newell.
Bobbits Hole Nature Reserve, Dovercourt (28 miles) is a small wooded reserve, complete with boardwalk and beehives. Set around a lake it is a valuable haven for wildlife including seabirds and kingfishers – www.harwich-society.co.uk
Enjoy some relaxed fishing in the well-stocked two-acre private lake on site. It is well stocked with carp and rudd and has plenty of places for keen fishermen and women to set up their tackle. To fish on the private lake at the lodges you need to have a fishing licence and to bring your own fishing equipment.
Fishing is also available at the nearby Chigboro Fisheries, a 53 acre complex of lakes that cater for both trout and coarse anglers. For details please call 01621 857638 – http://www.chigborofisheries.co.uk/
CLAY PIGEON SHOOTING
Although there are a number of places where this is available within the area, the Fennes Shooting School in Braintree (10.5 miles) does come recommended – http://www.fennesclays.co.uk/
Fletchers Farm Riding School in Fordham (4.5 miles) offers a variety of courses and activity days, suitable for adults and children from five years upwards – http://fletchersfarm.co.uk/
Colchester Riding School (10 miles) offers lessons and hacking for all ages and abilities – http://www.colchesterridingschool.co.uk/
Park Farm Riding School, Little Horkesley (7 miles) provides a selection of horses and ponies to suit novice and more experienced riders – http://www.pfrc.co.uk/
Twinstead Riding School (7 miles) offers lessons from complete beginners to the more advanced, including those just wanting to come and enjoy a ride in the countryside – http://www.twinsteadridingschool.co.uk/
There are a variety of courses within close proximity including two at Earls Colne – The Essex Golf and Country Club (3.5 miles)
[http://www.theessexgolfandcountryclub.com/] and Colne Valley Golf Club (2.4 miles) [http://www.colnevalleygolfclub.co.uk/]
For a round with a view head for Stoke by Nayland Golf Club (10.5 miles), with its two championship courses set in glorious Constable Country.
Crowne Plaza Five Lakes Resort (14 miles). With its two contrasting courses used for championship events, it’s the perfect place to relax with friends over a friendly game.
ESSEX DISCOVERY COAST
The longest of any county in England, Essex’s coastline stretches for over 300 miles, each mile as diverse as the county itself.
With its zinging floral displays, watersports and quirky road train, Clacton-on-Sea (26 miles) is a family favourite and home to a prestigious Blue Flag as well as Clacton Pier, crammed with rides and amusements. The pier is the perfect spot from which to spectate one of the county’s most popular events, the Clacton Air Show (August), with its daring aerobatic displays and stalls. Quieter Frinton and Walton also boast beautiful beaches and a pier and are close by.
If you like your seaside with a dash of history, Harwich’s narrow medieval streets (27 miles), designed to prevent the winds blowing through the town, are crammed with over 200 listed buildings. This maritime town has played a vital role in our national history. Stroll along to Ha’penny Pier, with its shifting vista of vessels, and follow the Maritime Trail, past attractions like the Redoubt Fort and Maritime Museum, housed in the Low Lighthouse, to find out more.
Alternatively head for the historic seafaring town of Maldon (19 miles), home to the iconic Thames Sailing Barges, which once ferried goods along the east coast to London. Once a fleet of over 2,000, today only a handful survive. A cruise from Hythe Quay allows you to fully appreciate the beauty of these fine old vessels while drinking in the estuary views. Maldon also boasts several fascinating museums (see above) plus the Promenade Park, perfect for outdoor play on a hot summer’s day and you can round off your day with fish and chips on the promenade.
Try out too some of the county’s other coastal culinary delights. Shellfish is a particular speciality, harvested from the rich belt of reclaimed marshes and mudflats that creep along the county’s shoreline. Head for West Mersea (17 miles) where you can tuck into a tray of oysters at one of the island’s popular seafood bars.
Pantomime at Mercury Theatre, Colchester (9 miles).
Essex Game and Country Show, Cressing Temple Barns, Braintree (Late March) (12.5 miles).
Chappel Winter Beer Festival, East Anglian Railway Museum (1.5 miles).
The Great Dedham Vale Vineyard Easter Egg Hunt (10.5 miles).
Maldon Mud Race, a wild and wacky sprint through the thick mud of the Blackwater estuary (19 miles).
English Wine Week, Dedham Vale Vineyard (10.5 miles).
Classic Car Rally, Dedham Vale Vineyard (10.5 miles).
Colchester Food and Drink Festival, Lower Castle Park, Colchester (9 miles).
Colchester’s Medieval Oyster Fayre, Lower Castle Park, Colchester (9 miles).
Essex Flower and Garden Show, Cressing Temple Barns, Braintree (12.5 miles).
Thaxted Morris Men Weekend of Dance (23 miles).
Classic Car Day, Layer Marney Tower (11 miles).
English Wine Week, Dedham Vale Vineyard (10.5 miles).
Essex Festival of Food and Drink, Cressing Temple Barns (12.5 miles).
Clacton Air Show , Clacton-on-Sea (25 miles).
RHS Flower Show at Hyde Hall Gardens (28 miles).
Cider & Wine Festival, Dedham Vale Vineyard (10.5 miles).
Classic Cars, Hedingham Castle (10 miles).
Dredging the First Oyster, Colchester (First Friday) (9 miles).
English Wine Festival, New Hall Vineyards (23 miles).
Chappel Summer Beer Festival, East Anglian Railway Museum (1.5 miles).
Halloween events at Colchester Castle Museum (9 miles).
Halloween events at Colne Valley Railway, Castle Hedingham (11 miles).
Oktoberfest, Castle Park, Colchester (9 miles).
Fright nights at Colchester Zoo (9 miles).
Halloween at Hedingham, Colne Valley Railway, Castle Hedingham (11 miles).
Colchester Oyster Feast, Colchester (9 miles).
Colchester Film Festival at Firstsite, Colchester (9 miles).
Starlight nights at Colchester Zoo (9 miles).
The Beth Chatto Christmas Fayre, Beth Chatto Gardens (14 miles).
Pantomime at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester (9 miles).
Pantomime at Mercury Theatre, Colchester (9 miles).
Steam with Santa, Colne Valley Railway, Castle Hedingham (11 miles).
The Magic of Christmas at Colchester Zoo (weekends) (9 miles).
Christmas Starlight nights at Colchester Zoo (9 miles).
Meet Santa at his Colchester Castle Grotto (9 miles).
Colchester Christmas Fair, High Street, Colchester (9 miles).
Pantomime at the Quay Theatre, Sudbury (mid December – January 1) (10.5 miles).
Things you need to know about Woodbell Lodge if you’re thinking of booking a holiday there: