Essex is not just Bluewater shopping centre, the Dartford Tunnel and cheeky boys! In fact, most land is home to pretty villages and beaches (after Devon, this county has the longest coast in England at over 350 miles – along with the world’s longest pier at Southend). You’ll even find hidden spots like Mersea Island, a lovely little holiday resort (though like Holy Island in Northumberland, be sure to check the tide times otherwise you may get stranded). Inland, Manningtree (located on the River Stour – its name means ‘many trees’) is the smallest town in England, the local tea rooms named after Mistley Towers, the remnants of an 18th century church.
Essex has two large seagrass meadows, home to a flowering plant eaten by sea turtles (‘ocean lawnmowers’) and endangered sea horses (often killed for souvenirs and traditional medicine and some even die of shock in aquariums, due to flash photography). A main cause of damage to seagrass is anchoring boats. If you own or sail a boat, download this free guide on how to moor boats without damage (advanced mooring systems has developed mid-water floats that elevate chains from seabeds, leaving seagrass undisturbed).