With excellent transport links, there’s no reason why you can’t head to this Essex town to enjoy beautiful outdoor spots, history and some early festive entertainment
Brentwood offers something for everyone, particularly families with a range of parks and a wonderful new splash pad and adventure play at King George’s Playing Fields. A range of walks ensures it is possible to visit the villages that make up Brentwood including West Horndon, Herongate, Doddinghurst, Hutton, Ingatestone, Mountnessing, Blackmore, Navestock, Kelvedon Hatch, Stondon Massey and South Weald.
Home to innovation and unprecedented woodland, nearly 90% of the borough is woodland or green space, much as it was in the time of the Romans who created the London Road on their way through to Colchester and Henry VIII who used to hunt across this land. From the high point at Warley, it is still possible to see the ever-changing London skyline ahead with its array of famous buildings a view that is only possible from here.
Known for its links with the Armed Forces, many of the buildings of the Essex Regiment reflect this connection, with the Ford Motor Company making the old Army base its new headquarters in the 1950s. As times change so too has the purpose of the post-modern building which has undergone a radical transformation into luxury apartments with famous Ford cars still visible in the reception area.
Travelling through the borough is a constant delight with the plethora of trees offering a barometer on which season is ending and which is beginning. Shenfield Common is an open space where each year the Strawberry Fair takes place celebrating local strawberries and cream, of course, entertaining children and adults with rides, and a whole range of local produce and food.
All the villages have their own hubs of community activity particularly in the lead up to Christmas with local shops making the most of the opportunity to celebrate and share their unique offerings. Ingatestone has its own Christmas Fair on 11 December, which sees people from all over Essex come to take part in this traditional event, enjoy a glass of wine or a speciality coffee while perusing the independent stores for ideal gifts. This is preceded by the Artisan Market on 12 November.
Lighting Up Brentwood takes place on 26 November, where around 15,000 people come to see the street entertainment, Father Christmas, dance troupes and the light switch on. From here many make their way to Crown Street, one of the town’s oldest lanes, which is renowned for its array of charming independent shops. Brentwood’s charity shops support many local causes, including Saint Francis Hospice and the Dogs Trust, and are a must-visit according to many Instagram Influencers who visit regularly to share their purchases, bargains and tips.
With the Merrymeade Tea Rooms hosted in an historic Edwardian building offering afternoon teas on vintage china, from here it is easy to walk to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, which is home to more than 500 rescued animals, and serves vegan food at its café. Old McDonald’s Farm has expanded over the years to offer everything for families from petting zoos to children’s rides.
Brentwood in particular has come to epitomise the Essex entrepreneurial spirit with many choosing the borough for new businesses, with recent openings including cafes, an electric bike shop, speciality dog grooming venues and the traditional high street brands.
Miss Willmott’s Gardens at Warley Place are maintained, although the main grand house is now just ruins. At one time 140 gardeners were employed by this innovative woman who is still seen as one of the greatest gardeners of her time. The unfussy nature of the garden and the spectacular panorama created by blankets of crocuses, bluebells and daffodils is a wonder to behold. Gardening and exploring the natural surroundings offers a free and healthy way to explore the area with farm shops open most of the year providing local produce, food and lifestyle wares. Calcott Hall Farm opens daily with fruit, seasonal vegetables, fresh baked cakes, eggs and meat available.
For entertainment, The Brentwood Theatre features local and touring productions of well-known musicals and dramatic plays as well as their popular annual Christmas show. In June the borough celebrates local talent with its own Art Trail, where artists show their work at venues and shops for all to admire. The Brentwood Centre is home to national sport events, thanks to the close connection with Barry Hearn’s Matchroom Sport company which is based in the borough, including the 2022 BetVictor English Pool Open in December.
Throughout Brentwood the play areas in the parks have undergone a huge £7m renovation allowing families to meet and play on some of the most inclusive and modern play equipment around free of charge. During the summer months the Family Fun Days offer a host of entertaining rides, bouncy castles, Punch & Judy shows for free and for adults there are two municipal golf courses including Hartswood, which is an esteemed course that wanders through the native woodland in spectacular fashion.
Located just outside of London, but with fast train services from Brentwood station and Shenfield station which now includes the new QE11 line Brentwood to the City, Brentwood is brilliantly connected for a day trip or a longer stay.