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What To See And Do In The Rochford District

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The Rochford District has its own charm and is richly steeped in history and enchantment with a proud past and a bright future

Within the 65 square miles of Rochford District, you can enjoy some tranquillity in a bird lovers’ paradise, indulge in a hearty lunch at the various country pubs, learn about links to the Boleyn family and to Charles Darwin, or hear exciting tales of smuggling and local folklore. In all, there are more than 200 sites of archaeological interest, 14 Ancient Woodlands and several nature reserves waiting for you to explore.

Rochford has some unique historical sites you can visit, including the award-winning Rayleigh Windmill, with four floors open to explore and amazing views of the district and beyond. Why don’t you try your hand at milling flour and find out more about the Windmill’s 214 year history from the brilliant and enthusiastic volunteers on hand.

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Next to the Windmill is the site of a Norman Castle called ‘Rayleigh Mount’, a castle that was also mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book. Although the castle is long gone, the mount still offers breathtaking views of the district.

There are various historic listed buildings within the district, including the Old House in Rochford, Rochford Hall (one time home of the Boleyn family) and the Dutch Cottage. It’s certainly not every day that you get the chance to see an octagonal house! It takes its name from the association of this type of house with the 17th century Dutch immigrants who constructed many of the sea walls of the south Essex coast.

Did you know that you can also get married in two of the district’s Grade II Listed buildings? Rayleigh Windmill and the Old House both host intimate ceremonies, perfect for your nearest and dearest, each with something different to offer as well as private gardens for photographs of the occasion. 

The Mill Arts & Events Centre in Rayleigh hosts a range of events, including weekly exercise classes, craft fairs, performances and parties. In August, the Battle of the Bands continues every Friday evening; socialise with some salsa dancing on Saturday 5 August; attend the monthly Folk & Bespoke Craft fair on Saturday 25 August, and a Music for the Brain event takes place on Saturday 19 August for those living with dementia and their carers.

Recreation needs are fully catered for with three golf courses in the district, and sports centres in Hawkwell, Rayleigh and Great Wakering. Sailing enthusiasts can also find much scope on the Roach and Crouch rivers, and there is a marina at Wallasea Island where you can take a charter (charterdiscovery.co.uk) and do a spot of seal watching and view the fantastic estuary and its wildlife.

Large areas of public open spaces are located close to the towns of Rayleigh, Hockley and Rochford in the west, within the Upper Roach Valley, including Hockley Woods and Cherry Orchard Jubilee Country Park. Such open spaces provide accessible, quality leisure opportunities which are all family friendly and form an ideal canvas for keen photographers and ramblers.

There is national recognition of the final resting place of HMS Beagle, a ship of significant historical importance, which is off the coast of the rural village of Paglesham in Rochford, and its associated connections with Charles Darwin. 

The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project is the largest conservation and engineering scheme in the UK and Europe, being delivered by the RSPB. The island is geographically adjacent and offers a unique perspective of the final resting place of HMS Beagle at Paglesham. 

Further afield are the outlying towns and villages, several of which are ancient settlements mentioned in the Domesday Book. Some of the villages are known for its smuggling connections; Hullbridge is closely linked to smuggling with smugglers trying to evade the watchful eyes of revenue men by dumping bottles of brandy, and this area is still known as Brandy Hole. Although not smuggled now, Great Wakering is home to a local brewery since 2010, and welcomes tours to locals and visitors alike, sampling their award-winning real ales (georgesbrewery.com).

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The Dutch Cottage

With the prestigious London Southend Airport and a railway line to London Liverpool Street on the doorstep, connecting the district to other parts of the UK, Europe and beyond, visiting is hassle free. Whilst you’re here you can buy some great mementos from independent traders at the weekly markets, Rochford Square on a Tuesday and Rayleigh High Street on a Wednesday.

So, whether you’re seeking natural beauty, historical treasures or a taste of authentic local life, the Rochford District is a destination that should be on every traveller’s radar. Plan your visit today and immerse yourself in the wonders that await in this enchanting corner of Essex.

To find out more, visit rochford.gov.uk/leisure or visitessex.com/explore/destinations/rochford

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