This article was found in Progress, the monthly magazine of Romford Congregational Church, March 1949. It was written by the editor and choirmaster Mr T. J. Dove of Oaklands Avenue.
Are you a creature of moods? I'm afraid I am. I'm fond of listening to the broadcast at 1.10pm on Sundays entitled "Country Magazine" but get a bit peeved because only on about one occasion has there been a reference to Essex (unless of course I've missed the others!)
As an Essex man bred and born, whose parents were Essex people bred and born, I have a great love for the county. It must be admitted it has not the grandeur of North Wales, the Lake District, or the Highlands of Scotland, nor the beauty of Devon and Somerset. While the coast line has none of the ruggedness of Cornwall. We have, however, many spots that are well worth a visit, and claims in the county equalling those of any other.
If you want quiet beauty what about a walk or ride through South Weald and the side roads to the Brentwood-Ongar Road? If you want woods where is there anything to beat Eppng Forest (far superior to the New Forest.) Epping Forest was in existence hundred of years before New Forest. While the latter boasts the William Rufus stone, showing the spot where that king was killed, Epping Forest still has the trenches where Queen Boadicea made her last line of resistance. Then, of course, there is Queen Elizabeth's hunting lodge, now a museum and well worth anybody's inspection.
The view from High Beech is lovely. Many thousands visit the Forest every week, but it is just possible, that, like so many other things, being on your own doorstep, we do not appreciate the beauty. Yet spend a good deal of money to "admire" places not more beautiful! From High Beech the run down the hill to Waltham Abbey to see the old church is worth anyones money. (Incidentally what does Waltham mean? There is Waltham Abbey, Little Waltham and Great Waltham, the two latter being a good many miles from the former, but how did the name Waltham come about?)
Now cross Nazing Common and go up into West Essex and see the beautiful country there. This will disillusion those people who have only seen that part of Essex adjoining the river and refer to it as being "flat and uninteresting." What about the old world town of Thaxted with its wonderful church, and then back through Dunmow, noted for its famous trials where a flitch of bacon was awarded to the couple who could prove, to the satisfaction of judge and jury, that they had lived for a year and a day in complete happiness without quarrels!!
Back through the Rodings to Ongar, bearing left to the Chelmsford road and to see the two churches side by side at Willingale, and hear various stories as to how they came about (none of which ever seem to agree).
I could go on for hours talking about the lovely spots in Essex; If they are not lovely why is it that an artist like Constable found such pleasure in them, and one of the leading, if not the leading artist of to-day, makes his home at Dedham.
Then our rivers; nowhere in the world are there better oysters than those known as Pyfleets, spatted and grown just off the mouth of the Colne, and haven't Brightlingsea yachtsmen always been the leading men in the yachting world. The days of big racing yachts are probably over because people are now unable to afford them, but prior to the war Brightlingsea men were always in the forefront of manning them.
Wasn't the Earl of Essex a suitor for Queen Elizabeth's hand, and didn't she make her finest oration at Tilbury? Naturally, she had Essex men well to the forefront on that occasion.
Even I can remember the time when the only county to beat an Australian touring side was Essex; that the world's fastest bowler is an Essex man, still alive and hale and hearty, and when Essex dismissed the much vaunted Yorkshire for a paltry 33 runs!!!
I even remember the time when Romford was a dear old country town and it is not so many years ago when certain other members of our church joined me in helping to unload a pear tree that overhung the path in South Street!!!!
Yes. I'm an Essex man and proud of the county, and if anybody wants to "argue" about it they have only to look up the front page of this magazine to find the address!!!!!
Broadcast! Huh! I'd tell 'em.
The following was added in the May 1949 issue of Progress
So many people have referred to the article in the March issue under this heading that I am tempted to add a few further features. Before doing so however thanks are due to the gentleman who brought round a tourist guide, entitled "Welcome to Essex." It is published by the "Essex Chronicle," Chelmsford, and is well worth the 1/-.
Readers will recall I mentioned Thaxted church. This guide also gives the information that in medieval times Thaxted used to be the Sheffield of the locality. What this means exactly I do not profess to know, but as soon as opportunity affords must find out something more about it.
Then there is a mention of Pleshey. As a youngster I was taken there and up the "Mount," where there used to be a castle. This is mentioned in Shakespeare's "King Richard II." A legend has it that a tunnel ran for several miles from Pleshey, but my grandmother said no one had been through it for many years as it was feared the air had become foul. If any reader knows anything of the existence of this tunnel it would make interesting reading.
It was my intention to add other places of interest this month until I looked at the tress and hedgerows and then, naturally, it was Epping Forest, that came into view. One may admire the Wye Valley, the Lake District, the Dales of Derbyshire, the moors of Yorkshire and Scotland, the mountains of Scotland and Wales, the red earth of Devon or the cliff scenery of Cornwall, but if you have never been through Epping Forest in spring, then you don't know what real beauty is.
Anyone interested in botany can find wonderful specimens there, but it is not necessary to go on an expedition of this nature to enjoy oneself.
One has only to appreciate colour to see the most wonderful collection of varying tints of green it is possible to find, all blending and making the perfect picture. Did I say blending? No, that would be wrong. The one that will upset it will be the green of some ladies' frock, that compared with nature's colouring, will look horrible!
However, more about Essex on another occasion
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon