In the area around Stansted airport are plenty of picturesque little villages. Since we've moved in the region a few years ago and had plenty of opportunities to see many of them and most would be worth visit if you like chocolate box cottages, old timber framed buildings and impressive churches.
The two villages I believe are not to be missed are Thaxted and Coggeshall. Both have a recorded history that goes back to the Domesday Book, probably much further and can be reached easily from the A120 that connects Stansted airport with Colchester.
The 181ft high spire of its impressive St John the Baptist Church can be seen from far away. It sits on a hill and it seems strange that such a small village is home to a church as grand as this one. St John the Baptist is nicknamed "The cathedral of Essex" and once you've seen it you can understand why. It is really magnificent, from the inside as much as from the outside.
The medieval guildhall, built by the Guild of Cutlers six hundred years ago, overlooks the High Street of the village and is probably the quirkiest building here. The timber framed hall is unfortunately not as easy to be visited from the inside as the church, if you want to have a look at the interior you'll need to come on a weekend.
Follow Stoney Lane from the guildhall and, after a visit to the church, pass from the almshouses. From here you can already see the majestic windmill of the village. Like the guildhall it is only open on weekends, there is a small museum inside, but you can always sit on one of the benches and enjoy the view or continue to follow the path and talk a walk through the fields.
Situated along the old Roman road Stane Street Coggeshall is home to around 300 listed buildings. Some of the businesses in town have been in their premises since centuries, like the White Hart Hotel or the Chapel Inn pub. The village was famous for its antiques shops for a while but nowadays there are only 1 or 2 antique shops left. Still, it is well worth to take a walk through the market town.
Grange Barn is the oldest still existing building here. It dates back to 13th century, when it was built by the Cistercians to serve the nearby abbey. There isn't much left of the abbey but the barn has been restored and can be visited. The only remaining bit of the Abbey itself, St. Nicholas' Chapel, can be found around a quarter mile away from the barn. It was used as a barn for a while but has been restored during the 18th century. The church cannot be visited from the inside unless you call the Parish church St. Peter-ad-Vincula and try to arrange a viewing.
St Peter-ad-Vincula stands of the site of a much older Norman church. Situated on a hill the church towers over the village. It was heavily damaged during WW2 but has been restored to its former glory.
Paycockes is a 16th century timber framed merchant's house, built by one of the rich wool traders of the village. It does not look incredibly beautiful and quirky from the outside but also is famous for its wood panelling and carvings. Combined entrance tickets for Grange Barn and Paycockes are available; both are only a short walk away from each other.
The clock house overlooks the centre of the town. Parts of the building date back to the 15th century, the clock tower is a later addition. It has served many purposes during the century, including being a school for underprivileged children.
Today it is home to a wonderful tea house. They server scrumptious home made cakes and sandwiches, if it is warm enough you can sit in the walled garden. Perfect to take a break !
There are many public footpaths in the area which offer plenty of possibilities for walks through the countryside. Golf courses and other recreational facilities are available in various locations around, for shopping visit Braintree Freeport.
Colchester, the capital of the Roman Britain, does not only offer plenty of shopping facilities but also a castle, zoo and several museums to visit.
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