The TV spotlight is shining on the Essex coast next month. Hollywood stars Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston are starring in The Essex Serpent, launched on Apple TV on May 13.
The series is based on the bestselling novel of the same name, written by Essex-born author Sarah Perry. It follows Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes), a widow who arrives in Colchester, where rumours of a mythical serpent roaming the marshes near the River Blackwater are rife.
When convinced to visit the fictional coastal parish of Aldwinter, she meets the vicar, William Ransome (Tom Hiddleston), who is as suspicious of the rumours as Cora. Together they set out to find the beast and become entangled in an intense relationship.
Councillor Mark Durham, chairman of Visit Essex, said: “We’re delighted Apple TV chose Essex for the backdrop of this much anticipated mini-series. The Essex coast and estuaries offer a truly stunning landscape, which we are sure viewers will fall in love with. From the charming landscape of the River Blackwater and Colne estuaries to the historic market town of Maldon, Essex has so much to offer.”
Although much of the story is set in fictional Aldwinter, the series was shot in many striking locations along the Essex coast. The calm backwaters of Alresford Creek provided the perfect backdrop for the fictional parish of Aldwinter.
And the picturesque nature reserve at Cudmore Grove on Mersea Island, managed by Explore Essex, gave a dramatic setting for Danes and Hiddleston to be filmed along the cliff edge.
The quaint market town of Maldon, famous for its sea salt, historic high street buildings and Promenade Park was a centre for much of the action. The High Street and famous Blue Boar Hotel and historic Moot Hall were all used in filming and the town’s historic quay was transformed into a bustling harbour, with Thames sailing barges, which are still there.
The Essex Serpent was also filmed on Yacht Haven Island in the River Crouch and along the nearby shores of North Fambridge, a village with a strong sailing and maritime history.
To discover more, www.visitessex.com.
WHERE TO STAY
Le Bouchon is a 300-year-old Georgian hotel that has had an extensive refurbishment. The original period features have been combined with furnishings and classically styled decoration to complement the building. At night, guests can choose between hard or soft pillows, a duvet or a blanket. In the morning, guests can enjoy a continental or full English breakfast, and the hotel is close to many town amenities, so visitors can enjoy a relaxing walk along the riverbank, or sample some of the local ales from one of the many riverside public houses. Rooms from £140.35 – https://www.visitessex.com/accommodation/le-bouchon-hotel-p1266271
Warren Lodges are set in the Warren Estate, 48 acres of beautiful natural surrounds. The self- catering lodges contain hot tubs, and they are perfect to spend time with family and friends. They are near The Warren Golf & Country Club, one of the most picturesque golf courses in South East England. Along with the countryside, there are sandy beaches, trendy marinas and the market town of Maldon nearby. Lodges can sleep from 4-6 people and cost from £1,039 for seven nights – https://www.visitessex.com/accommodation/warren-lodges-p1531501
Wivenhoe House Hotel
True ‘The Essex Serpent’ lovers should opt for Wivenhoe House Hotel, the nearest accommodation to fictional Aldwinter’s location in the book. The exquisite 18th century hotel is situated near Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester, and there are plenty of activities to do. With a mix of luxury and contemporary classic rooms, the hotel is perfect for families and couples. Balcony rooms overlook the stunning grounds, with breath-taking views of the picturesque countryside. Rooms from £105 – https://www.visitessex.com/accommodation/wivenhoe-house-hotel-p1266311
WHERE TO EAT
Essex Wildlife Trust Café – Abberton Reservoir
Set in one of Europe’s top wetland sites, the Abberton Reservoir Café is the perfect stop on a visit to this Nature Discovery Park. After a busy day exploring the Brambly Hedge Trail or spotting the various ducks, swans and geese that visit each year, the café is the perfect stop-off point to have some much-needed refreshments. – https://www.visitessex.com/things-to-do/abberton-reservoir-nature-discovery-park-p1269731
Tiptree Tearoom: Heybridge Lock
With views across the stunning Blackwater estuary, the Tiptree tearoom at Heybridge Lock offers the perfect place for an afternoon tea. A list of daily specials is provided alongside the traditional menu, and a range of refreshments are offered throughout the day. – https://www.visitessex.com/food-and-drink/tiptree-tea-room-at-the-lock-maldon-p1268511
Le Bouchon Brasserie
After a riverside walk along the Chelmer and Blackwater navigation canal, enjoy a meal at Le Bouchon Brasserie. Operating a smart chic dress code, Le Bouchon Brasserie offers a wide range of menus to whet any appetite, supplying everything from a vegan menu to a classic a la carte, plus afternoon teas. – https://www.visitessex.com/food-and-drink/le-bouchon-brasserie-p1269511
Cruise along the River Blackwater with Topsail Charters. Step on board a stunning Thames sailing barge for morning cruises, afternoon tea, or a special two island cruise, where boats travel from Maldon Quay, past Northey Island to Osea Island and back. You can also enjoy a sunset cruise, where you can watch the sun set over the River Blackwater. Tours upon a traditional Thames sailing barge are priced from £30 per person – https://www.visitessex.com/whats-on/topsail-charters-p1657821
Maldon’s striking buildings and interesting history make for a great day out. Visit the Promenade Park, located on the River Blackwater, with a splash park, mini golf and wonderful paths lined with trees. It’s a wildlife haven with a strong maritime history, and the iconic Moot Hall’s balcony and pillars stretch across the pavement. There are a variety of museums and churches, as well as an estuary landscape to get lost in, and the historic hotel, The Blue Boar, sits in the heart of Maldon. – https://www.visitessex.com/explore/coastal-destinations/maldon; https://www.visitessex.com/things-to-do/moot-hall-p1268381; https://www.blueboarmaldon.co.uk/.
River Blackwater Estuary
The Blackwater Estuary is a 5,538-hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Take a sailing barge cruise with Topsail Charters from Maldon, past Northey Island, to Osea Island and back. Enjoy the National Nature Reserve, taking up over 1000 hectares; Northey Island, the location for some of the first experiments in the UK in ‘managed retreat’; and the town of Maldon, known for its sea salt. Many notable species inhabit the area, including dark-bellied Brent Geese, the Common Redshank, and the Eurasian Golden Plover, among many more. – https://www.visitmaldondistrict.co.uk/discover/nature-and-wildlife/blackwater-estuary-nature-reserve; https://www.visitessex.com/whats-on/topsail-charters-p1657821
North Fambridge is a village in the Dengie peninsula, situated on the banks of the River Crouch. With its beautiful marina, Yacht Haven Island, set in the peaceful countryside, the village was first featured in the Doomsday book as ‘Fanbruge’. It is the home of the Holy Trinity church, the Ferry Boat Inn public house and the Blue House Farm nature reserve, run by Essex Wildlife Trust. The village has a strong sailing and maritime history, and it is near the Saltmarsh Coastal trail, spanning 75 miles of stunning coastline in the Maldon District. – https://www.visitessex.com/towns-and-villages/north-fambridge-p1268831
The Ford, Alresford Creek
Alresford Creek is a short walk from the village of Alresford, which is situated about six miles from Colchester, and has become the setting for the fictitious village of ‘Aldwinter’ in The Essex Serpent.
Drive over The Strood, a road that is washed by the sea at high tide, will land you on Mersea Island, the most easterly island in England. World-renowned for its oysters, Mersea Island is the perfect trip to eat a fisherman’s fresh catch of the day, or marvel at the beautiful, colourful beach huts, while the calm, shallow waters allow first-timers to try out a variety of water sports. At East Mersea, you’ll find Cudmore Grove Country Park, managed by Explore Essex, and a top filming spot for The Essex Serpent. Here you can walk along the seawall or picnic on the grassland overlooking the sea – https://www.visitessex.com/explore/coastal-destinations/mersea-island
Abberton Reservoir, Colchester
Abberton Reservoir Nature Discovery Park is a wetland site of international importance for wildfowl. There are excellent birdwatching opportunities and fabulous views over the reservoir, and the huge expanse of Essex & Suffolk Water’s Abberton Reservoir is one of Europe’s top wetland sites. It is managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust, the county’s leading conservation charity, and are committed to protecting wildlife and inspiring a lifelong love of nature. – https://www.visitessex.com/things-to-do/abberton-reservoir-nature-discovery-park-p1269731
Tollesbury Salt Marshes, Maldon
Wildlife is abundant in the 600 acres of rough pasture, borrowdykes, sea walls, wet flushes, pools and saltmarsh. Dry grassland on the slopes of the sea walls supports a wide variety of insects, while borrowdykes trace the inland edge of the sinuous seawall for its entire length. On the other side of the seawall, and within the reserve boundary, creeks, salt marsh and exposed mud support typical communities of coastal mud-dwelling invertebrates, coastal birds and salt marsh flora. – https://www.visitessex.com/things-to-do/tollesbury-wick-marshes-p1268411