The Beauty of Essex

Use the coupon code SAFFRON for 25% off Explore and Discover ESSEX until 31st August.

It may come as a surprise to some but the county of Essex is rich in landscape and rural photography locations. If you live in the South East, access from London is quick, it is certainly worth more than a look as Justin Minns reveals in his new book, Explore and Discover ESSEX (Justin is also the author of Photographing EAST ANGLIA covering the neighbouring counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.).

Justin explores Essex’s coastline which meanders for over 350-miles and under its famous big skies visits golden sandy beaches, colourful with piers and beach huts and then around silvery estuaries peaceful but for the cries of birds and flap of sails. Its secretive coast hides over thirty-five islands and a capillary-like network of creeks that branch out and get lost in mile upon mile of wonderfully lonely marshland.

Inland he explores the gently rolling medley of golden farmland and ancient forest dotted with historic towns and sleepy villages, thatched cottages and timber-framed buildings.
As Paul Forecast, Regional Director for the National Trust says in his foreword, “His stunning photos capture perfectly for me the county’s spirit of place and his engaging and informative writing has added new depth to my own understanding and appreciation of a place that I thought I knew well.”

Detailed OS maps featuring the locations (and the best pubs), written directions and smart phone usuable ///what3words and scannable lat-long QR-codes make getting to a location straightforward. (right: Justin Minns)

• 416 pages
• 60 locations and over 520 beautiful photographs
• Topographic maps • Sat nav and map co-ordinates including ///what3words and scannable lat-long QR-codes for your smart phone • Sun compass
• Best times to visit and seasonal highlights • Photographic tips • Accessibility notes
• Travel information • The best places to stay, eat and drink

Here are some highlights from Justin’s new book, incuding a look inside.


Mist over the meadows alongside the River Stour near Dedham. Dedham is best known for its location in the very heart of Constable Country, the quintessentially English landscape of beautiful water meadows and pretty villages alongside the River Stour which were made famous by the work of artist John Constable.


The River Colne and a view of Wivenhoe on the opposite bank are just a few steps from the parking at the end of Ferry Lane, just down from the village of Fingringhoe.

North Fambridge

North Fambridge, as the name suggests, was once linked by a bridge to its opposite number, South Fambridge, across the river. There were in fact two bridges that met on an island in the middle of the river. Both bridge and island were washed away hundreds of years ago and replaced by a ferry and although today there is a Ferry Road and a Ferry Boat Inn, the ferry itself has long gone. The main draw to this quiet riverside spot for photographers is Port Moor Cottage, little more than a wooden shack on a remote island way out on the edge of the saltmarsh. The tiny island on which the cottage rather precariously sits is actually the remains of the original sea wall, breached by flooding in 1897, and the saltmarsh was once farmland.

Mundon Oaks

Tucked away in the flat landscape of this lonely corner of Essex, their twisted, skeletal shapes bleached almost white by the sun, is a rather mysterious group of dead trees known as the Mundon Oaks. The origin of the Mundon Oaks is unknown. Mundon Furze, the last surviving section of a large ancient forest that once covered much of this peninsula, is only half a mile away so there’s a good chance these trees were part of the same ancient woodland. The most likely explanation is that they were killed by salt water flooding from the nearby Mundon Creek, perhaps from a channel that was cut to allow access to the farm by boat.

Alresford Creek

First light on a winter’s morning at Alresford Creek. The walk along the creek as it twists its way the 3km or so through the marshes from Thorrington Tide Mill to join the Colne is not to be missed.

Dovercourt Lighthouse

Sunrise at Dovercourt Lighthouse. Built in 1863, Dovercourt lighthouse is actually one of a pair – the high lighthouse and the low lighthouse. When the lights from the two were aligned then the ship was on the correct course into the deep water channel.

Have a look inside

Hoe Mill Lock

Hoe Mill Lock lit by a beautiful winter sunrise. Hoe mill lock is one of 12 locks spread along the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, a 14 mile river canal that connects Springfield Basin in Chelmsford to the sea lock at Heybridge Basin near Maldon.

The Broomway

Geographically, Essex is devoid of the sort of extremes of height, terrain or remoteness that might make a hike dangerous or even particularly taxing so it is somewhat surprising that the county harbours a notorious route known as ‘Britain’s deadliest path’.
The Broomway, so called because it was marked by a line of stakes resembling brooms driven into the mud, is an ancient track that covers the 6 miles across the Maplin Sands from Wakering Stairs on the mainland to Foulness Island. Until a bridge was built in the 1920s, it was the only way onto the island other than by boat and over the centuries many people have died attempting the route. Some mistimed the walk and got caught out by the incoming tide, which floods across the flat sands faster than a man can run. Others met their fate by getting stuck in one of the pockets of quicksand that line the route, and some by becoming lost in the fog, which often rolls in out of nowhere.

Chalkney Woods

An ancient woodland overlooking the Colne valley, Chalkney Woods stands along the path of the old Roman track known as ‘Wool Street’ which once ran, almost in a straight line, from Colchester to Cambridge.
The track still remains here, so as you walk through the woods in the quiet peace of dawn to photograph the swathes of bluebells that appear in the spring you are walking along a track that has been in use for thousands of years.

The Essex Index Map
showing the locations


Sunrise at the old light ship that stands watch over Tollesbury marina. Sitting by a pretty creek close to the mouth of the River Blackwater estuary and flanked by nature reserves, this area has some of the finest salt marsh in Essex.

The Tollesbury saltmarsh from the air.

Saffron Walden

A picturesque market town in the north west corner of Essex, Saffron Walden’s name and historically much of its wealth came from the Saffron crocus, which was widely grown here in the Middle Ages when the saffron trade was at its peak. Today saffron is used in cookery; back then it would have been largely used as dye by East Anglia’s flourishing wool industry but as it takes thousands of flowers’ stigma to produce a few grams of the finished product, saffron remains the most expensive spice in the world.

Mersea Island

Last light over the Strood, the channel which separates Mersea Island from the mainland. Mersea is the most easterly inhabited island in the UK. Famous for its oysters, the island is a popular destination for lovers of seafood and sailing but tourists have been crossing the causeway to the island ever since the Romans started visiting (from the then-capital city of Colchester a few miles north) nearly 2000 years ago.

Red Sands Fort

Standing alone miles offshore, the rusting hulks of Red Sands Fort look like something from a sci-fi movie – Star Wars or perhaps War of the Worlds springs to mind. Known as Maunsell Forts after their designer, Guy Maunsell, Red Sands is one of three anti-aircraft forts built in the mouth of the Thames Estuary during the Second World War. Each fort consists of seven towers – five gun towers arranged around a central command tower with a searchlight tower off to one side. Remote it may be but the fort is easily accessible on one of the regular boat trips run from Southend Pier.

Thorpe Bay

Sunrise over the Thames Estuary at Thorpe Bay. Thorpe Bay is a long stretch of sand lined with beach huts just east of Southend-on-Sea. As the tide goes out here it leaves scores of boats scattered across a vast flat beach that appears to reach the horizon.

Lion Wharf

High tide at Lion Wharf. Sitting at the head of Lion Creek, once part of the River Crouch estuary until it was cut off by the building of a sea wall, Lion Wharf would years ago have been busy with Thames barges carrying cargo today it is a peaceful backwater teeming with wildlife.

Epping Forest

Apping Forest in autumn. Covering 6000 acres, Epping forest is one of the last remaining areas of the Forest of Essex, an ancient woodland which would originally have covered 60,000 acres of the county.


A summer evening at John Webb’s windmill. Thaxted is a well preserved historical town tucked away in the Essex countryside where its towering church spire and famous windmill look out over the patchwork of surrounding farmland.

There are several nature reserves to visit including Rainham Marches, the Stour Estuary, Stanford Wharf and Wallasea Island, below are waders at the Stour Estuary.

As well as the more traditional landscape locations, Justin has included a selection of the best rural locations from churches to historic buildings, villages and nature reserves.

Use the coupon code SAFFRON for 25% off Explore % Discover ESSEX until 31st August.

You can buy a copy here, use the coupon code SAFFRON for 25% off until 31st August.



Mick Ryan

Director of fotoVUE and Co-author of Photographing The Peak District
Mick Ryan is the founder and the director of fotoVUE. He is based in Calderdale having spent the last seven years in the Peak District. He also spends part of the year in Saratoga Springs, upstate New York. He is the founder of Rockfax guidebooks and introduced well-designed large-format photo-topo...