The "Hut" on the riverside at Rowhedge, near Colchester, is open for tea and cake, weekends and Bank Holidays throughout spring and summer. It is run by a charitable trust who are trying to raise funds for a permanent building. There is often a small exhibition going on in the hut but the tea, coffee and cake are to be recommended. Tea (builders or fancy), Coffee (instant or posh) are available along with delicious homemade cakes at very reasonable prices. Outside tables and chairs are laid out in a beautiful riverside setting - well worth a visit.
Rowhedge on the river Colne, just south of Colchester in Essex. Frequent buses from Colchester and if tide permits then a ferry runs from Wivenhoe across the river. Wivenhoe is on the main Clacton to London rail line.
Google map: bit.ly/LBeA74
The Odd One Out is a fiercely independent public house and CAMRA's 2010 cider pub of the year for East Anglia. There are generally two or three ciders available on tap along with a range of bottled varieties. A constant stream of guest beers and ciders (with priority given to local independent producers) means there's always something new to try. But it's not just about the quality of your cider at the Oddy, it's the quality of your experience. This is an old-fashioned pub in the best possible sense. There are rules here. Use of mobile phones is restricted to the public bar and the sheltered haven of the beer garden. Swearing is not allowed: a first offense (or occasional forgetfulness) will earn you a polite reminder of this fact. Persist in your profanity and you will politely be asked to leave. The result is a most relaxed and convivial atmosphere and, if you're prone to the odd expletive and fond of cider, a surprising effect on the vocabulary. Speak to a stranger at the bar and you'll get a conversation, not a funny look. The art of conversation is taken seriously at the Oddy: there's no music, no television, and you're as likely to overhear a discussion of quantum theory or Hegel as you are the usual football banter. And best of all, it's okay to join in. If you're feeling conspiratorial, there's even a back room where plots can be hatched (or thickened, depending on how you like your metaphorical eggs). The landlord, Mr.John Parrick, is regarded with deep affection and respect by his regulars who don't tell him this as often as they should. So, if you're going to drink cider in Colchester, drink it at The Odd One Out and, along with a choice of proper, local ciders you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that the price of your pint makes a contribution to the survival of a unique and much loved establishment.
The Odd One Out, 28 Mersea Road, Colchester, Essex, CO2 7ET.
Nearest station - Colchester Town.
Travelodge now charge for parking but don't inform you. We had booked to stay near Stansted airport at Great Dunmow - no mention on the booking confirmation - and when we arrived late at night there were no signs and reception didn't mention it. Next morning we found a parking ticket for £20 slapped on the windscreen. Complaints to customer services just received the brush-off reply that the parking area is nothing to do with Travelodge and run by a separate company. This makes for an expensive stay. Beware!!
A country house hotel with an amazing fitness centre. Fab old country house down a long driveway. Fresh flowers in the entrance hall and friendly staff.
Big rooms with giant beds and nice cotton bedlinen. And smart flatscreen TVs with integral DVD player. But you will need to bring/buy your own as the selection downstairs is dire. Nice reading room too, but again, would advise own books, unless you are keen to read musty mid-century non-classics. Breakfast was good (though served only between 7-9am in the week).
What really made this place for us was the fitness facilities. Genuinely friendly staff meant a really great atmosphere. Good gym (not huge, but decent range of equipment- soon to be upgraded and enlarged apparently). Fantastic big 20m pool open until 9pm and lit sympathetically. Large sauna and steam room.
And, as well as grass tennis courts they have real tennis courts. Very odd, but the two that they have at Prested Hall represent about 1/40th of the world's total. The current no. 2 and no. 8 play there and you can bag a free lesson!
We paid £184 for two nights mid-week which seemed really reasonable.
Prested Hall, Feering, Colchester, Essex CO5 9EE
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