Countyfile: Essex - From art trails to vapour trails in the East of England


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The Independent Travel

There's still time to get creative at Thurrock's first dedicated art trail (07977 017240; entrance free), which runs until next Sunday. Photography, sculpture, textiles and fine art are currently on display in galleries and spaces at Grays, Purfleet, Tilbury, Stanford-le-Hope and Horndon-on-the-Hill.

Also making its debut, the Barleylands Art Trail (01268 522973;; entrance free), 3 August to 3 September, will transform the outlets at Barleylands Farm Park & Craft Village (01268 532253;; entrance free) into open studios. And the new Billericay Art Trail (01277 630760;; entrance free) will turn the town into an exhibition space, with the work of local artists on display in shops, cafés, and churches (31 August to 9 September). These are just three of 20 art trails taking place across 450 venues in the county as part of Essex Summer of Art (

Catch the Dunmow Flitch Trials (; tickets from £5) in Great Dunmow on Saturday 14 July. At this quirky little event, which takes place every four years, married couples elect to appear at a specially convened court to argue why they should be awarded a flitch, or side, of bacon, a tradition stretching back to the 12th century.

Take a different kind of journey to yesteryear on the train from Ongar to Epping Forest (01277 365200;; adult fares from £12.50). Following four years of restoration work, steam and diesel trains started running again on the Epping-Ongar Railway in May. The track follows a route of almost six miles, halting short of Epping station, where work to the track continues. Passengers can take a look around Ongar and North Weald stations en route. Services run every weekend and bank holiday, and daily during the Olympics.

Roll up for a Punch and Judy show on Southend Pier, 3-5 August. The seaside town is joining in The Big Grin (01702 618747;; entrance free, pier admission £3.60), a national celebration of Mr Punch's 350th birthday. Take a look, too, at the pier's new Cultural Centre, which will open with the first Wave Comedy Festival (01702 618747;; prices to be confirmed), 19-22 July, closely followed by a jazz concert, Nocturnes and Seascapes (contacts as above; tickets £22), on 28 July.

And look to the skies as the Clacton Air Show (01255 686633;, 23-24 August, celebrates its 21st birthday. As well as aerobatic displays, there'll be exhibitions of vintage aircraft and lots of family-friendly fun to enjoy.