Latest articles from Julian Read

2021 Essex Food & Drink Awards

Each year, the Essex Food and Drink Awards recognise the outstanding achievements of people in Essex who grow, rear, prepare and cook some of the best food and drink you’ll taste and buy anywhere in the country. It’s one of the highlights of our year. Last year due to the pandemic, the event was unable to be held. This year, the awards are back with a special event planned for November 8 at the fabulous Braxted Park in Great Braxted. It will be quite a celebration. It will also be a chance to recognise and thank Essex's inspirational hospitality industry which has worked so hard to adapt and survive with talent, ingenuity and dedication. The awards are only possible with the support of our generous sponsors. We are particularly delighted to welcome as our headline sponsor once again, and as sponsor of The Face of Food and Drink, Tiptree, supplier of preserves and royal warrant holder. As we launch the 2021 awards, a big thank you must go to all our sponsors and our judges for their support and commitment to the Essex Food and Drink Awards. These are still uncertain and anxious times, and the hospitality industry needs our support now more than ever. This is a great opportunity for all food and drink related businesses in Essex to enter the awards, and for the finalists, a chance to celebrate together later this year. To find out more and to nominate your favourites, visit

A new hope for endangered newts

Lucy Jenkins and Jilly McNaughton are farm advisors for Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) East. Over recent months the duo have been delivering a scheme to provide bigger, better and more joined-up habitat for great crested newts across the county. The scheme is part of a national effort by Natural England to compensate for newt ponds lost to development. Excitingly, it means funding is available for Essex landowners to create or restore wildlife ponds.

Helen E Field: 'I remember thinking, I really should write a book about this'

Meet Helen E Field, author of The Mystery Shopper & The Hot TubHow did you come to publish your first novel, The Mystery Shopper & The Hot Tub? I have had many years and experience in the world of mystery shopping and have designed and implemented programmes all over the UK for some of the most well-known hospitality venues: restaurants, hotels, bars and pubs etc. Some of the things that go on when conducting a mystery visit are extremely funny and after one particular assessment, I remember thinking, I really should write a book about this! That was the beginning of the idea.Give us a brief synopsis of the story Brooke and Dean are a stereotypical, working-class couple from Essex, with dreams and aspirations but not the income to match. The stunning and socially ambitious Brooke wants a hot tub and Dean wants to make her happy. Brooke’s bored at home and craves financial independence, but Dean is old fashioned and doesn’t want her to work. Brooke ends up secretly employed by the incorrigible Lady Townsend, who introduces her to the English upper classes. Dean takes on a side hustle as a mystery shopper assessing posh hotels, but keeps it a secret from Brooke so he can get some time away from his baby daughter and demanding wife. They spend all their time concocting lies to hide the secret lives they’re both living, which culminates in numerous, stressful, ridiculous but comical situations.Why did you choose Essex as the setting?  I live and was born in Essex and grew up with the most amazing melting pot of characters in my life. I think the people and the county are vastly underrated and while there are many things which one can poke fun at (and I do!) it’s a very special place to me.What are you hoping readers will enjoy most from your book? The juxtaposition of working class people alongside the upper class is very funny. We all need a laugh right now after the most miserable year.

Wild Essex: 5 hotspots for nature lovers

To the surprise of many, Essex is home to many unique habitats for wildlife and wilderness landscapes of international significance. There are also many beautiful wild spots in the county that you can discover too