11 great things to do in Essex in May

Essex beach huts during Estuary festival 2016 (Wish You Were Here art installation)

Beautiful beach huts form part of a Wish You Were Here art installation during Estuary 2016 - Credit: Jon Webber

The best things to do in Essex this May from NGS Open Gardens to Estuary festival and a fairy hunt for the kids

Words by Victoria Purcell & Julian Read

1. Estuary 2021, various locations
May 22-June 13

Take a walk along the coastline of South Essex and North Kent and you will not only be met with stunning scenery, you may also encounter contemporary artworks and performance. Estuary 2021 is a festival of art on a big scale, encompassing not only large-scale visual art, but more intimate pieces celebrating culture and creativity merging art with literature, music and film. A second edition of Thames Estuary Trail: A Walk round the End of the World by Tom King will be published to coincide with festival (launching on May 30 from Southend Pier, with readings and a walk led by Tom).

2. NGS Open Gardens, various locations
Throughout summer

An amazing 98 Essex gardens are taking part in NGS Open Gardens this year. Susan Copeland, County Organiser for NGS Essex, opens her own garden, Wickets in Langley Upper Green, on 2 May & 27 June. The popular spring planting at Furzelea in Danbury is open on 28 April & 2 May. Regular gardens that open through the year include Barnards Farm in Brentwood and Feeringbury Manor, while new gardens include Grove Lodge in Saffron Walden, a walled garden planted for high biodiversity (open 3 May), and Bassetts, a fine two-acre garden in Little Baddow with good mixed planting and country views (open 7 & 9 May).  

Essex NGS open gardens 2021: Ulting Wick is famous for its tulips

Tulips at Ulting Wick - Credit: courtesy of National Garden Scheme

3. Helen Rollason Cancer Charity Cycle Ride, Hatfield Peverel
May 16

Why not get fit, have fun and raise money for a worthy cause by joining the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity for its 8th annual cycle ride on May 16? This family-friendly event offers a choice of four cycling routes to suit all ages and abilities to get everyone involved. Distances are six, 15, 30 and 65 miles, and all start and finish at Hatfield Peverel. Social-distancing measures have been put in place to ensure riders can take part with confidence and guidelines set out by British Cycling have been followed.  

4. Remus Horse Sanctuary Open Day, Ingatestone
May 2

Remus Horse Sanctuary is hosting its first open day of 2021 on May 2. This leading charity that helps neglected horses live a full, dignified life is looking forward to welcoming visitors to see its friendly 200 animals, consisting of horses, ponies, donkeys, sheep, goats and cats. There will also be music from Midnite Blue and a variety of competitions and games for everyone. There will be refreshments all afternoon, plus many stalls selling gifts, books, bric-a-brac and a raffle. 

5. All About Dogs Show, Chelmsford
May 30 & 31

Hylands Park in Chelmsford is hosting something very special. On May 30 and 31, the All About Dogs Show will offer spectacular canine fun, family entertainment and adventure for everyone to enjoy. As one of the UK’s largest and fastest-growing festivals devoted to dogs and their owners, there will be demonstrations, guest star appearances, activities, world-class area displays, shopping opportunities and expert advice. Tickets £12.

The All About Dogs Show comes to Hylands Park, Chelmsford, in May 2021

The All About Dogs Show comes to Hylands Park, Chelmsford - Credit: courtesy All About Dogs

6. Fairy Elf Walk at Audley End Miniature Railway
May 1-3

Enjoy a magical train ride into the woods and exciting activities at this new attraction for Audley End Miniature Railway (now a Visit England Quality Assured Visitor Attraction). Try and find the tiny Fairies and Elves that live in their handmade wooden Tree Houses dotted throughout the walk. Start by making your very own Fairy or Elf Wand and don’t forget to leave a wish with Christabelle the Wishing Fairy.

7. Mecca Bingo Dagenham Reopening
May 17 

Mecca Bingo Dagenham will be reopening in Essex style. It’s also its 60th birthday, so expect to celebrate with fantastic offers and events running throughout the year, including bingo at 1960s prices (10p) and fancy dress. ‘Popingo’ hourly bingo will be available all day from just £2.50 for six games. 

8. Sacred Sound Inspirations Gong Meditation, Epping Hall 
May 20

Now is the time for some relaxation. Experience the healing of sound and embark on a mystical, deeply meditative journey that celebrates spring with Sacred Sound Inspirations. Participants lie on a blanket or yoga mat and are bathed in the powerful and transformative sounds of the gong. A variety of Paiste Symphonic and Planetary gongs are used, taking astrological influences into account, as well as crystal and Himalayan singing bowls, drums, shruti, voice and many other instruments. Take your own mat, blanket and pillow. Doors from 7.45pm. Tickets are £17pp.
2 St Johns Road, Epping CM16 5DN; facebook.com/events

9. Feel Good Walk at Galleywood Heritage Centre
May 25

Action For Family Carers is hosting a spring wellbeing walk among the beautiful history of Galleywood Heritage Centre. Saunter through woodland discovering the pond, tucked away buildings and the old racetrack in what was voted Essex Village of the Year 2019. Refreshments are available at the end of the walk.

10. An Evening with Paul Merson at Hullbridge Sports Club 
May 28

Paul Merson talks about his career covering Arsenal, Middlesborough, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and England, and his off-field exploits post-football. Then the audience gets the chance to ask Merson questions, before it's time to dance the night away. Tickets £29.95. 

11. Vegan Markets, Brentwood & Basildon 
May 16 & 22  

Reducing your meat consumption can do wonders for the planet and your health, but if you need inspiration, on May 16 in Brentwood and May 22 in Basildon, Vegan Markets UK will be hosting two huge outdoor events in the town centres. Stalls will include a variety of unique and innovative vegan products, including healthy eats, fast food, artisan savouries, sweet bakes, craft cheeses, handmade cosmetics, ethical clothing, and locally made arts and crafts. 10.30am to 4pm.



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