In January 2020, I became a columnist for Essex Life magazine, writing about doggy days out in and around the county. Here is my article about Basildon…
What to see
Basildon was one of several ‘New Towns’ created after the Second World War to accommodate people moving out of London. It is renowned for its modernist architecture – such as the high-rise Brooke House – but the town’s green lung is undoubtedly Gloucester Park. Opened by the Duke of Gloucester in 1957, it makes for a lovely stroll. From the town centre, a loop around the perimeter of the park – past the fishing lake and Basildon Sporting Village, which was used as a training centre for the London 2012 Olympics – takes around an hour.
Wat Tyler Country Park, near Pitsea, is also well worth a visit. The 125-acre park is named after the leader of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt, who came from nearby Fobbing.
A 1.2-mile sculpture trail around the site takes in 11 works of art, as well as several bird hides, historic barns and a marina. During the summer months, a miniature railway also runs for approximately a mile through the park. There is a café onsite, but dogs are not allowed inside.
And it may be closed until 2021 – when its new visitor centre is due to open – but pencil in a visit to the Langdon Nature Reserve near Dunton. The 460-acre site has a Peter Rabbit Trail and is also home to The Haven Plotlands Museum. Once upon a time, more than 200 bungalows stood on the site, all purchased by Londoners looking for a ‘country retreat’. The Haven is quite literally the last one standing and visiting this wonderfully-preserved home is like stepping back in time to the 1940s. Dogs are not allowed inside the museum but they are welcome on the rest of the reserve.
Where to eat
Frustratingly, there aren’t many places in Basildon where you can dine with your dog but they do exist, if you know where to look. The Noak Bridge, on Wash Road, is very pet-friendly and handily, the Noak Bridge Nature Reserve is close by. Follow the boardwalks to get around the 20-acre site – but expect to hear a bit of traffic noise as the site is right next to the A127.
The Jolly Friar on Whitmore Way is also dog-friendly both inside and out. The venue, which is popular with sports fans, serves up well-priced pub grub and has a big play area for kids.
The Harvester on the Five Bells roundabout and the Miller & Carter at Langdon Hills are also great options for post-walk pints. Both have large gardens but are only really options for the summer months as they do not allow dogs inside.
While you’re in the area
Head to Norsey Woods in nearby Billericay. There are lots of great sniffs to be had here and there are several dog-friendly pubs and cafes in town, including The Chequers and Slipped Discs’ Brown Sugar.