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 Braintree…
What to see
Treat yourself – and your pooch – to a whole new wardrobe at Braintree Village. The popular outlet has more than 75 stores offering discounts of up to 60% on the usual prices. Pets are welcome in many of the shops, which include Adidas, Levis, Trespass and Reiss. Just look out for the dog-friendly stickers in the individual store windows.
Don’t miss out on a walk along the Flitch Way, which follows the path of an old railway line. It starts at Braintree station and runs for 15 miles to Bishops Stortford. The route, which was used until the 1970s, is mostly traffic-free. You can also join the Flitch Way in Rayne, where it is signposted from Great Notley Discovery Centre and Country Park. This is a great place to visit with your dog all year round, with more than 100 acres of parkland to explore. The site is also home to the longest play trail in Essex – a whole 1.2km of fun for kids.
Bocking Blackwater, just outside Braintree town centre, is well worth a visit too but steer clear of Braintree & Bocking Public Gardens, which was donated to the local community in 1888. For some bizarre reason, only assistance dogs are allowed in park.
Where to eat
For deliciously decadent cakes, swing by The Booking Hall Café in Rayne. This wonderful little place, on the Flitch Way, is housed in the old station and dogs are warmly welcomed with treats and water.
Fowler’s Farm, just off the A120 on Cressing Road, is another great place for dog owners. The pub, run by Vintage Inns, has been part of the Braintree community for more than 600 years and pets are welcome in both the bar area and sunny beer garden.
The Prince Louis, in Notley Green, also comes highly recommended. And if you’re in the market for a bit more shopping, head to Cherry Lane Garden Centre. Here, you’ll find a lovely café with lots of outdoor seating and Hair of the Dog grooming salon, which has its own line in canine fashion.
While you’re in the area
Pop in to The Compasses at Littley Green for a pint. The pub, a 20-minute drive from Braintree, is renowned for its huffers. These are wedge-shaped rolls native to Essex that traditionally, men working in the fields would have for lunch. The pub also has a great range of real ales and ciders and champions Essex breweries like Bishop Nick, which is based in Braintree.