SOME of the most popular tourist attractions in north Essex have recorded a rise in visitor numbers, figures have revealed.

The Gazette contacted more than 50 venues asking for their visitor numbers since 2017.

Some have not responded, some do not record them and others did not want to take part.

But of the 26 venues whose numbers were comparable, ten had experienced a drop-in visitors while seven had welcomed more.

Nine locations either supplied estimated figures which were the same for both years, or were unable to supply the past two years’ data so have not been included.

Here are some which are enjoying a boom in popularity.


A spot of pond dipping at Abberton Reservoir?

Flatford Wildlife Garden, East Bergholt

Average annual visitors to centre - 81,500 (up 33%)

The opening of the Sister’s Garden last September is what the RSPB attributes to securing more visitors. It is the RSPB’s only dedicated wildlife garden nature reserve, named after sisters Sylvia and Margaret Richardson, and a safe haven for lots of wildlife.

Abberton Reservoir, Layer-de-la-Haye

Average annual visitors to centre - 113,314 (up 6%)

Now being able to sell hot food on site is one improvement which could have attracted more people to Abberton Reservoir.

A spokesman for the Essex Wildlife Trust added: “On the reserve, 80,000 trees have been planted since 2014 and the wildflowers have been thriving, so the development of the habitats has seen an increase in people visiting.”

Fingringhoe Wick, Fingringhoe

Average annual visitors to centre - 37,980 (up 53%)

Last year saw the highest number of singing Nightingale birds on the reserve, and a number of TV appearances which upped its popularity. The catering offer has changed at the reserve too which is disability-friendly with an off-road mobility scooter for people less mobile.

The Naze Centre, Walton

Average annual visitors to centre - 89,938 (up 31%)

The Naze is a newbie for Essex Wildlife Trust so compared to 2016, when it first opened, it is now established.

A trust spokesman added: “The reserve also got a new wooden sculpture trail last year, a large Megalodon and informative interpretation in the centre, and more seating outside, including benches made from reclaimed milk cartons.”


Jennifer Doddrell enjoys a war time event at the Naze

Headgate Theatre, Colchester

Average annual visitors - 9,000 (up 12%)

David King, a trustee and one of the Headgate Theatre’s founders, was under no illusions about what made the arts venue a go-to.

“The space is vibrant,” he said. “We’ve recently increased our footprint by 30 per cent by introducing two new spaces for hire, bringing our total to five.”

Boxted Airfield Museum, Colchester

Average annual visitors - 519 (up 22%)

The museum in Langham Lane is crammed with social history.

Chairman Richard Turner is particularly excited about an upcoming exhibition on April 28, focused on the only surviving UK example of a specific wartime plane named Mr Shorty.

He said: “B26 Marauder aircraft were based all over Essex in World War Two so it’s local history, but also of national importance.

“Another aspect is sadly the men who fought are passing on. A lot of them never talked about their experiences so children and grandchildren are visiting us to gain information.”

Nottage Maritime Institute, Wivenhoe

Average annual visitors - 978 (up 20%)

Unlike other year-round venues, the Nottage Maritime Institute building, which houses a museum, is open only on weekends between May and September.

Recent changes the charity has made to the venue were not glamorous but essential.

“Since 2017, we’ve installed new toilets and kitchen, and improved our visitor experience so we hope 2019 will reflect this,” Libby Armstrong for the charity.