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5 reasons to visit Sawbridgeworth

PUBLISHED: 09:14 21 November 2016 | UPDATED: 09:14 21 November 2016

Bee orchids can be seen at Rushy Mead Nature Reserve

Bee orchids can be seen at Rushy Mead Nature Reserve

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Sawbridgeworth is a small, historic town in the far east of the county. Its good rail and road links mean busy commuters mix with laid-back retirees in an environmnent that combines prosperity, plenty to do and rural charm

1930's Art Deco dancer, Cromwell Antiques1930's Art Deco dancer, Cromwell Antiques

Antiques galore

There are several well-established antique centres in Sawbridgeworth, so there are gems to be uncovered any day of the week. Most of the centres are based in the Maltings, opposite the railway station. Cromwell Antiques opened there in 2003 and has items from more than 50 different dealers over two floors. Its stock includes jewellery, porcelain, ceramics, Murano glass and furniture. Online sales manager Eleanor Cole said, ‘We get older collectors coming in and young people looking for engagement or wedding rings or for something a bit different.’

Other great sources of collectables in the Maltings include the Herts and Essex Antiques Centre and Acorn and Riverside Antiques. 
Bell Street Antiques and Collectables (not surprisingly on Bell Street) is home to an impressive collection of mirrors and clocks.

The Organge TreeThe Organge Tree

Boutique shopping

Independent gift shops and unique boutiques are easy to come across in the town.

Tudor House Gallery is an art gallery and gift shop in a 17th-century building on Knight Street. Proprietor Peyman Akhondzadeh describes his business as being ‘the perfect setting for contemporary creative arts, exquisite hand-crafted gifts and a diverse range of workshops’.

House of Harlequin in Bell Street specialises in new and pre-loved clothes, shoes, bags and accessories for women. Further along the road is the Green Room, opened seven years ago by Kay Allington, who wanted a shop offering beautiful and unusual gifts at affordable prices.

Tudor GalleryTudor Gallery

‘Over the years we have expanded our selection to include something for everyone,’ she said. ‘If we don’t have it, we will try to find it. We love our customers and will go out of our way to keep them happy.’

Other treasures to check out include Barbara B and Love Willow for women’s clothes and Mariposa for bridal wear.

MariposaMariposa

Food & drink

Goose Fat and Garlic in Bell Street has been a firm favourite in the town for two decades. Owners Lyndon Wootton and James Atkins have an extensive cocktail and wine list and serve up modern dishes and authentic Spanish tapas. The food, bar the bread – from Mayfield Farm Bakery in nearby Harlow – is made on the premises.

On the outskirts of town, the Orange Tree (right) was born in 2011 when Tom Perry and his partner Sam renovated and relaunched the former Three Horseshoes pub in West Road in a contemporary style. The pair have created a menu committed to freshly-cooked dishes using local meat and sustainable fish and seafood from UK waters. Provenance is key to the couple and anything not made in-house is from artisan suppliers like Dawlicious Jersey Ice Cream in Hertford Heath and Mayfield Farm Bakery. Custom comes from locals and those further afield, Tom said. ‘While we enjoy a great deal of support from the Sawbridgeworth area, around half of our customers hail from across Hertfordshire and Essex.’

Other highlights on the Sawbridgeworth food and drink scene include the Hand and Crown, the Shed coffee house and the Queens Head.

Wild rambles

The river Stort flows from Bishop’s Stortford through Sawbridgeworth and past Hertford, where it joins the river Lea. It’s a haven for wildlife including waterfowl and other birds. Walking and cycling routes in the area include the Bishop’s Stortford-to-Sawbridgeworth station-to-station trail, which incorporates South Mill Lock, the Rushy Mead Nature Reserve, Twyford Lock and Sawbridgeworth Lock.

For a more easy-going ramble, try Pishiobury Park, one of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s last projects. Today, the park, south of Sawbridgeworth, is an important home for wildlife and visitors could catch a glimpse of a water vole, spot a red admiral butterfly or hear the call of a cuckoo.

For the kids

Opened in Parsonage Lane in 1994, the Playbarn indoor play centre lets children over three enjoy a drop slide, a curly slide, ball pools, climbing frame, bridges, rat runs and more. For the under-threes, there’s a mini slide, treehouse, ball pond and lots of toys and soft characters.

The centre has a café serving food and hot drinks, along with free wi-fi.

For the older children, Battlefield Live is an outdoor role-play gaming experience in 100 acres of woodland. Using state-of-the-art laser tag gaming guns that fire harmless infrared beams, players from age seven upwards can aim to defeat the enemy. There are no paintballs – and thus no pain – involved, so there’s no need for protective glasses or padding.

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