Why not double up on the vintage vibe by taking a VW Camper to this wonderful heritage railway? Set in the heart of the Essex countryside, the East Anglian Railway Museum nonetheless has good connections to the rest of the county, so it’s an easy trip in any of our campervans from Happy Campers’ HQ.
Based at Chappel and Wakes Colne Station, it sits beside (and runs along) a truly impressive Essex viaduct, which is 75ft high and the longest in East Anglia. It’s been designated a European monument and it’s easy to see why when you stand under one of its impressive arches and look straight up to the towering brickwork above your head. It’s like looking up at the ceiling of a cathedral.
The majority of the museum’s buildings were constructed at the end of the 19th century and have been well preserved so they survive essentially in their original form. For railway buffs, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon, whilst for those with an interest in nothing more than spending a few hours out of the house, its hands-on approach should present enough to pass the time. The museum is home to a wide variety of carriages and engines, all of which are in full working order, whilst others are being worked on in the Restoration Shed that was added to the museum in 1993. All work is undertaken by unpaid volunteers, and new volunteers are always welcome. Driving Experience Courses, give visitors the chance to command a diesel or steam train and fulfil a childhood dream on certain days of the year.
The museum comprises a range of indoor and outdoor attractions, and whilst sitting in a railway carriage or sheltering in the maintenance shed may cheat the rain, it could seem like a long wait. Particular attention should therefore be paid to the weather when deciding what to wear or when to visit. Catering facilities are limited, although the museum does have a tea shop selling drinks and light refreshments. Eating before commencing your visit may therefore be an advisable move. Of course, none of this should be a problem is you visit in a camper, as you can boil the kettle and feed yourself before you even leave the van.
Ample free parking is provided at the museum itself so you should have no trouble finding space for the camper through the duration of your visit.
Beyond the museum, it’s well worth exploring the local village. Chappel itself is home to some very quaint buildings and there are plenty of opportunities for picture postcard-worthy photos.
If you’re a more adventurous traveller, be sure to pack your hiking boots as there’s a beautiful water meadow just on the other side of the viaduct. It’s been laid out with boardwalks that let you stroll through its long grass, just above the level of the water for a truly relaxing — and slightly unexpected — view of the Essex countryside.
Chappel and the East Anglian Railway Museum are easy to find. Take the A12 north out of Chelmsford and head for Colchester. Take the Marks Tay turn-off and follow the brown tourist signs north on the A1124.