The Rochford district: heritage, culture and coast

With 65 square miles filled with heritage, culture and unspoilt coastline, the Rochford district is a historical and picturesque place to explore.

Ideally located for a last minute day trip, Rochford District is located east of London, on a headland between the River Thames and River Crouch, and is bounded to the east by the North Sea. It is easily accessible by train in just 50 minutes direct from London Liverpool Street, and has links to the M25 via the A127. London Southend Airport is predominantly based within the district, which has land boundaries with Southend, Basildon and Castle Point as well as marine boundaries with Maldon and Chelmsford.

Discover the district of Rochford



Picture of a logo.
Visit the Rochford District Council

Discover somewhere new; discover Rochford. Rochford District is a diverse environment characterised by miles of unspoilt, attractive countryside and a rich heritage, including many iconic and historical buildings, villages and quaint market towns. Come and enjoy some tranquillity in a bird lovers’ paradise, indulge in a hearty lunch at a country pub, learn about our links to the Boleyn family and to Charles Darwin – author of the ground-breaking work ‘Origin of the Species’, or hear exciting tales of smuggling and local folklore. In all, there are more than 200 sites of archaeological interest, 14 Ancient Woodlands and several nature reserves waiting for you to explore.

Large areas of public open spaces are located close to the towns of Rayleigh, Hockley and Rochford in the west, within the Upper Roach Valley, including Hockley Woods and Cherry Orchard Jubilee Country Park. All of these provide a varied leisure offer of natural woodland walks, lakes and bridleways, as well as creating a valuable ecological resource. Such open spaces provide accessible, quality recreational opportunities which are all family friendly and form an ideal canvas for keen photographers.

The district has a contrasting coastline with sea views, coastal marshes, intricate waterways and the River Roach and Crouch estuaries. There is national recognition of the final resting place of HMS Beagle, a ship of significant historical importance is off the coast of the rural village of Paglesham in Rochford, and its associated connections with Charles Darwin and Robert Fitzroy, the Royal Navy and HM Coastguard. Paglesham, on the banks of the River Roach, also has historic connections to oyster farming and one of the more famous smugglers in Essex, William Blyth.

The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project is the largest conservation and engineering scheme in the UK and Europe, being delivered by the RSPB. The island is geographically adjacent and offers a unique perspective of the final resting place of HMS Beagle at Paglesham. The Wallasea Island project adds to the history of the area with its connections to the Crossrail project, with spoils from its development helping to shape the Island’s habitats.

The coastline can be explored by following footpaths or by boat around the Rochford peninsula and visiting the islands of Wallasea and Foulness. The RSPB is developing Wallasea Wetlands, the largest coastal managed retreat project in Europe and is a haven for wild birds and marine life. Major conservation projects on Wallasea Island have created freshwater habitats that support water voles, amphibians and water insects. Landscaped islands provide nesting habitats for estuary birds.

Wildlife and birdlife are attracted to the varied coastal environment, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Areas, Ramsar Sites and Special Areas of Conservation. Promotion of tourism in these areas must therefore, be undertaken in a sustainable manner which respects biodiversity and maintains the character of the environment.

Rochford District is steeped in history with historical sites including the award-winning Rayleigh Windmill museum, the 18th century Dutch Cottage and the site of a Norman Castle at Rayleigh Mount. Listed buildings include the Old House in Rochford and Rochford Hall, one time home of the Boleyn family.

Further afield are the outlying towns and villages, several of which are ancient settlements mentioned in the Domesday Book. Some of our villages of are known for its smuggling connections, Hullbridge is closely linked to smuggling with smugglers trying to evade the watchful eyes of revenue men by dumping bottles of brandy weighed down with salt into the river until it dissolved and the bottles could then be collected later, this area is still known as Brandy Hole. Ashingdon was the site of a significant battle in 1016 between the Danes, led by King Canute, and the Saxons, Canewdon, was where King Canute landed in his longships to conquer England in 1016 and change our history forever.

Highlights of the area

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The Old House in Rochford dates back to 1270. Built of a timber frame with wattle and daub panels, the house was the height of luxury in medieval England. Rochford District Council restored the house to its original glory using as much of the original materials as possible.

Image of the red brick windmill.

The beautiful Rayleigh Windmill is a Grade II listed building more than 200 years old. It has a museum, an exhibition space and information about Rayleigh Mount. It's situated next to a Sensory Garden and is an award-winning tourist attraction. 

Picture of two dogs at the edge of the lake.

Situated in the rolling countryside of the Roach Valley at the south of the district, the 200-acre beautiful wildlife park is a mix of grassland, woodlands and a lake, complete with a network of footpaths and bridleways.