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Essex Chronicle stories feed from registered users of the site and Northcliffe Media editorial

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    Three men have been jailed for a combined 34 years and nine months for their parts in a "sophisticated" drugs and money laundering conspiracy.

    Accused ring-leader Perry Higley, 52, of Moulsham Street in Chelmsford, James Whiteman, 35, of The Vineyards in Silsoe, and 44-year-old Stephen Waite of Braemar Walk, Pitsea, were led to the cells at Chelmsford Crown Court today (February 3).

    The sentencing follows a two-month trial surrounding seven co-defendants, a country house in South Hanningfield and a cannabis factory in a Margaretting Tye outbuilding.

    A jury had heard how the trio conspired to supply at least 50kg in cocaine, to produce cannabis in a Margaretting Tye outbuilding and launder about £100,000.

    Sentencing the men, Judge Patricia Lynch QC said: "That would result in the 50kg of cocaine ultimately going to the street and the harm that that would cause the public at large speaks for itself and that is why these offences are taken so seriously.

    "There isn't one victim, there are many hundreds of victims when dealing with the supply of Class A drugs."

    Police started arresting the co-defendants one by one after ambushing Whiteman at 6.55pm on the A141 in February 2013 and finding him with a 1kg sack of cocaine mixing agent benzocaine.

    The next day police raided the farm and unearthed 17kg in benzocaine, a holdall of weapons, fingerprints from teenage co-defendant William Sorrell and CCTV linked to Hamilton House.

    Mixture was accused of renting the South Hanningfield country house for Higley and his girlfriend Rachel Croudace.

    Co-accused Paul Hooper, 39, was accused of laundering about £25,000 of the gang's cash in financial markets, but he denied knowing the money could have been generated from drugs sales.

    At Tuesday's hearing Mr Kerr claimed the gang had a 25kg benzocaine tub, to mix with 25kg in cocaine, and could have fetched about £90,000 per year by growing about four cannabis crops at the outbuilding.

    Wrapping up their final defence submissions, Higley's barrister Graeme Wilson and Whiteman's barrister Chris Harding said they would appeal against the jury verdicts.

    Mr Wilson said what would be done with any cocaine was down do guesswork, while Waite's lawyer Martyn Levett said the prosecution had tried to "shoe horn" his client into the operation.

    Mr Wilson also said there must be other individuals involved in the conspiracy who were not appearing in court, added: "There are people who are above him (Higley) up the chain."

    Following a long drawn-out trial, a jury yesterday found:

    Higley, Whiteman and Waite guilty of conspiring to supply cocaine between September 2011 and February 2013.

    William Sorrell, 19, of Beaumont Walk, Chelmsford, guilty of conspiring to produce cannabis.

    Rachel Croudace, 28, of Heycroft Way in Chelmsford, Sorrell, and Paul Hooper, 39, of Beehive Lane, Chelmsford, guilty of conspiring to launder money.

    The jury however found Wayne Mixture, 44, of Hall Lane, Sandon, not guilty of conspiring to launder money.

    Higley, Whiteman and Waite had already pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce cannabis during the same period.

    Higley had also pleaded guilty before the trial to possessing two flick knives, two knuckle dusters and four shotgun cartridges at Hamilton House on February 11, 2013.

    Higley was jailed for a total 14 years and nine months for all offences.

    Whiteman and Waite were both jailed for a total 10 years for all offences.

    Croudace, Sorrell and Hooper were granted bail ready to be sentenced later this month.

    Trio jailed for nearly 35 years over Chelmsford drugs and money laundering conspiracy


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    Are you unclear about how much screen time toddlers should have, if it can be bad for their health or even lead to brain damage?

    The reality is that more research needs to be carried out to prove this one way or the other.

    Many newspaper or magazine articles recently have made a link between brain damage with tablet and smartphone usage, but the lack of evidence to support these theories has created some misleading myths.

    Clear up your confusion by taking a look at the reasons behind the myths

    Exaggeration by the press could be one of the reasons it's become a common misconception that iPads, tablets and smartphones, are detrimental to a toddlers brain development.

    In the American journal, Pediatrics, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine reviewed types of interactive media and proposed that "important questions regarding their use as educational tools."

    It has even been suggested that toddlers' using an iPad or smartphone has a mixture of both positive and negative outcomes on the brain.

    Instead of damaging the brain it seems that using an iPad can actually benefit toddlers, particularly in relation to their learning. It can also prepare them for the social demands of the world we live in today.

    The emphasis of brain damage in relation to iPad usage has never been explicitly proven scientifically.

    However, there is convincing evidence to suggest that using the iPad excessively and close to bedtime will have an effect on sleep patterns, according to Professor Essi Viding, Director of the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit at UCL.

    So keep in mind that until there is scientific evidence that proves using an iPad or smartphone leads to brain damage in toddlers', it's a good idea to ignore any of those pesky myths at the moment.

    iPads and smartphones: no evidence to prove it causes toddlers brain damage


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    HOW do you eat yours?  Many pancake purists prefer theirs drizzled with a bit of lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar.

    But for the more adventurous among you, we've put together three unusual pancake recipes to tickle your tastebuds.

    Viva Strawberry, Toasted Almond and Caramel Pancakes

    Serves 4 (2 pancakes each)

    A truly indulgent pancake recipe, this is something you'll want to eat more often than just once a year on Shrove Tuesday. Ideal for breakfast or dessert, the strawberry, caramel and yoghurt topping is also delicious on toasted waffles or slices of Madeira cake.

    Preparation time: 5 minutes

    Cooking time: 10 Minutes

    Ingredients

    For the pancakes:

    100g flour

    2 eggs, beaten

    300ml milk

    Oil for frying

    For the filling:

    20 Viva strawberries, chopped

    2tsp sugar

    1 tbsp caramel sauce

    300ml Greek yoghurt

    2 tbsp, heaped, toasted almonds

    Method

    In a bowl, sprinkle the sugar over the strawberries and leave to macerate while you make the pancakes. Switch your oven on to a low heat.

    Place the flour in a bowl and gently whisk in the milk and eggs so you have a lump free batter. It should be the consistency of singe cream.

    Heat a medium sized frying pan on a medium heat then wipe it with oil. Ladle enough batter into the pan to coat the base with an even, thin layer when you tilt it around the pan.

    Leave the batter to stand until the top side looks dry and the bottom is golden, usually around 30 seconds. Using a fish slice or a flick of the wrist, turn or flip the pancake to cook the other side. Once cooked pop it on a plate, cover with foil and keep it warm in the oven.

    Repeat this till all the batter is used up and you have a pile of pancakes.

    Gently fold the juicy strawberries and caramel through the yoghurt till it just ripples. Serve 2 pancakes per person topped with a dollop of the yoghurt mixture and scatter with almonds.

    Recipe courtesy of www.vivastrawberries.com

    Beetroot Pancakes with Eggs, Smoked Bacon & Maple Syrup

    Serves 4, makes 12 small pancakes

    Ingredients

    250g plain cooked (vacuum packed) beetroot, drained

    225g plain flour

    2 large eggs, lightly beaten

    30g butter, melted & cooled

    1tbsp baking powder

    Pinch salt

    1 tsp sugar

    300ml milk

    Sunflower oil for shallow frying

    To serve:

    12 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cooked crisply

    Maple syrup, to taste

    4 eggs, fried

    Method

    Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth.

    Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Pour ladles of the batter into the pan and cook until you start to see little bubbles on the surface - this will take a minute or two.

    Using a fish slice flip over the pancakes and cook for a further minute or so. Transfer to a warm plate and cover tightly with foil. Continue until you have used all the batter.

    Serve hot with the eggs, bacon and plenty of maple syrup.

    Recipe courtesy of www.lovebeetroot.co.uk

    Flipping good pancake recipe

    Ingredients

    250g flour

    4 eggs

    500ml Jersey or Guernsey milk

    1 pinch of salt

    50g Jersey or Guernsey butter

    Method

    Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the salt

    Stir in the eggs

    Add the milk little by little, stirring continuously to create a smooth mixture

    Melt the butter

    Add the melted butter to your mix and stir through

    And why not try hot sweet pancakes with Jersey or Guernsey ice cream topped with our delicious chocolate sauce?

    Perfect served on top of our creamy Jersey or Guernsey ice cream.

    300g broken bitter dark chocolate

    150g Jersey or Guernsey butter

    75ml Jersey or Guernsey double cream

    Place all the ingredients in a glass bowl over the top of a pan of simmering water

    Warm through until it has completely melted and then serve…that's it!

    Find the recipes at www.tasteofgoodness.co.uk

    3 exciting pancake day recipes for 2015 that don't just use lemon and sugar


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    Syrup, lemon and blueberries are just some of the treats you'll need to buy as Pancake Day draws closer.

    Do you go all out and celebrate the day with a stack of different creations? Or wonder why we dedicate an entire day to the pancake?

    Pancake Day has been commemorated in Britain since the 15th century and will continue to be celebrated on Tuesday, February 17.

    It is celebrated by Christians as Shrove Tuesday, whereby the word 'shrove' derives from the word 'shrive' which means 'confess all sins' in old English. Christians will use this time for self-reflection and think of the wrongs they need to repent.

    Originally it was called Shrove Week and people would dedicate seven days to the arrival of spring, and this is one of the reasons why pancakes were made.

    Pancakes are hot and round, which are symbolic of the sun and the return of spring. In Britain it used to be known as a 'half-holiday' and lots of events such as pancake races, singing songs or reciting poetry used to take place.

    Ash Wednesday, otherwise known as lent is a time to fast and give up rich foods. Using the last of their rich ingredients they would indulge in some pancake-making the day before. 

    So why not honour this tradition and have a raid of the kitchen cupboards to see what you can find to knock together the perfect pancake.

    Pancake Day 2015: When and why do we celebrate the event?


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    BRAINTREE Town were knocked out of the FA Trophy after failing to make their superior possession and territory count in as they were defeated 2-0 by Ebbsfleet.

    Ebbsfleet inflicted first blood on 36 minutes when Danny Kedwell tapped in from two yards after his former Gillingham team-mate Matt Fish delivered a low cross.

    Despite Braintree pushing men forward in the latter stages in search of an equaliser it was Ebbsfleet to score next as Adam Cunnington robbed Mitch Brundle of the ball and kept a cool head to score and put the game to bed.

    There was only the one change to the Braintree starting line-up for Braintree with Mitch Brundle coming in for Ryan Peters who picked up a knock last week.

    Charlie Strutton and James Mulley returned to the bench whilst Dan Walker was sent out on loan to Eastleigh.

    The away side started the game brightly in the first five minutes camping Ebbsfleet in their own half without delivering a ball into the final third.

    The home side soon found their feet in the match but only managed two long-range shots that soured high and wide of Nick Hamann's goal.

    The first real threat on goal came from the Iron when Dan Sparkes delivered a dangerous free-kick into the box and the ball found its way to Alan Massey but his attempt at goal was tame.

    There was nothing tame about the effort from Chez Isaac just minutes later after he played a smart one-two from his own free-kick 40 yards out.

    After not being closed down he unleashed a bullet of a shot towards Preston Edwards only for the goalkeeper to pull off a great save.

    Ebbsfleet only took two minutes to take the lead last week and were the first team to find the breakthrough this time around with just nine minutes left in the half.

    After a good passing move Matt Fish picked up the ball at the by-line to deliver a low cross and Hamann managed to get a finger-tip to it but couldn't prevent the ball from finding Kedwell at the back post to tap in from two yards out.

    The game started to heat up in the latter stages of the half with both teams guilty of conceding free-kicks as Dan Sparkes became a casualty to a challenge with him being forced off with a cut to the head.

    Braintree came out in the second half and immediately put the home side under the cosh for a good ten minute spell of pressure where they kept Ebbsfleet camped in their own 18-yard box.

    For all their pressure a shot on goal evaded the Iron but just after the hour mark Remy Clerima played a long ball forward to Cox who fended off a challenge to shoot but he couldn't keep it down.

    Braintree created their best chance of the match when Akinola connected a header well with an Isaac corner but Edwards showed great reactions to get down low and save a certain goal.

    The Iron started to push more bodies forward with every attack but were unable to find the equaliser and were punished on the 86th minute for not making their pressure count.

    Cunnington chased down Brundle who was stalling on the ball and showed great composure to score and put the game out of Braintree's reach.

    Braintree town line-up: Hamann, Brundle, Habergham, Isaac, Paine, Massey, Davis © (Maybanks 45), Sparkes (Marks 43), Akinola, Cox (Strutton 70), Clerima

    Unused subs:, Mulley, Pentney.

    FA TROPHY: Braintree Town knocked out by Ebbsfleet United despite dominating match


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    ADVENTURER Charlie Pitcher will be taking on his 'toughest challenge yet' by attempting to become the first person to row solo around the British Isles.

    Charlie, 52, from Felsted, has previously twice broken the world record for the fastest solo row across the Atlantic ocean, and will now attempt to circumnavigate the British Isles in a one-man ocean-going rowing boat.

    He will take on the challenge to raise money for the Big Change, a charity supporting young people and raising awareness of key youth issues in local communities.

    And Charlie told the Chronicle that despite this challenge being a lot closer to home, it could be his toughest yet.

    "It's a huge challenge because it's never been done before, and because of that we are unsure how long it may take," he said.

    "But we estimate a similar time to the Atlantic crossing.

    "This could well be my toughest challenge yet. The seas can be very tricky around the UK and there are 75,000 shipwrecks I hope to avoid."

    Charlie will be using a carbon fibre and nomex boat named "Soma", that is equipped with a water-maker, solar panels, and lithium batteries.

    Father of four Charlie added: "It's a row for Britain and a row for a British charity that does a lot of good things for young people. The vessel is as light as possible but also very technical. Going across the Atlantic, I would row 16 hours a day. But it's completely different rowing around Great Britain because you have six hours of tide with you, then six hours against you."

    Charlie hopes to leave London Bridge as early as June 1, and depending on the weather will either head north past the coast of Essex or south past Kent.

    He said: "I certainly don't want to come too close to land and that's the problem with rowing a boat around Britain.

    "We will have weather blowing me towards land, so I've got to fight to get right out to sea so that if I am resting I am doing so in safe waters."

    Charlie is the founder of Burnham-based Rannoch Adventure and is also seeking female teams or individuals for an ocean rowing team that will take on a world record. With no experience necessary, you can contact him on 01621 782127 or e-mail events@rannochadventure.com for more details.

    Felsted adventurer Charlie Pitcher aims to do first ever solo row around Britain


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    A van driver slapped a fellow motorist in an apparent act of road rage.

    The attack happened in Harold Road, Braintree, at 12.15pm on January 30.

    A man in his 20s was driving a blue Vauxhall Astra, when another man got out of a silver van and questioned his driving.

    The van driver, who was wearing a grey and red hooded top, then slapped this man in the face.

    Police are appealing for information and ask anyone who saw this incident to contact PC Kristie Dawson at Braintree police station on 101.

    Van driver slaps man in Braintree road rage attack


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    AN ESSEX MP who famously left the Conservative party for UKIP has been left red-faced after his young child invited his 28,000 Twitter followers to play Hello Kitty World. The message was retweeted by over 1,000 people after it was posted yesterday on the Clacton MP's account. But then he realised some rather embarrassing news.

    The Conservative press office, who picked up the tweet, responded with a blunt 'no thanks'. But Carswell appeared to take the message in good humour however - and even admitted he was partial to it himself.

    Essex MP Douglas Carswell invites his 28k Twitter followers to play Hello Kitty World


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    An extreme runner dubbed "superwoman" will begin her quest to complete seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents – all while wearing a cow suit.

    Fiona Oakes, 43, is already the holder of three Guinness World Records for distance running, and will begin her quest for a fourth on Sunday February 8 in Melbourne.

    Known as the Triple 7 Quest, her final marathon will take place in Antarctica on Saturday 14 February after competing in accredited races in Abu Dhabi, Paris, Tunisia, New York and Punta Arenas in Chile over a gruelling seven day period showering and sleeping between races on flights.

    Staunch vegan Fiona, said: "I want to show non-vegans what can be done on a vegan diet, that's my objective.

    "I'll be wearing the cow suit to highlight all animal cruelty, including that of the dairy industry."

    Fiona dedicates her time to running Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary in Asheldham, where she personally cares for 400 animals.

    She wakes at 3:30am seven days per week, works throughout the day then trains at night.

    She said: "I'm dreading being away from the sanctuary for so long, but I want to do this. It's not about times, results, trophies or thrills - I feel I owe it to those animals who don't live here, who I can't help directly."

    Conditions will vary enormously from 35°c in Melbourne can reach in February, and -20°c in Antarctica.

    "It's not really the distance that's the problem, it's the jet-lag," Fiona said.

    "I'll have to judge my pace perfectly. I can't go too quickly, but I want to be the fastest. And I need to make the flights I'm booked on."

    Extreme marathon runner to take on seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents in a cow suit


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    A groundwork firm boss has spoken of his relief after walking free from court this week.

    Wayne Mixture, 44, of Hall Lane, Sandon, the owner of construction company Acorn Developments, was the only one of the seven defendants found not guilty of any involvement in a drugs and money laundering conspiracy.

    The prosecution claimed the father-of-two became embroiled in the operation by renting Hamilton House in South Hanningfield on behalf of "ring-leader" Perry Higley and his girlfriend Rachel Croudace.

    "I'm obviously so relieved by the verdict but I was innocent all along," said Mr Mixture, speaking to the Chronicle.

    "I feel as though I've had 18 tonnes lifted off my back and it's been very stressful for me.

    "I feel as though my company and my family have been taken to the slaughterhouse because of this."

    Higley, from Moulsham Street in Chelmsford, James Whiteman, 35, of The Vineyards in Silsoe and Stephen Waite, 44, of The Dell, Wickford, were all jailed for a combined 34 years and nine months for a mixture of cocaine, cannabis, firearms and money laundering offences.

    DCI Stuart Smith, of the Serious and Organised Crime Unit of the Kent and Essex SCD, said the force recovered more than £23,000 cash, a drugs press, between 300 and 400 cannabis plants and 17kg of benzocaine as part of the investigation.

    Police started arresting defendants one by one after arresting Higley and Whiteman on February 11, 2013.

    DCI Smith said: "We discovered one main sophisticated setup involving a cultivation of cannabis and various weapons were recovered. 

    "From then a large complex investigation unravelled which led to seven people being arrested and charged for various offences including conspiracy to supply class A drugs, conspiracy to produce class B drugs and money laundering."

    Construction boss Wayne Mixture relieved after 'not guilty' Chelmsford drugs conspiracy verdict


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    A SCHOOLGIRL awaiting an operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital got a shock when popstar, Nicole Scherzinger, dropped by for a visit and to play a game of Connect 4.

    Poppy Coleman, 13, from Braintree, got to meet the former X Factor judge when she took time out from performing in Cats to visit the children's hospital last week.

    Notley High School pupil, Poppy, said: "Nicole was really good fun and easy to talk to."

    Former Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole, who is currently receiving rave reviews for her role as Grizabella in the West End revival, spent time chatting with children being cared for on Koala ward.

    Poppy played Connect 4 with Nicole and told her about surgery she had on a chiari malformation to relieve pressure on the base of her brain, which had been causing her severe migraines.

    Nicole Scherzinger said: "It's been so inspiring to meet incredible children like Poppy and see how public donations to Great Ormond Street Hospital's charity ensure the children are cared for in state of the art facilities to match the skills of the fantastic doctors and nurses.

    "So many children are managing to fulfil their potential despite the tough challenges that life has presented to them.

    "I'd really encourage the public to support the charity however they can to make sure even more children can be helped by this amazing place."

    Nicole also met nurses working on the wards and saw the new facilities, funded by donations, where patients can play and parents can sleep alongside their children.

    Nicole later tweeted pictures of herself with Poppy and other patients to her 5 million followers:

    The tweet read: "These kids are so unbelievably strong and inspiring @GreatOrmondSt! So #blessed today. You're all #Schamazing XO".

    Braintree schoolgirl meets Cats star Nicole Scherzinger in Great Ormond Street Hospital


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    BRAINTREE Town boss Alan Devonshire bemoaned his side's lack of creation in front of goal as they crashed out of the FA Trophy to Ebbsfleet United on Tuesday night.

    Fleet won the third round replay 2-0 but Devonshire felt his side were the stronger of the two but lacked  a cutting edge in the final third.

    "I felt we were stronger, especially in the second half but at the end of the day it's about scoring goals and we didn't create enough chances to score the goals," said Devonshire.

    "We've had two injuries at half-time where [Dan] Sparkes has come off with a cut in his head and I don't understand what the referee's doing on that one to be fair, I've seen it clearly from the sideline but we got on with it.

    "We did what we could, their goalkeeper's pulled off a fantastic save when [Simeon] Akinola's header was going in the bottom corner.

    "If that goes in it's a different game but at the end of the day goals win games and at the moment we're not scoring as many goals as we'd like.

    "Our centre-half made a mistake at the end to give them a 2-0 win but good luck to them in the next round."

    Kenny Davis also went off at half-time after picking up a dead-leg and Devonshire admits, with no game on Saturday, it's a chance for his players to turn their focus to the league and rest.

    "We've got ten days, nearly two weeks to sort things out and if I need to bring someone in I'll bring someone in," said the manager.

    "We like to play as many games as we can but with the injuries we've picked up it's probably a blessing that we don't have one this Saturday."

    Devonshire left to rue Braintree Town's lack of cutting edge at Ebbsfleet


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    Chelmsford MP Simon Burns has denied he was "napping" in the House of Commons during a split-second television clip.

    The former Minister of State for Transport could be seen pressing his head against his fist in Prime Minister's Questions during a clip on last night's BBC Two programme Inside the Commons.

    A journalist at The Times, Matt Dathan, last night tweeted: "Tory MP Simon Burns caught napping in the chamber during filming of Inside the Commons."

    The 62-year-old however said he was simply leaning his ear towards speakers which amplify the comments of MPs.

    Indeed it is not clear whether Mr Burns is even closing his eyes in the clip.

    "Of course I was not sleeping, who can sleep during PMQs when the noise is so great?" he said.

    "There are speakers at the back of the benches so you can hear what is being said if it's too noisy and because I am sat at the end of the bench I can put my head in my hand and listen through my right ear to what is being said.

    "I did exactly the same today in PMQs at one point because I couldn't hear and because I always sit in that seat."

    Last night's 10pm programme was the first of four instalments of Inside the Commons.

    The series, which was documented by journalist Michael Cockerell over the course of a year, looks at Parliament from behind the scenes.

    The episode can be seen here.

    Mr Burns said he had not watched the programme but was aware of the clip.

    Chelmsford MP Simon Burns denies 'napping' in BBC2 Commons clip


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    F or many – perhaps most – of us, the term "town house" conjures up visions of a narrow, three-storey, modern terraced house with an integral garage. But as a description of this week's featured property, it could hardly be less appropriate.

    Westbury House is an elegant Grade II-listed residence, dating from the 17th or 18th centuries.

    Once almost certainly a single very grand house, it had in its time been turned into flats before being converted back into two separate dwellings.

    Of timber-framed construction, it retains the spacious rooms, high ceilings and period features typical of country houses from that most gracious era.

    Yet it is situated right in the bustling heart of the picturesque old market town of Great Dunmow.

    It was this unique combination of period elegance and exceptional convenience that immediately attracted Mike and Melissa McHale some four years ago, when they moved down from Lichfield in Staffordshire after Mike's job was relocated to Chelmsford.

    "We previously lived in a modern detached house, but we had always hankered after something a bit older," Mike said.

    Space was also a key factor, he adds, since in addition to their two young children, Eva and Rafe, and his older daughter Jade, they also needed to accommodate Melissa's parents, who were moving down with them.

    The couple spent five months searching for something suitable, with Mike staying at Dunmow's historic Starr Hotel during the week, before they found Westbury House.

    And as Mike says, it was a case of love at first sight.

    "The part that was for sale, rather confusingly called Nos. 3 and 4, was just perfect. With no fewer than seven bedrooms, it had all the space we needed, plus loads of potential for the kind of three-generation living we were planning on. And it was ideally situated for schools, shops and absolutely everything else."

    Mike and Melissa bought the house in 2011. Although the structure was all perfectly sound, it was nevertheless a little tired, and needed a fair amount of TLC.

    This included a complete re-wire, the re-plastering of several rooms, the fitting of a new family bathroom and new sanitary ware in the ground floor cloakroom, new worktops and integrated appliances in the Aga kitchen/breakfast room, and complete re-decoration, both inside and out.

    Perhaps most important of all, after lengthy negotiations with the local authority's listed building office, the couple successfully obtained planning consent to convert the extensive cellars into a self-contained one-bedroom annex, with its own direct external access, for Melissa's parents.

    Outside, meanwhile, the unusually large rear garden was professionally landscaped and a double garage was erected.

    The result of all this work, says Mike, is the perfect family home. "We all love it here. The house itself has so much character and space, yet at the same time it is really comfortable, warm and welcoming.

    "It is ideal for entertaining. We have had a Christening here, as well as various birthday parties and barbecues.

    "And as for Christmas parties, it is just perfect, with plenty of room for a really large tree in the drawing room.

    "In summer, the garden is wonderfully quiet and secluded. In fact, you could easily imagine you were living in a grand country house.

    "Yet, it's right in the centre of town. There's a park and tennis courts just over the road, and everything else you need, from schools to shops and restaurants, is in walking distance.

    "In fact, I hardly use the car at all at weekends. There's even a bus stop just outside from which you can reach Stansted Airport in 15 minutes. It's brilliant."

    Without question, then, this is a truly magnificent town house – one of the finest homes in Dunmow, combining period elegance and space with first class contemporary fittings and presentation.

    The distinctive entrance portico, supported by Doric columns, leads into a spacious reception hall featuring a striking glass-fronted built in gas fire.

    Doors lead through to an elegant drawing room flooded with light from tall semi-bowed French windows leading out to a brick paved terrace.

    The modern fitted kitchen with its gas-fired Aga and adjoining breakfast area provides a wonderful focus for everyday family living, while the ground floor accommodation is completed by a formal dining room, utility and cloakroom.

    On the first floor, there is a long landing with natural light from above and off which are six bedrooms, a shower room and a separate bathroom, while a further staircase leads up to a seventh bedroom.

    Outside, meanwhile, there is a brick terraced area with flower beds and a water feature and, beyond this, a wide area of lawn with mature hedges to either side.

    From here a pathway leads through to a second area of lawn with a further water feature and small formal brick paved seating area with mature fruit trees.

    The garage is accessed via a shared gravel driveway leading to the rear of the property, where there is a further parking for up to five cars.

    Not surprisingly, Mike and Melissa had every intention of living here for quite some time.

    But Mike's eldest daughter decided to head back up to Lichfield. Then, Melissa's parents decided to buy a flat of their own – and suddenly, Westbury House was far larger than the couple needed.

    As a result, this exceptional home is for sale through agents Mullucks Wells, with a guide price of £840,000.

    GREAT DUNMOW: A seven bedroom town house without equal


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    A BOOM in Brimstone butterflies is expected in Maldon this year after hundreds of the insect's only food plants were scattered throughout the district.

    Essex Wildlife Trust, Maldon District Council and Butterfly Conservation joined forces for phase two of their Buckthorn for Brimstone campaign by encouraging people to plant bushy buckthorn shrubs.

    The aim of Buckthorn for Brimstone is to strategically plant buckthorns in 'corridors', allowing existing Brimstone populations to expand into Maldon District's gardens, parks and allotments.

    The plants are available for free to landowners and gardeners in Maldon District until Saturday, February 28.

    Mike Sandison, chairman of Essex Wildlife Trust, said: "We hope there will be a very enthusiastic take-up of the offer of free buckthorn plants."

    Cllr Mark Durham, chairman of Maldon District Council's community services committee, said: "I am delighted we are once again involved with this project and hope that we will continue to see the Brimstone butterfly thrive in parks, open spaces and gardens across the District."

    The partnership is urging people to report Brimstone sightings or to register their interest in the campaign, allowing the partnership to identify corridor links to guide future planting programmes.

    For more information, e-mail Emma Brogden at emmab@essexwt.org.uk

    Boom in Brimstone butterflies in Maldon


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    A MAN has been cleared of "catnapping" his estranged wife's feline after a court ruled the couple both owned the animal.

    Jonathan Brewster, 45, of Notley Road, Braintree, was charged with taking ginger moggy Marmalade from his wife Tracy's home near Maidstone, on Monday, July 21, last year.

    But at a trial at Sevenoaks Magistrates' Court on Tuesday last week, magistrates found him not guilty of theft.

    Following the trial, Mr Brewster said: "I was accused of taking the cat back to my place. I thought about it, taking him, but then thought I'd better not and left him at the end of the estate near where we lived.

    "Someone else could have picked him up, but because I was the last one to see him I was accused of taking him.

    "I was found not guilty because we both owned the cat and three magistrates found that I hadn't meant to deprive Tracy of the cat.

    "It should not have got to court, the police didn't have any evidence, this was part of an online campaign to make it into a bigger issue," added the regional manager.

    The couple, who had been together six years and married in 2011, tried to reconcile before Marmalade, known as Marmie, went missing, but decided to break up and Jonathan moved to Braintree.

    But once the cat when missing, Tracy, 52, turned to social media for support in her hunt for Marmie.

    A Facebook page called Marmie's Army attracted more than 4,100 likes and the Twitter support of author Pam Ayres and Made In Chelsea star Lucy Watson.

    Tracy even rallied support by walking some 50 miles over two days from her home in Kent to Harlow, where Jonathan grew up, and returned briefly after the breakdown of the relationship – dressed as Garfield.

    Her awareness drive, which also involved sponsored walks, raised more than £1,300 but cost the mother-of-two her job as a housekeeper.

    But in November, four months after Marmie went missing, the 17-year-old cat was found 35 miles away, surviving by hunting for food and sleeping rough, in the central reservation of the A26 in Surrey.

    Tracy, who has two children from a previous relationship, told the Chronicle: "I'm just glad it's over, I've found Marmie and that's all that matters, I just want to move on."

    Braintree man cleared of 'catnapping' his estranged wife's cat Marmie


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    O ne of the obvious advantages of buying a brand new property is that they tend to be much easier to maintain. Not just because everything about them is new, but also because there is no history of neglect or botched maintenance to contend with.

    Not only that, but since the majority of new homes come complete with a 10-year National House-Building Council (NHBC) guarantee, you also benefit from the sort of long-term peace of mind that is simply not on offer with older properties. And depending on the stage of completion, you may be able to specify internal fittings and décor.

    Another desirable feature of new homes in these eco-conscious times is that thanks to ever-stricter building regulations, they are far more energy efficient and hence more economical to run.

    Finally, particularly for first-time buyers and investors, new builds are a popular option because they have the great advantage of being chain-free.

    For sale through Beresfords with an asking price of £575,000 is one of a brand new pair of four-bedroomed semi-detached houses in a sought-after road in Brentwood.

    Built in an attractive Edwardian style to complement neighbouring properties, and finished to a high specification, the accommodation is arranged over three floors and includes, on the ground floor, an elegant entrance hallway and living room with sash bay window. The open-plan kitchen/family room boasts a high-gloss white kitchen with integrated German appliances and black granite worktops, and has bi-fold doors leading to the rear garden.

    There is a separate utility room with access to the side alleyway, and a cloakroom.

    The first floor comprises three bedrooms, two of which are double, the master benefitting from an ensuite shower room and bay sash windows.

    The family bathroom is also situated on the first floor. The second floor offers a further double bedroom with an ensuite shower room and stunning views from the dormer window.

    Outside, the block paved driveway can accommodate two cars. The rear garden measures 55 feet in length and has a patio, with the remainder laid to lawn.

    Originally a 1960s chalet bungalow which has undergone extensive alteration and extension, is an impressive four-bed detached family house in Writtle – priced by Strutt & Parker at £660,000.

    Substantially completed, it offers prospective buyers the ability to choose the internal colour scheme.

    To the front of the property is a study/snug which lies next to the cloakroom. The remainder of the ground floor has been designed to offer either a formal sitting room and separate dining room, or an open-plan family space leading out to the kitchen/breakfast room, which in addition to a utility room includes a central island complemented by matching fitted units and worktops and a range of built-in appliances. Bi-fold doors open onto the rear garden. Upstairs is the en suite master bedroom, plus three further double bedrooms and a family bathroom.

    Outside, a front driveway allows parking for up to four vehicles. Side access to the rear garden is provided via a panelled gate. When finished, the private rear garden will feature a patio and lawned areas.

    For sale through Hilbery Chaplin with a guide price of £300,000 each, and due for completion in late 2015, is an exclusive development of two new apartments situated in a prime position only a few minutes' walk to Shenfield Broadway and mainline railway station to London Liverpool Street.

    Both ground and first floor apartments comprise two bedrooms, bathroom or shower room, open plan living room and kitchen and come with two parking spaces. A chance to finish the properties to your own specification is available for a limited time only.

    Little Meers Gardens is a collection of eight new homes, two family houses and six roomy bungalows, set in a tucked-away, private enclave in the popular village of Kirby Cross, near Frinton-on-Sea. One link-detached bungalow is already under offer. The five remaining come in two designs, each with three bedrooms, the master with ensuite shower room, family bathroom, a through-kitchen/dining room with doors out to the garden, and separate living rooms.

    The two houses will both have four bedrooms, the master with ensuite shower room, plus a family bathroom. At ground floor level are magnificent kitchen/dining rooms (in one case more than 32ft long) with French doors out to the garden, together with separate living rooms.

    All properties have private gardens and garages. The first phase, currently for sale through Fenn Wright, consists of one link-detached bungalow at £325,000 and one detached house at £425,000. Weather permitting, the site will be finished in late spring or early summer.

    Part of the Thatcher's Grange development on the outskirts of the lovely old market town of Thaxted, and for sale through Mullucks Wells with a guide price of £440,000, The Weathersfield is a traditionally-styled detached house.

    The accommodation comprises, on the ground floor, an entrance hall and cloakroom, a flexible open-plan family living room/kitchen with feature bay window, and a lounge with fireplace.

    Upstairs are four double bedrooms, one with an ensuite, and a family bathroom, while outside is a single garage.

    Finally this week, Savills are agents for The Stables – a stunning gated development of just four individually designed three bedroom mews homes, imaginatively created out of a former coach house adjacent to the historic Trueloves House on the borders of Fryerning and Ingatestone.

    Retaining all of the architectural elegance of the original, while finished and fitted to the highest contemporary specification, each of these homes features a private garden, energy efficient air source heat pumps, under floor heating, two allocated parking spaces and a private indoor courtyard set within the original Victorian cast iron stables under a glazed atrium roof. Prices for these unique homes start at £725,000.

    Six Essex new builds or revamps where you can choose the decor


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    A husband and wife from Braintree hope to team up on the Twickenham turf this summer as they release a Six Nations and Ruby World Cup song for England.

    Joe Bell, 32, has called on the services of his wife Deborah and her vocal group, The Coutures, to record "One Nation One Rose" for the two major rugby tournaments of 2015.

    The married father-of-one said: "The dream is for the three girls to sing it live at the home of rugby at either tournament. Hopefully a lot of people will be up for it – it is a huge year for English rugby.

    "Proceeds from the single will go to Help for Heroes. It's a very patriotic charity and rugby is a very passionate and patriotic sport.

    "We actually sing about the army and going into battle on the record so it felt like the two fitted together quite well."

    The sales account manager has an impressive song-writing pedigree after he and his three brothers recorded "Oi Roy" for the football World Cup in Brazil last summer.

    He enlisted the help of impressionist Paul Golding - a Britain's Got Talent finalist from 2010 - for filming the football song at the Town Crier pub in South Woodham Ferrers.

    But Joe hopes his latest effort will trump the Three Lions tune. He said: "England's football campaign in South America was over before it had begun so we want to do better this time around.

    "I think it will be a lot of fun, especially with England hosting the Rugby World Cup. We want to raise as much money as possible for charity but we also want to grip the country with rugby fever."

    The London Wasps fan says the song will be available to download from iTunes for 79p at the end of the week, with a hard copy also available from Amazon for £6.99.

    Supporters of the song can also buy "One Nation One Rose" T-shirts from Amazon for £9.95.

    Paul revealed that he wrote the lyrics for the rugby anthem shortly after the football World Cup had ended, before contacting his friend Adam Marc to write the music and help put down a demo.

    Joe added: "My musical influences are quite varied; I'm a big fan of Bob Marley and Michael Jackson, but I also really like Tupac.

    "The whole experience has also been a good opportunity for my wife's band to record an original song, as they mainly sing covers."

    For more information, visit www.facebook.com/OneNationOneRose.

    'One Nation One Rose' released as Six Nations and World Cup anthem


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    WITHAM Town winger Tom Wraight will be going on trial with a Championship club next week.

    The 20-year-old has been a regular this season in the Ryman Premier for Town and has attracted interest from several clubs in the Football League at both League One and Championship level.

    Witham's assistant manager Brad King believes it's nothing more than what the player deserves.

    "We won't hold any youngsters back and he deserves it because he's one of the best talents I've worked with," said King.

    "I first saw Tom when he was 16 or 17 playing for Tilbury with my brother and when I went to Witham he was one of the first signings I wanted to make.

    "I wanted him because I thought he was just exceptional and he's just grown into a mature player.

    "I think he should be playing in the Football League and there are three or four clubs watching him and enquiring about him so it's great for him.

    "We'll wish him all the best and hopefully he is successful in his trial because he deserves it.

    "He's been loyal to us and he's a credit to himself."

    Witham Town winger Tom Wraight earns trial with Championship club


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    From an igloo in someone's back garden to a tree house in Cornwall, Airbnb hosts a huge list of properties to choose from, even in Essex.

    If you were to look in Tiptree you'd find an eye-catching purple mansion with six bedrooms that accommodates up to 12 people for £1500 a night.

    The inside is glammed up to the extreme with rainbow colours, eccentric decorations and themed rooms. The locals refer to it as the 'barbie mansion' and it's also used as a photo/film location. 

    Amy Griffiths and James Lloyd-Roberts opened the house to visitors in 2013, Amy said 'James had the house for 12 years and was telling me he wanted to do something with the place but just wasn't sure what.'

    Airbnb seems to be one of the best places to advertise a room, house or exotic creation for a bit of extra cash.

    If you are looking for something a bit more affordable, you could let out a luxury yurt for £110 a night in Hatfield Peverel or pop down to Harlow and rent a barge called the Green Dragon for £98.

    ​Let out an igloo for £7 in Boston, but what does Essex have to offer?


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