The city is always looming in your mind like a perma-tanned nightmare of “glamping” (that’s glamorous camping) and “vajazzles” (that’s… you can probably figure it out).
But Essex, and particularly Chelmsford, has a lot more to offer than the fake tan and extra-long fingernails of TOWIE’s cast members.
The only city in Essex, Chelmsford has marked itself as the beating heart of the county, offering great education, living, culture and wild nights out that will satisfy anyone looking to settle down in this archetypically English district.
So, what’s on offer in Chelmsford away from the world of “glamping”?
A top-notch education
Chelmsford is still revelling in its successful upgrade to city status in 2012, leading to a growing interest in Anglia Ruskin University to improve its position as a concern on the global academic stage. Eight areas of its research activity have been rated world-leading by the government, leaving its reputation skyrocketing.
With high-quality courses in MBA (that’s a Masters in Business Administration, for the layman), Film, Administration and hundreds more, Anglia Ruskin has forged a place as one of the most appealing universities close to London (Chelmsford is about a 35-minute train journey from the capital).
If you’ve got younger kids, then Chelmsford has it covered – Newlands Spring, Barnes Farm and The Tyrells are all primary schools that have been rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.
For secondary schools, Chelmsford County High for Girls and King Edward VI Grammar have also been awarded the “outstanding” badge of honour.
The culture files
Again, TOWIE is exactly what Chelmsford isn’t.
Instead, Chelmsford’s culture is more like an urbane Victorian gentleman, adorned with a pipe, bowler hat and monocle – calm, cultured and sophisticated.
To start with, you’ve got the Chelmsford Cathedral, one of England’s newest cathedrals that will please the pious and secular alike.
Then there’s the Chelmsford and Essex Museum, which features a diverse set of exhibitions and an ever-changing art collection that celebrates artists from Essex and beyond.
But, if you’re looking to get your dance moves on, just wait for this summer’s V Festival to come around, where megastars like Justin Timberlake and The Killers will be headlining. It’ll provide a welcome change of pace as this serene spot of England is lit up with all the excitement of rock and pop.
It’s the home of the particularly British phenomenon of the pub lunch, and there’s nowhere better in Chelmsford than The Bay Horse for a traditional selection of heady British dishes, as well as the visual feast of the architecture in this Grade II listed Tudor building.
For a more European feel to your eating, try out The Blue Bridge Bar & Restaurant, where you’ll be wined and dined with a mouth-watering menu, including treats like native lobster thermidor or a chicken liver and cognac parfait.
A wild night out
Get raving and hit Evoke for the most popular nightclub in Chelmsford. Playing host to dance- fuelled evenings and the freshest pop hits, this club is the place go wild with cheap drinks and discount student nights.
Or, for an R&B flavour to your evening, get yourself down to MIYA, where their MIYA Saturdays will pump you up with live percussion, fire breathers, stilt walkers and dancers to stir you into a mood that’s more like Mardi Gras than your average Saturday night.
All in all, it’s enough to make the home of “vajazzling” seem like a different county altogether.