Yesterday, the Echo revealed a whopping five areas in south Essex had been shortlisted for the "most depressing in Britain 2024" title.

Five of the biggest areas in south Essex - Southend, Basildon, Tilbury, Canvey and Grays - have all been nominated in iLiveHere’s annual poll for the worst places to live in the UK.

The scathing towns and cities reviews site has changed the emphasis for this year’s survey and wants to find the most depressing towns, rather than just the worst place to live.

But is south Essex really that bad?

Sure, our area - Southend, Canvey and Tilbury in particular - often get a bad rap with issues highlighted including crime, unemployment and poverty - but there is still so much history, heritage and culture that south Essex has to be proud of.

So, we thought it is only fair to highlight just some of the brilliant things south Essex has to offer that make it a wonderful place to live.

Our wonderful nature reserves and parks

​In south Essex, we have a vast array of natural beauty spots to enjoy - Canvey Wick, Chafford Gorges and Belfairs to name a few- whether that be for a Sunday stroll, dog walk or wildlife spotting.

Langdon Nature Discovery Park is set in a stunning nature reserve of a huge 461 acres - roughly 230 football pitches - which comprises woodland, meadows, lakes and former plotland gardens. In terms of historical significance, it boasts the last remaining plotlands house in the UK - The Haven.

Southend has so many stunning parks, nature reserves and open spaces. A walk along the seafront or on the cliffs near the cenotaph shows the stunning, painstaking work of the council's parks team who keep the beautiful floral displays going.

Southend Pier

A walk (or electric train ride) up the world’s longest pleasure pier or a train ride is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. 

You also never know what you might see on the 1.3-mile walk. Most recently, an adorable seal was spotted taking a stroll on the walkway at Southend Pier. 

Echo: The seal on Southend PierThe seal on Southend Pier (Image: Alan White)

And residents were urged to plan a visit last weekend as a "rare" bird species was seen close to the pier head.

During the summer, visitors can also hop on boat trips from the end of the pier, with estuary tours around the must-see historic Redsand Towers.

Our many theatres

Southend's premier entertainment complex, Cliffs Pavilion has seen some of the world’s biggest stars pass through its stage door. As the region's leading theatre and concert hall, programmes include touring West End musicals, ballet, concerts and comedy.

The nearby Palace Theatre always offers a vibrant mix of comedy, music, drama and shows, also welcoming a host famous faces.

Thameside Theatre in Grays is still so beloved by the community in Thurrock, despite being named on the "theatres at risk" list for three years in a row. The theatre's recent pantomime has broken records and "set the stage for a fabulous year ahead", with new exciting shows coming to the Thameside including Allo Allo, Cinderella and Twist of Oz.

Echo: When Flog It came to Towngate TheatreWhen Flog It came to Towngate Theatre (Image: Newsquest)

The original Towngate Theatre opened in Basildon in September 1968 and ever since, has remained a focal point for the town’s community.

Over the decades it has gone from strength to strength, serving as a venue for everything from comedy and panto to serious drama and even the hit BBC show Flog It! in 2004.

One of the biggest shopping areas in Europe - right on our doorstep

While many like to complain about how busy it gets, we are lucky to have the 11th largest shopping centre in Britain right on our doorsteps.

Lakeside shopping centre and the surrounding retail parks form one of the largest shopping areas in a single location in Europe. There are more than 250 shops, 50 cafes and restaurants, and a 26-acre lake.

Award-winning theme park

Adventure Island has scooped dozens of awards every year at the UK Theme Park Awards and is widely recognised as the nation's number one free admission theme park.

With its stunning seafront location, the variety of rides on offer and the enthusiastic staff, it is one of the go-to amusement parks in the country, thanks to more than 40 years-worth of hard work from the Miller family.

This year, a thrilling new drop tower ride taller than Southend’s City Wheel will be unveiled - which has cost the Stockvale Group slightly less than £1million.

Southend Airport

While its not quite as large and busy as its rival Essex airport, Stansted, residents should be proud of how Southend Airport has bounced back since the Covid pandemic when it saw its passenger numbers drop by more than 90 per cent.

Now, it boast 12 destinations - with nine this summer - a huge jump from the just three holiday spots it offered flights to in 2022.

There may be even more on offer at the transport hub soon, after recent announcements including the airport's new partnership with Aeroitalia, as business development director Nigel Mayes revealed bosses are confident this will lead to “further routes to Italian destinations”.

Thames Freeport

The Thames Freeport, which includes the ports of Tilbury and DP World London Gateway, as well as Ford's Dagenham plant, has provided a huge boost to Thurrock Council, with funding from business rates expected to boost the cash-strapped council’s coffers by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The freeport has also created 1,000 jobs in south Essex in its first two years and  officially reached the impressive milestone of attracting £600million in October.

Rail lines

I know it might not sound very exciting, but we're lucky in south Essex to be served by two rail networks. Southend alone boasts seven stations (eight if you count Southend Airport...which is technically in Rochford).

We love to complain but, in general, c2c is on time and gives us great service, and there is always a Greater Anglia station nearby if - for whatever reason - c2c trains are not running.

Remember the Misery Line, anyone? Slam-door trains and delays…we’ve come a very long way.