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To the north of the green belt, with the exception of major towns such as Colchester, Chelmsford and Southend-on-Sea the county is rural, with many small towns, villages and hamlets largely built in the traditional materials of timber and brick, with clay tile or thatched roofs.
The county town is Chelmsford, which is the only city in the county.
The Metropolitan Green Belt has effectively prevented the further sprawl of London into the county, although it contains the new towns of Basildon and Harlow, originally developed to resettle Londoners following the destruction of London housing in the Second World War, since which they have been significantly developed and expanded.
Epping Forest also acts as a protected barrier to the further spread of London.
Before 1889, small areas were transferred to Hertfordshire near Bishops Stortford and Sawbridgeworth.
At the time of the main changes around 1900, parts of Helions Bumpstead, Sturmer, Kedington and Ballingdon-with-Brundon were transferred to Suffolk; and Great Chishill, Little Chishill and Heydon were transferred to Cambridgeshire.
If you commute into London, we have a selection of routes across the county that are perfect to suit your travel needs.