Exploring the oldest town on the map

by Carmen Allan-Petale

Colchester is about as far as you can get from jellied eels whilst still remaining in Essex.

The Colchester Castle

It claims to be the oldest town in Britain because it was the first Roman capital in the country and to this day its castle stands proud in the middle of the town.

Built in the 11th century, the castle’s architecture is in the same style as the Tower of London.

Flowers in the Castle Gardens

When we visited it was a beautiful sunny day and there was a county cricket match on in the grounds surrounding the castle. School holidays were also on – in force – and screaming children ran about amusing themselves in a kid’s wonderland where you can play mini golf or row a boat on the lake.

We bypassed all this and ate an ice cream under the shade a big oak tree. Life’s simple like that sometimes.

Celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee with a crafty hedge design

We then walked through the grounds, and past a giant fish pond and numerous hedges shaped into amusing designs keeping in the style of the heritage-listed site… such as a dragon and the Queen’s crown.

Dave playing about with the dragon

Across the road from the castle entrance is the Minories Art Gallery which is run by local artists exhibiting their art. There’s a small shop where you can buy some handmade jewellery and greeting cards – one offs that are really unique. You can also have afternoon tea in the garden if the weather’s agreeable.

These days, more and more towns in the UK are losing their individual-looking high streets to the big chain stores but Colchester has managed to keep many of its independent shops and they’re great to explore. We went into Emmaus, a charity shop that takes donated furniture and repaints and sells it so it’s almost new. It recycles people’s trash and turns it into treasure – like the cake stand I bought from old plates, which you can see below.

The quaint tea stand I bought at Emmaus

So if you’re in Essex and you want to escape the fake tan and false eyelashes – hit the oldest town in Britain to get a touch of tradition.

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