Monday, 9 May 2011

Careful where you step, there's history under there..........

You think you know where you live? Think again! I've lived in Colchester for over forty years, yet last Saturday I went down a town centre street that I had never before visited. And what a story it has to tell.

So what has been happening? Walk Colchester is a local organisation promoting the cause of pedestrianism. The group has been around for about a year, and their first big task was the development of a community mapping site. The next big project was to place itself amongst the international community of "walking as transport" advocates. And later this year Walk Colchester are promoting a series of practical projects to make the town more walking friendly.

Last weekend was Jane's Walk weekend, where there have been a series of local walks led by local people, celebrating the legacy of Jane Jacobs . Colchester was the first town in the UK to take part in this international festival. Eleven exciting walks and events were set up, the publicity machine was set rolling, the sun shone, and the crowds turned up.

And what's the story behind the uninspiring looking place, in the photo at the top of the page? It's Arthur Street (a road, not a person), and Dorian Kelly, standing on a red stool, is getting near the end of a fascinating tour of the "Theatres and Lost Theatres of Colchester".

Now I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about Colchester and its history, and I thought Dorian might have maybe a dozen places to show us or talk about. And he came up with over thirty locations, varying from Roman amphitheatres, to halls used for AmDram, to old music halls, to flea-pit cinemas, to professional theatres. The photo is the location of Colchester's Bear and Bull-Baiting Ring, identified from a medieval map of Colchester. Looking back eight hundred years, not many bears were baited, as they were rare expensive items, but plenty of cattle had suffered on this spot. The tradition continued for centuries, with a slaughterhouse very nearby. Indeed this was the last surviving abattoir in the town centre, until closure a few years ago. However the meat tradition continues to this day, with the long established butchers "Allen's" in adjacent St Botolph's Street.

And from these facts, we move into speculation. Why were animals baited at this location? Maybe this was where the Romans had their amphitheatre (Camulodonum must have had one somewhere, but where exactly?), and the medieval people took over the ruined oval shape for their activities? And what happened after it was a bull ring? The town must have had an Elizabethan theatre, but no site has been identified. Think of Shakespeare's "The Rose" or "The Globe" theatres on London's southbank. Maybe a theatre became the next tenants of the circular arena of the killing floor, on waste land just outside the town walls?

What we see now are the remnants of some Victorian housing, and a big shed now being used by Emmaus, the charity that helps tackle poverty and homelessness, and helps recycle old furniture. All trace above ground of the bull ring has gone, but the disused slaughterhouse remains, and Allen's trade on, with 800 years of meat history under the fingernails of this corner of town.

So when you next walk to work, increase the sense of occasion by thinking about the history of the places you walk through. There's a tale to tell, wherever you tread.

Monday, 25 April 2011

May 2011 is Walking Month in Colchester

Walking is back, with even more partners working together in 2011. Colchester is a great town for walking. From the edge to the centre is about 5km - less than an hour's walk, door to door.

And how long does it take by car or bus, allowing for the extra bits of time lost in jams, paying and parking time, waiting time at bus stops en route, and the final walk to the destination? I'm never that keen when the so-called "slow modes" are promoted as slow. If walking (or cycling) takes the same or a bit more than the journey time by car, maybe it's worth the investment of a little more time, looking at the health and wellbeing benefits of exercise. (Quite apart from the cost savings, congestion reduction and less carbon emmissions.)

So what are we going to do for walking in 2011? Speaking for myself, I can't wait for the "Jane's Walk" weekend, 6-8 May, when there will be many local events. It's a real coup for "Walk Colchester" to launch the first "Jane's Walk" event in the UK - we are now part of an international movement to recognise the benefits of pedestrianism.

See Walk Colchester's website as it's a fabulous local resource, and here's the link to their "Jane's Walk" page .

And who are these people in the picture? It's the management team at Colchester Borough Council doing their bit for Comic Relief, making various local journeys by foot, running and by bike. It confirmed what many of us already know:
  • local trips can be very quick under your own steam, and  
  • no matter what clothes they wear, they still look like a management team.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Step and Snap makes its autumn return

STEP AND SNAP - Colchester Walk to Work Week's photography competition.
Send us your pictures of your walking during the autumn walk to work week, 25-31 October 2010.

This is an unusual competition; there are no rules, only the possibility of some prizes and awards, and just a little small print.

What are we looking for? Images taken on your walk to work, or when walking anywhere in Walk to Work Week. It can be the big picture of the landscape, or the fine detail along the way. It can illustrate a specific location, or it can promote the concept of walking for transport. It can be sharp or abstract. Your pictures can make a point, or be fun, or, better still, be both. It's up to you. In our "wrong way round" competition we will devise potential categories and awards according to what images we receive.

What happens later? We want to use your images to promote walking in Colchester . We are having another local promotion in 2011, and would like to stage an exhibition of your photographs. If you want to get involved in any way with the walking project or the photography competition, please get in touch.

The small print. Please send your images and information to by Wednesday 3rd November 2010. They must be your own pictures, taken during walk to work week 25-31 October 2010. You retain the copyright of your photos. We are permitted to use them to promote walking in Colchester, giving you the picture credit.

Remember, STEP AND SNAP is just for fun.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Autumn Walk to Work Week 25-31 October 2010

They said "it's crazy to promote walking with the evenings get darker". They said "no way should you promote walking when it's turning chilly". But we say walking is a year round activity, to be enjoyed whatever the date. And to celebrate walking in normal clothes rather than t-shirts and shorts, we have a walking week at the end of October (Monday 25th to Sunday 31st), and here's the first announcement of our programme.

Tuesday 26 October. "Walkers' Breakfast" for people at North Colchester Business Parks. Meet-up from 7:30-9:30 at Chef's Eating House. The Seedbed centre, Wyncolls Road, Severalls Industrial Park, CO4 9HT.

Wednesday 27 October. "Chilly Hilly Fields" picnic lunch. Hot vegetable soup will be provided, after a 1km led walk. Depart from outside Mercury Theatre at 12:15 sharp, to the bench overlooking the Colne valley at Hilly Fields. Scarves may be needed.

Saturday 30 October."Stockwell Strollers" walking group. Meet at The Castle Inn, High Street, at 8.30 for a 9.00 start. It will be a 10 mile walk in the morning to The Albion at Rowhedge and a 4 mile stroll back along the river after lunch, back at The Castle by about 4.30. For more information contact Alan Hardy at .

Sunday 31 October. "Walk the Walls" led history walk, 3km round the town's walls, led by local history enthusiast Jess Jephcott. Leaves Balkerne Gate at noon, about 90 minutes.

ALL WEEK it's the return of the "Step and Snap" photography competition, more details soon. Plus there are several "Health Walks" during the week - see Colchester Borough Council website.

"Colchester Walk to Work" links with "Walk Colchester"

"Colchester Walk to Work" is here to promote walking as transport, especially looking at the journey to work. Some of the work is promoted through Colchester2020 Travel Plan Club, and some is the personal passion of your page host Andrew Budd.

And there's "Walk Colchester" , a green community mapping initiative, launched in 2010. The picture shows a Walk Colchester/ Colchester Walk to Work event in walking week in April. Walk Colchester's main aims are to record and protect Colchester’s paths, parks, woodland and open spaces, and to promote enjoyable, accessible, informed pedestrianism for walkers of all ages and abilities. Have a look at their website, and join the cause.

We're considering joining forces as we share much common ground, and could do even better for walking in Colchester by working more closely together. Plus Walk Colchester are inspirational and lovely people, and who wouldn't want to work with people like that? Watch out for news of our joint working.

Colchester Walk to Work's shoes are on again.

For followers of this particular blog trail, your host is back from his backpacking trip in Scotland in May. Four days cross country from Glenelg on the west coast to Invergarry in the Great Glen. Since then, at Colchester2020 Travel Plan Club, we've been busy with car sharing schemes, bus promotions, train discounts, car clubs, cycling for transport and health, smarter driving .... oh yes, and running the club. BUT NOW, WALKING IS BACK!!!!!

And lots has happened since May. Our first Walk to Work Week in April went well, with lots of media interest in the idea of promoting walking as transport, and for fun and good health too. The two Colchester walking maps have proved to be very popular, with repeat orders from most of our distributors, and very good feedback from our customers.

"YES, BUT WHAT'S NEXT?" I hear you say. Well, walking is for all seasons, not just for summer, so we're going against the grain and promoting winter walking, starting with a "winter walk to work week", Monday 25 October to Sunday 31 October. During the week, we'll be launching a media campaign, and will be having some special events.... and that's the subject of another posting.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Gone for a walk.

Colchester Walk to Week's over, and your blogmaster is going for a walk. I'm backpacking in the Scottish Highlands, and will be completely out of touch, so no stories from me on here for a while. This is a picture of my solo tent, early one morning east of Knoydart, last May. Much as I enjoy my walk to work, a change of scenery is welcome. And happy trails to you too.