Travel Report: Colchester Castle Park, England.
May 2019. After my enlightening visit to the excellent Colchester Castle Museum, it was time for a stroll around the absolutely gorgeous Castle Park. Hot on the heels of my recent return from Asia, I felt positively awestruck by how green and fresh England felt. Colchester’s landscaped Victorian era park is an 11-hectare complex situated just to the northeast of Colchester Town Centre.
Originally part of the castle’s private grounds, Colchester Castle Park opened to the public on the 20th of October 1892. It was late afternoon on the day of my visit and I had about an hour before a dinner date with my grandma. Much to my delight, there seemed to be very little going on, with many of the city’s residents most likely on their way home from work.
My walk that day began by following the path that runs left past the castle entrance and down the side and back of the great building. Passing a series of lovely monkey puzzle and foxglove trees, it wasn’t long before I came across the park’s infamous community of grey squirrels.
Colchester Castle Park.
You literally couldn’t miss them if you tried. They dart across the paths in front of you, bounce through the grass and shoot up and down the trees. In the case of one ballsy little fella, they even come right up to you. This guy stopped at my feet and narrowed his beady little eyes with an expression that said: “Yo, where’s the food at?”
Colchester has a rich history as a military town, dating all the way back to the days of Emperor Claudius. In fact, he was responsible for setting up the town’s first garrison in the year 43.
Over the centuries, The Romans, The Normans and The Victorians all manned garrisons here too. In 2004 the last of these historical barracks were destroyed to make way for today’s Merville Barracks at Colchester Garrison.
In honour of the town’s military roots, Colchester Castle Park features a number of war memorials. This understated stone pays tribute to the local men who died during The Korean War between 1950-1953. The stone reads: “Not one of them is forgotten before god”.
This anniversary stone celebrates 90 years of The Royal British Legion in Colchester. The Mayor unveiled the memorial in 2011. It reads: “Shoulder to shoulder with all who serve”.
A scattering of touching memorial rocks sit under the stone. This one commemorates the service of Private Sidney Smith, who died in action during World War I.
What To See & Do, Colchester.
This is the towering Millennium Beacon, first lit by The Mayor of Colchester, Graham Bober, on the 19th of July 1988. That first lighting commemorated the 400th anniversary of the sighting of The Spanish Armada in 1588.
The Beacon goes on to list all subsequent lightings. In 2005 it was in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of The Battle of Trafalgar. While in 2016, the flame burned bright in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday. The most recent lighting came in November 2018 to mark a hundred years since the end of World War I.
Colchester Castle Park.
Colchester’s Roman Wall is the longest, oldest and best preserved town Roman Wall in Britain. It was built around 65-80, after Queen Boudica’s bloody revolt against The Roman Empire left most of the town destroyed. A sizeable chunk of the wall runs east to west, right through the centre of Colchester Castle Park.
I found an old sign on the Roman Wall that basically warns parents not to let their children climb all over it. The sign also encourages people to call the police if they see anyone damaging it! As I was taking my photograph, a passing woman stopped to exclaim: “My word, twenty years I’ve lived here and I never noticed that sign!” Glad to be of service, lady.
All too aware that the clock was ticking down on my scheduled arrival at nan’s place, I picked up the pace. I passed The Victorian Bandstand, which hosts occasional concerts, and strode past Cafe in the Park, ignoring the delicious smell of freshly baked scones. However, it was the sight of the lovely Boating Lake that stunted my progress for a few moments. It was so pretty I just had to take a photograph.
Marmalade Emma & Teddy Grimes.
I could almost smell my nan’s roast dinner from the park. My last stop was this amusing tribute to two historical Colchester characters, Marmalade Emma and Teddy Grimes. They were a pair of loveable tramps who lived in Colchester back in the early 1900s.
Emma was a fiery character from a poor family. She lost every job she had, descended into prostitution and spent some time behind bars. In contrast, Teddy came from a middle class family and went to private school, before throwing a bright future away for a life of tramping.
Emma and Teddy were inseparable and had a certain charm, which eventually made them famous around Colchester. As a result, people would often show them acts of kindness.
Perhaps by paying Teddy to do odd jobs. Or donations of bread and marmalade for Emma. Eventually, they even made their way onto Colchester postcards! According to local stories, Emma and Teddy often came to Colchester Castle Park to rest, sleep and beg for food.
In 1970 the British rock band Hard Meat released a song about them called The Ballad of Marmalade Emma and Teddy Grimes. Moreover, you can read this interesting article about them by The Essex County Standard.
For more on my adventures in this pretty English town, check out my other travel reports from Colchester.
Or maybe search further afield with my articles from all around England.
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Interesting. I must admit I never really think of Essex as having much to offer, a stance that I know is ridiculous given the Roman history just lying around! Love the squirrel – there’s one like that in the wonderful Postman’s Park in London. It just marches up to people and sits there staring at them.
Hi Stella, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I’d definitely like to see a bit more of Essex the next time I’m in England. I’ve just added Postman’s Park to my London to-do list, cheers!
Postman’s Park is tiny but fascinating.
Gorgeous park indeed! The swan rowboats crack me up!
For only being 11 hectares, it certainly contains a lot. Roman wall, war memorial, beautiful grounds, squirrels, swan boats and a row of very English looking houses outside the wall. Looks like a very pleasant place to spend part of an afternoon.
Interesting shapes in that first photo of the park. It reminds me, although a totally different medium, of some of the Japanese well cared for raked sand gardens with rocks placed in what looked like no pattern, but I’m sure were intentional. Loved the story of Emma and Teddy!
Cheers, thanks for reading! I totally see what you mean about the Japanese connection, I hadn’t joined the dots.