It is perhaps wise to start your visit to Colchester by visiting the Tourist Office. They have many leaflets, helpful staff, maps of the town, and books to purchase regarding the surrounding area and counties.
The Tourist Office is fully carpeted, well laid out, plenty of space to move around,souvenirs and postcards to buy.
After closing hours, there is a tv screen in the front window that you press by hand for information on where to stay etc. This gives phone number, locations, post codes for those visitors with Sat Navs.
Colchester Zoo - Animal Enclosures
Take a look at the other pictures, especially the ones of the white tiger. This is what zoo enclosures should be like - plenty of space, and as close as possible to the natural habitat of the animals.
The white tiger is actually a genetic mutation of a Bengal tiger (not an albino though), and hasn't been seen in the wild since 1951. Because it is a mutation, it is possible that more white cubs can be born, even from normal parents (who must both carry the particular recessive gene). They can be born in the wild, but because they are not camouflaged they cannot hunt succesfully in the wild, and the cubs rarely survive.
The elephant enclosure is a large open space surrounded by a ditch and a rock wall. It is home to a small herd of African Elephants (there were 3 males and 4 female in 2005), including one youngster - and I see from the website that one of the females is pregnant. Similarly the enclosure for the giraffes, zebras and rhinos is quite a large area.
Britain's Oldest Recorded Town
"Romans, Normans and Cavaliers"
I regard Colchester as my home town because it is the nearest large town to our village.
Colchester was the probably the first Roman town in Britain, having been settled soon after the invasion in AD43, and the Romans stayed here for over 400 years. Traces of the Roman town and fortifications can be found all over Colchester, from large parts of the Roman Walls, the Balkerne Gate, and many other archaeological finds.
A Roman chariot circus has been found in Colchester during excavation works at Colchester Barracks. This is the ONLY one ever found in Britain. The excavations were open to the public for ONE day only, Saturday 22nd January 2005. Now the area will be covered over again to preserve the finds, and will probably not be seen again in our lifetimes.
See the travelogue for more info.
The castle was built on the site of the Roman Temple of Claudius by the Normans and was started around 1076AD. When originally built it was the largest keep in Europe, much bigger than even the White Tower at the Tower of London, and was twice as high as it it now. But by the 14th Century it was no longer required as a fortress, and was used as a prison for a while. During the English Civil War, it was briefly held by the Royalists, but surrendered after a twelve week siege of the town. It was sold to a local business man, who demolished the top two floors for the building materials, but fortunately for us found that there wasn't a profit to be had, and left the remainder standing.
Now, after restoration, the castle houses a museum.
Nowadays, Colchester is a busy expanding town. The Army has a significant presence here, and redevelopment of the old Victorian Barracks is taking place, releasing land for housing as well as providing up-to-date quarters for the many troops and their families that are based here. Good rail links (well, most of the time, anyway) mean that there are a lot of commuters, mainly to London, but also to Chelmsford and Ipswich. Some of the old-established industries have finally gone, but there are new industrial estates to the east and south-east of the town providing plenty of work.
We had a great day out at Colchester Zoo recently. The zoo covers a large area now, much much larger than when I went as a kid, and has over 200 species of animals, many of them endangered species. In fact 41 species are part of European Endangered species breeding programmes, including the Amur leopards and Amur tigers. I have posted a couple of travelogues with some of my favourite photos from our visit - I have many, many more !
Tips now added !
Some of the local villages and towns have quite a history of their own. I'll be adding to this list pages over time, but the pictures might have to wait til the spring, when the sun returns to this damp drizzly country. They do say that this part of Essex has practically the lowest rainfall in the country - you wouldn't know it at the moment ! (written early 2005 - in 2006 I took quite a few photos - now in 2007 I am finally writing the pages ! )
Have a look at my pages on
(more to come)