Monday 2 September 2013


Another lovely day dawned at Down Hall and another hearty breakfast consumed, it was time to meet our fellow travellers to wait for our coach to transport us to Colchester, Britain's oldest recorded Roman town and, for a time, the capital of Roman Britain.

Our first stop in the town was the Castle, an example of a largely complete Norman castle and which is being renovated at the moment.

The castle was ordered by William the Conqueror and designed by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester. Building began between 1069 and 1076 under the supervision of Eudo Dapifer, who became the castle's steward on its completion. Building stopped in 1080 because of a threat of Viking invasion, but the castle was completed by around 1100.

In 1215, the castle was besieged and eventually captured by King John, following the altercation with rebellious nobles that eventually led to the Magna Carta.  The castle has had various uses since it ceased to be a royal castle. It has been a county prison, where in 1645 the self-styled Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins interrogated and imprisoned suspected witches. In 1648, during the second English Civil War, the Royalist leaders Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle were executed just to the rear of the castle. Local legend has it that grass will not grow on the spot on which they fell. A small obelisk now marks the point. In 1656 the Quaker James Parnell was martyred there.

 Castle Park (60 acres), situated in the grounds of Colchester Castle and the Hollytrees Mansion, is divided into an upper and lower park by the Roman town wall of Colchester. The upper park consists mainly of formal gardens while the lower park has a more natural feel - situated on the banks of the River Colne.

In the next photograph you can see the Roman wall and the lower park in the distance behind MWM.

Another interesting feature we found behind the castle was this beacon, I hope you are able to biggify the pic to read the description.

After a quick lunch we wandered around the town, looking in the shops, before it was time to meet the coach again to take us on our next visit which was to Castle Hedingham a small village in northeast Essex

It developed around Hedingham Castle,  the ancestral seat of the de Veres, Earls of Oxford. The first earl, Aubrey de Vere III, finished the initial building of the keep and established a Benedictine nunnery, Castle Hedingham Priory, near the castle gates.  Hugh de Vere, Fourth Earl of Oxford, purchased the right to hold a market in the town of the crown in the mid-13th century. He also founded a hospital just outside the gates of the castle around 1250.  The village's main attractions are the well preserved castle, the Colne Valley Railway and its many timber-framed medieval buildings.  Unfortunately we didn't have time to see the castle as our destination was the railway,

where we had a short (very short as the track is little more than a mile long) ride on the railway, before enjoying a pot of tea and some freshly made fruit scones.

Of course we had to take some photos of the engines, MWM's passion.

Then it was time to get back on the coach

to go back to the hotel for dinner and bed as we were headed home the following day.

We really enjoyed our visit to Down Hall and the surrounding area, I hope you did too.    No more travelogues now until late September when we get back from our trip to Canada and the Rocky Mountaineer.