Thursday : A Day in Colchester

I shall save my herd of readers (is three a herd?) from tales of Wednesday, since there’s a limit to what I can find to write about when I’m in Norwich. Although I still have a few ideas…. So, jumping to Thursday and what I thought would be a pleasant day out in Colchester given the rail fares were very reasonable.

The cluster of customers at Norwich railway station waited excitedly to be allowed to board the train to London. It was meant to be departing from Platform 1, but the train pulled into Platform 2 and using all my skill and initiative I boarded it, knowing that there was unlikely to be another train appearing at Platform 1. Which meant I had, at least for a few seconds, a train to myself. This rather boring little tale of woe seems to be me to be an odd way of running the rail network that causes endless confusion for passengers.

The train journey passed without note other than I got lost at the railway station (before I had left the bloody thing) which wasn’t ideal for such a walking professional as myself. I blamed the poor signage. However, on that subject, I hadn’t noticed this before in Colchester, but they’ve put some elephants to guide the way into the town centre from the railway centre, which isn’t the most centrally located. They spent some money on flags and pedestrian improvements to encourage people to walk the twenty minutes or so, a notion that I fully support.

Standing on North Bridge overlooking the River Colne and the bridge itself was erected in 1843 and it was widened by just over 17 feet in 1903. It’s an important crossing and it’s thought that the Romans would have had some form of bridge here, and documentation shows that there was a more substantial structure as far back as 1189. There is something very special about crossing a river at a place where people have been walking (or perhaps being ferried) across for two thousand years. Some permanence in an ever changing world.

And here are the elephants again in the town centre, I’ve arrived safely. It’s a fun way of getting children to walk from the railway station to the town, as well as a handy unofficial way I assume of advertising Colchester Zoo. There’s an historic link as well though that they’ll likely say is the main reason, it’s thought that Emperor Claudius arrived in Colchester in AD43 on a herd of elephants following the Roman invasion. Goodness only knows what the locals must have thought at the time, although I doubt they took the elephants over the bridge, or indeed, on any little ferry arrangement that they might have had here.

I needed to pop to the library, which was busier than I expected, with the general seating area in the local history section being nearly full. This is a little odd, they usually reserve seating in these areas for customers who wanted to access books about the local heritage. As for the book collection, it’s sizeable and everything seemed to be in a logical place. I noticed that the library had shut their toilets as people kept doing inappropriate things in them, which isn’t an ideal way to run public services.

I had several things to do in Colchester that I won’t bore readers with, but this is a new pub to me, which is the Centurion. They list their beers on Untappd, and this worked for me as I noticed in advance that they had a tap takeover by the formidable York Brewery. There was a friendly and engaging service, reasonable priced and it was a delight to have a couple of beers from the brewery. The pub is run by Stonegate and they’re doing a competent job here, I can imagine it’s a better set-up than when it was O’Neills and Pat Molloy’s.

The intriguing 2.2 metre tall statue of Walking Woman on the High Street, by the artist Sean Henry who I’ve written about several times before. The town was rather quieter than I had expected, but there were some patches of rain and that might have encouraged people to stay at home.

A quick visit to the Playhouse in Colchester to try a couple more beers from their festival. Nothing exceptional, but it was cheap and cheerful, with power points for me to plug into as well which was useful.

My walk back to the railway station was via the Victoria Inn and I couldn’t resist popping in as they had some interesting options listed on Untappd.

I went for the Salted Caramel Clusters from Neon Raptor Brewing Company, which did its job of being a stout with a taste of salted caramel and very enjoyable it was too. Perhaps slightly thin and so only just a little bit decadent, but I certainly wasn’t displeased with it.

The train to Norwich arrived six minutes early, which I thought was unusually efficient of it.

And luckily there was plenty of space for my laptop and myself to sit comfortably. We arrived back on time into Norwich, so yet again no chance for a delay repay claim. I didn’t plan this whole arrangement very well, as the next morning I was going back to London, via Colchester…..