Essex & Suffolk: Roman takeover, Celtic girl power, a prickly martyr and a disappointing jambalaya

Last weekend it was my birthday and wedding anniversary which called for a special celebratory trip away in the sunny south of England. Franc and I based ourselves in Colchester, Essex, the county famous for the reality show “The Only Way is Essex” (TOWIE) which I have never watched and indeed never intend to.

Colchester priory

Colchester (originally Camulodunum) is the oldest recorded English town and was the Roman capital of Britain until the Celtic Queen Boudica and her warriors trounced it 60 AD. When the Romans first landed they agreed to continuation of her husband Prasutagus’s ruling, however when he died they ignored his will and took charge of the land in a brutal fashion which greatly angered Boudica.

The Romans were frightened at how easily Boudica and her cronies had destroyed the town and soon after erected a 6 metre high wall for future security:

Colchester 2

 Part of an original mosaic from a rich Roman’s front room:

Colchester 3

In the Norman era, William the Conqueror founded Colchester Castle which was built between 1069 and 1100 using Roman rubble stones and deliberately situated on the site of the previous Roman temple of the emperor, Claudius.

Colchester castle

The charming castle park:

Colchester castle park

The town has a musical history. The child’s rhyme “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” was written here by novelist and poet Jane Taylor in 1806 where it was initially entitled “The Star” and 1990s Britpop band, Blur formed via a school choir in 1989. All together now ”WOO HOO”.

Below is the Hollytrees museum and it’s dolls house replica:

Colchester has 3 vegan establishments and I was highly grateful for my visit to Decouverte albeit the small space is rather overpowering with its large collection of ornamental clutter. I had a simple black olive paté on seeded toast with salad and Franc had the peanut butter and chocolate cake of which he saved me a delicious morsel.

https://www.happycow.net/reviews/decouverte-colchester-68362

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Later on Colchester High Street there was a bit of a hold up in the Warehouse restaurant. I requested the vegan jackfruit burger but sadly they were out of jackfruit. I then asked for a jambalaya which arrived comprising rice, tinned tomatoes and onion with next to no flavouring and a pansy plonked on the top in an attempt to make up for its problems. Where were the vegetables?! I sent it back as an unacceptable presentation for £13 and instead had the trebled cooked chips which were the best I had ever tasted and a salad with butternut squash.

I was apologised to so many times it became embarrassing and I got my meal for free. It transpired agency staff were assisting as the head chef was absent. Apparently he had taken fall at Edinburgh zoo which badly damaged his entire right leg. Well there is some animal rights induced karma for you.

Wivenhoe is a nice village a couple of miles from Colchester where we took a walk along the bank of the River Colne, a former ship building yard and now an area of attractive modern homes.

W

I loved how the church of St Mary the Virgin depicts Jesus and his scared disciples in the storm above its main entrance but mostly I will remember Wivenhoe for the delightful refined sugar free vegan hot chocolate courtesy of the Mofodeluxe brand I had at the Maison Mollie cafe on Station Street.

W St Marys boat

Clacton-on-Sea

Clacton is a typical British seaside resort, created in 1871 and named after the Saxon leader Clacc. We walked the pier and I ate the vegan chickpea and lentil Wellington with all the trimmings at the friendly Toby Inn on the sea front.

Clacton

Clacton beach

Clacton helter

Prior to dinner we witnessed a family drama when a young boy lost one of his trainers over the wall and down into the sea. His father was incensed and responded “You f*cking idiot!“. None of the children recoiled in horror, so obvious was the regular speech pattern in that household. To release the negativity we enjoyed the seafront garden:

Clacton garden

We took a train out to Ipswich 20 minutes away in Suffolk for an evening walk. Ipswich is one of the first English towns and is located on the estuary of the River Orwell. The town raised 80’s pop star Nik Kershaw (best known hits : “I won’t let the sun go down on me” and “Wouldn’t it be good“) and houses the oldest circle of church bells in the world, cast in the 1440s.

Ipswich tower

The docks area, now known as The Waterfront is a very scenic restaurant and university area of the town: 

Ipswich

The 12th century Guildhall building is widely believed to be the oldest civic building standing in England:

Ipswich 2

On the special day itself, Sunday 2nd April (I got married on my birthday 3 years ago) we toured Bury St Edmunds. I had last visited it in the summer of 2002 and was thrilled to have the opportunity to return to this beautiful market town. It is named after St Edmund, king of East Anglia from 855 who was tortured and killed by the invading vikings for refusing to revoke his Christian faith.  

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Ed was shot so full of arrows before being beheaded he was likened to a hedgehog by onlookers. His Saxon warriors could not find the severed head in order to give their master a proper burial and were about to give up the forest search when they heard the cry of a wolf alerting them to its position. The considerate animal had been carefully guarding his find.

The focal point of the town, the 11th century cathedral:

Bury cathedral

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and an enviable home very close to it (if you don’t mind the heavy traffic of tourists and residents):

Bury house on Crown Street

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