Ambling through the meadows of the Colne River valley, Colchester’s Roman heritage is not always visible. But by 55BC, Colchester was the thriving capital of Roman Britannia, and this area an industrial suburb.
A Iron Age mint
At the end of Sussex Road, enter Hilly Fields Local Nature Reserve, turn left and follow the path. Even before the Roman conquest, this place was a centre of power: a royal mint at Hilly Fields once made coins for King Cunobelinus (AD5-AD40), Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.
Pass through the gap in the hedge, then bear right downhill into the wildflower meadow. Turn left and follow the grass track round to where kissing gates lead on to Hubert Road. Turn right into Glen Avenue, then left into Cymbeline Way. Follow the verge to the roundabout and cross carefully into Spring Lane, which passes over the River Colne at a Victorian bridge. At Bakers Lane, turn right on to Cymbeline Meadows Farm Trail.
B Lexden Dyke
The bank to your left is Lexden Dyke, an Iron Age defensive earthwork. Beyond the tennis courts, follow the path to the right and to the banks of the Colne, where damselflies dart. A footbridge allows access to the opposite bank and the route continues on both sides (follow the river where it becomes unclear). On meeting the lane, turn right, then cross Cymbeline Way into Sheepen Road. Turn right on to the footpath marked Lexden, following the sunken path, then right to re-enter Hilly Fields.
C Roman temples
Make your way up the hill to enjoy the panorama, then head left across the reserve towards Colchester’s Victorian water tower, Jumbo. This area was the location for Roman temples (now vanished); here, too, a Bronze Age cauldron was found. In the corner of the reserve, a narrow exit leads on to a thin, tarmaced uphill path.
At the top, turn left along Pope’s Lane and cross the footbridge to the historic Hole in the Wall pub and an impressive stretch of Colchester’s Roman wall. Constructed between AD65 and AD80, it is the oldest Roman wall in Britain, and was built following Boudica’s attack on the city in AD61.
To return to your starting point, retrace your steps back down into Hilly Fields, then up to the Sussex Road entrance.
How to get there
Colchester is about 60 miles east of London on the A12. The Avenue bus stop is opposite Sussex Road (start of the walk) and on several bus routes, including those connecting with Colchester’s main North Station (30 minute walk). Sussex Road is a 10-minute walk from the town centre, where there is ample car parking.
The Rose and Crown
East Street, Colchester CO1 2TZ
The Old Manse
15 Roman Road, Colchester CO1 1UR
Attractive Victorian B&B a stone’s throw from the castle.
Hamford Water and the Walton Backwaters