Recently, the Walking Tour of Colchester’s Roman and Medieval Gates leaflet has been updated, redesigned and republished. Working in the Visitor Information Centre in the heart of town we see parts of the wall every day, but there’s nothing like walking its full perimeter to reacquaint yourself with its size and significance.

You can pick up the new walking leaflet (printed back to back with a Siege of Colchester walk) from the Visitor Information Centre for £1, or download a free copy here. Because the wall encircles the town you can pick up the trail at any point and follow the route. Coming straight from the Visitor Centre we chose to start at East Gate. The fifth stop on the printed map.

East Gate collapsed after being damaged in the Siege of Colchester and upon first glance there is nothing left to see, but closer inspection reveals that a number of plaques mark the spot. A bronze plaque embedded in the ground, an older plaque on the side of a house, and an information panel outside St James the Great Church. You’ll find variations on all these plaques as you walk around the wall, so keep your eyes peeled!  Whilst you’re taking in the information board, sneak a peek down the residential street beside the church and you can see your first glimpse of the Roman Wall.

A montage of the three East Gate plaques and small nearby section of the Roman Wall

Next head into Priory Street. The wall runs for a good stretch along the car park and features several medieval bastions jutting out of the original wall. In recent years a walkway has been added next to the wall so you can get up close to it, but the information panels are located next to the footpath by the road so may not immediately be obvious unless you’re looking out for them.
A Medieval Bastion in the Roman Wall on Priory Street
As you reach the end of Priory Street, the official map takes you down Short Wyre Street, however if you’re willing to navigate a public car park without a footway you can see some extra sections of wall in Vineyard Street Car Park, including a clearly identifiable Roman drain which we can promise is much more interesting than is sounds.
A Roman Drain in Vineyard Street Car Park
Head up the steps, or take the lift, at the end of the car park to bring you back onto Eld Lane and continue down the road to the Scheregate. Then begins a wall-less walk along Sir Isaac’s Walk where the wall is hidden behind shop fronts, through Headgate where once again nothing remains of the former gateway, and along Crouch Street. This relatively barren run however is immediately rewarded as you turn onto Balkerne Hill with perhaps the longest uninterrupted section of wall.

The Balkerne Gate

The undoubted highlight of the Balkerne Hill stretch is the Balkerne Gate - the largest standing Roman gateway in Britain. It's perhaps best viewed from the inside of the wall, so do take some time to pause your walk and properly explore this section- we certainly wouldn't discourage you from stopping for refreshments at the aptly named Hole in the Wall pub here! Take a look at the excavated section below the pub balcony too where the Northern footway and carriageway of the gate are marked out, giving you an idea of the size of this section in its prime.

The Hole in the Wall pub and sections of the excavation under it's balcony

Continue down the hill where another information point marks the North West corner of the wall, and then follow the wall along another intact stretch until you reach the point the North Gate would have stood. This gate was demolished as recently as 1823 and the interpretation panel here shows 18th century artworks including the gate as it was then. Similar to the East Gate, plaques on the floor and side of the building mark the spot. Don't miss the elusive chunk of wall hidden between the Kebab shop and barbers on the other side of the street either!

The North Gate interpretation plaque, and section of the Roman Wall in the background

Take Northgate street towards the park, there's no wall to see on this section but you will see parts of the Dutch Quarter and glimpses of the medieval treats it holds in its winding streets further up the hill.  That's for another time however, as you will soon reach the park (via the mysterious site of the Rye Gate) and once again an extensive section of the wall resumes.

"The Rye Gate gave access to the river bank and Middle Mill. It dates to the Middle Ages and may have been formed by enlarging a Roman drain arch. It's precise site is unknown but it is assumed to have been near here."

Perhaps the most pleasant section of the walk, a pedestrian pathway leads you along the clearly ancient outer side of the wall, but do have a look at its altogether more well presented section on the inner side in the park.

Three views of the pathway through the park, and the two sides of the Roman Wall

Keep following the wall. A sign from it's recent history will warn you in no uncertain terms not to climb on it before you reach Duncan's Gate. Once again destroyed, but here some of the ruins remain in place and can be seen from the path.
Images of Dunac's Gate
The trek continues, past a more modern gateway leading out to the aptly named Castle and Roman Roads, before heading to the North East corner and the last section of wall on our walk. Here, there's no path and a walk across the grassland is required. It's easy going and you can see this section of wall borders a number of residential properties with characteristics of 20th century life revealing themselves over the brow of this ancient structure. It's a fitting end to the walk.
A modern gate in the wall, the view from the North East corner, and a friendly dog looking over the wall.
As you reach the end of the field, bear away from the wall back to the road, then once again walk back in the direction the wall would be running through Land Lane, before returning to the starting point. 

A quick walker can complete a lap of the walls in an hour, but we would advise taking your time and allowing 90 minutes. If you wish to stop to take in other historic sites, shops, or refreshments, at least two hours would be needed.  

 
 

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