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Researching a walk? Some maps of Colchester you might not have thought about...

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

Digital mapping has been around a long while now and few towns have missed the rich data collection and search opportunities they offer. We are not always so good at publicising them though. Here for your perusal, are some local maps you may not have discovered yet, and others (not specifically local) that may also be used as such.

1. Colchester Heritage Explorer Thank goodness for zoom (the original, not the chat room!) because this is what the town centre looks like with just one heritage search feature ('Monuments') checked on this powerful map...

As the site says, Colchester Heritage Explorer is.. 'The (emphasis mine) online Historic Environment Record for Colchester Borough'. This is a site containing 'over 10,000 records detailing the heritage of Colchester Borough from the earliest human activity to the Cold War.... Archaeologists and historians have been collecting information about Colchester's past for hundreds of years and this website brings together the results of their research'. 

You can use it to search:

  • Your local area, including historic buildings, archaeological excavations and finds

  • Any period of interest including early prehistory, the Iron Age, the Roman period and the medieval period

  • Industrial activity in and around the Borough

  • Archaeological finds such as prehistoric flint tools, Roman jewellery or medieval pottery

2. Colchester Local List OK, technically not a different map since the Colchester Local List is now a part of the Colchester Heritage Explorer. But it has a relatively recent history and great immediate relevance to the protection of contemporary local urban environment. So, you should know about it if you don't already!

The Local List seeks to 'safeguard selected undesignated heritage assets that, although not suitable for designation nationally are valued by the local community and make a significant contribution to the heritage of Colchester and the surrounding villages'.

The List for Colchester town was first adopted by Colchester Borough Council in 2011, following an identification and selection process by Colchester Historic Buildings Forum. It is an ongoing initiative and open to nominations for 'new' old buildings for possible adoption, although the assessment process is a rigorous one, drawing on necessary evidence and expertise.

3. C-Maps (Colchester Borough Council Resource)

CBC Parks and Green Space

CBC hosts a series of interactive maps under the banner C-Maps, including 'Find My Nearest', 'Planning', Car Parks etc. The one shown is 'Find Your Nearest Park' but includes a number of other types or urban green space, including allotments, 'open space', sports grounds, playgrounds.

4 .MAGIC Not a map exclusive to Colchester; MAGIC is rather a national resource, but nonetheless a powerful, multi-faceted map with huge content (more than 300 data layers) and extensive mapping/search tools, concerned exclusively with geographic information on the natural environment (the image below shows information on Salary Brook Nature Reserve). Data is collected from across government departments, and covering rural, urban, coastal and marine environments across Great Britain.

The MAGIC website was first established in 2002, but extensively improved and relaunched in 2013. It is hosted on the DEFRA website, but managed by Natural England and a Steering Group comprising the following partner organizations:

5. Google Street View and Google Map Pro

Most people will have heard of and used at sometime Google's street view, but possibly not given thought to the ways ways in which it can be used to trace, research and audit routes. Better still, Google Earth Pro, shown here, and now available free, doesn't limit you to roads but allows you to fly over countryside too, to zoom in, to convert to 3-D, to photograph from above and to use images with copyright embedded. A great resource for planning walks, especially where they include countryside or off-road sections. Don't be put off by the 'Pro', anybody happy to spend 20 minutes exploring its functionality, will get to grips with it easily.

6 A collaborative map of wheelchair accessible places (across the world actually, so not short on ambition!), the wheelmap invites users to contribute new locations and update info on existing locations as well as to take information from it, all via a very straightforward traffic light system. First set up in 2010, in Berlin, by this small, socially-conscious but nonetheless ambitious org: wheelmap uses freely licensed OpenStreetMap geodata. is also a supporter of the international movement Neighbours Day, which in Europe takes place on 29th May each year (see more on its origins in Australia here, but note that Oz celebrates it on a different date). In an initiative that Jane Jacobs would surely have embraced (and happily coinciding with the Jane's Walk festival month), they invite us under the hashtag #MAPMYNEIGHBOURHOOD to get involved in the mapping process by forming a mapping party to mark the day, and in this way to help celebrate 'the team spirit of neighbourhood'.

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