Search for a home
We decided early on that we wanted to plan ahead for our later cohousing years. While we were then a London based cohousing group, we realised that London might not necessarily be the right place to retire. We all still wanted quick access to our London families/friends and activities and decided that we would search for a suitable cohousing site within a 90 minute travel time of London. This map shows major population centres that were candidates for our site visits although we initially considered rural sites too.
Colchester certainly fits the basic criteria: trains to Liverpool Street are fast and frequent and, even by car, a trip to Charing Cross is close to 90 minutes.
During our search, we refined our ideas for such a site:
- local land values that we could afford – we also realised that London land values (and towns approaching that) would tie up resources we would prefer to spend on living
- in, or within easy reach of, a significant town – large enough to have a wide range of local amenities and activities
- urban, but with good access to the countryside – rural sites meant social isolation and forced dependence on cars
- a ‘wow-factor’ – something we could fall in love with
Clearly, listed Cannock Mill in the green corridor of the Bourne valley has its own wow-factor. The rest of the site ‘wow’ comes from the stunning design and eco standards of the new buildings. But Colchester too exceeds all expectations; it is not only the oldest but also (probably) the best town in England. This section of our website attempts to explain the ‘Colchester effect’ and counter any ‘they would say that wouldn’t they’ arguments, by citing external views.
By virtue of size and location
Colchester is both a town and a borough. The wider area resembles the Roman soldier’s head that symbolises it and brings in outlying districts including Mersea Island, though villages in adjoining boroughs also look towards Colchester as the nearest town. Colchester’s population is some 187,000 people (mid-2016); it is bigger than many cities and is home, therefore, to almost all the High Street and out-of-town chains, every specialist shop you could want, a university, and a complete range of arts and leisure facilities. It is also no distance to areas of outstanding natural beauty: Constable country, estuaries, salt marshes, and big skies.
The Colchester effect
So what makes Colchester a great place to live? This video takes three minutes to explain!
If you linger on YouTube, you will find that the BBC has programmes on its history with a focus on architecture, the Romans and Boudicea, and that Colchester inspires local people and visitors to document its architecture and attractions. So, just how good are they?
Colchester Zoo – rated 2nd in England and 11th in the world
Colchester Mercury Theatre – shortlisted with Sheffield and Bristol for Stage regional theatre of the year award
The University of Essex won ‘University of the Year‘ in the 2018 Times Higher Education Awards.
A member of Cannock Mill Cohousing, who has moved to Colchester from London says ‘Colchester has been shaped by history, whether that is Roman, Civil War or Victorian; you can see the archaeology, the buildings, the museums. More recently, the garrison and the university have added to the town and what has emerged is a commercial, creative and artistic excellence that makes it great to be living here.’
And how many towns have their own version of Monopoly?