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Gosbecks Archaeological Park covers 65 hectares, and is mainly flat grassland and farmland. It is popular with walkers, horse riders and cyclists. It has been described as one of Britain's premier Iron Age and Roman monuments and, with adjacent sites, was designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1988.
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How To Get There
By road: The site falls within the boundaries made up of Maldon Road, Cunobelin Way and Layer Road, with the Roman River Valley and farmland on its south west border. A car park is located off the Maldon Road. Nearest postcode: CO3 4RN . Find on the map. Long-Lat grid reference - LON 0.855711 Lat 51.869843
By cycle: Colchester by bike map.
All day, every day.
Facilities and Access
There is open public access throughout the site by means of a network of mown paths and grazed land though, in practice, this can be limited in the summer by the farming operations in the area east of Olivers Lane. A public right of way and other courtesy horse rides run along the site's western boundary. There is a surfaced car park off the Maldon Road.
History, Vegetation and Wildlife
Gosbecks lay at the heart of pre-Roman Camulodunum when it was the pre-eminent tribal capital of south eastern Britain. It continued to be important in Roman times with a temple and theatre being added to the existing Iron Age features. Gosbecks was mentioned in the Domesday Book as an area of heathland. During much of the 19th and 20th centuries its light and well drained soils were used as grazing pasture and more recently it supported arable crops. The site was acquired by the Council in 1995, along with a commuted sum, as a result of the housing development between Cunobelin Way and Gosbecks Road.
The site is split in half by Olivers Lane with the two halves managed in slightly different ways. During the summer cattle are grazed on the stock fenced fields between Olivers Lane and Layer Road, access is still allowed to these fields but dog walkers are instructed to keep their dog under close control.
The landscape can appear to be quite barren, the main reason being the lack of trees and scrubs within the pastures; however there are a large number of coarse grasses and ruderal species.
Two small fenced plantations were established in the early 1990's, these areas contain a mixture of oak, ash, cherry and hedgerow type trees. Additional hedgerows have been planted along Olivers Lane and Cunobelin Way from 2000 to 2008 with a mixture of hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, spindle hazel dogwood and other popular hedgerow plants (all native English species, and sourced locally).
These wooded areas provide ideal habitat for birds but also cover for lizards (which were relocated to Gosbecks in 2002 from the site of the former Myland Hospital to the east of Colchester).
There is a small reservoir to the south next to Soddams Wood (not owned by the council), this was previously a farm reservoir and has little aquatic life, due to the steep sites and dangerous concrete shelf. It has been fenced off and there is no public access.
Casual records and sightings indicate that a large number of skylarks nest on all parts of the site, together with use by meadow pipit, corn bunting, stonechat, yellow hammer, corvids and passerines.
This predominately grassland area is managed through a mixture of hay cutting and gazing. The pastures are managed on agreed cutting regimes, and in the areas grazed by cattle a hay crop is removed every year. In the section to the west of Olivers Lane approximately 50% of the grassland is cut each year, this is done in late summer to allow the flowers to seed with all the arisings removed from site.
Each year Ragwort is controlled through a mixture of pulling and spraying.
Gosbecks Archaeological Park action plan of works 2019-20