Date issued: 3 December 2020
As we come out of lockdown second time around and approach the Christmas break, Colchester Borough Council and Walk Colchester are delighted to announce the launch of the Colchester Orbital online interactive map – a collaborative project marking completion of the latest phase of work in support of the 14-15-mile Orbital walk/cycle route around town.
The Orbital celebrates some of Colchester's most important green spaces and explores the diverse terrain between them via connecting public rights of way. The early planning of the route, first conceived in 2015, has been the work of members of many local groups with shared green interests, including: Walk Colchester; Colchester Natural History Society; Colchester Ramblers; Essex Bridleways Association; Cycle Colchester, and Sustrans.
In 2018, Colchester Borough Council's support for the project was formalised in its adoption as part of the Better Colchester initiative, and subsequent funding of the map’s development.
In harmony with this, and because the Orbital route travels through Myland in the northwest, Myland Community Council has taken the opportunity to commission development of the Myland Community Map, a sister map to the Orbital, which launches alongside it this week.
The Myland Map celebrates the Parish’s local green environment and heritage and provides a platform for publicising the local activities and community information. The map will continue to build, and community members are encouraged to be in touch with projects they would like to be represented, or to be involved in other ways.
Both maps enable users to display and interact with walk/cycle routes in the context of multiple additional layers of environmental and heritage information, and to find practical information about connecting transport options and other facilities. Together they enable map users to advance plan trips out, to get involved in local green/community activities, or to simply discover and enjoy local landscapes anew from the comfort of home.
Walk Colchester founder, Rowena Macaulay, said: “The launch of the map is a big milestone for us in enabling the Orbital to reach a wider audience and to give it a sense of permanency for the town. It’s an evolving project and we are excited for its future possibilities. We really hope local people will get out and enjoy the route, primarily, but also get involved. We’d love to tap local knowledge and get it represented on the map. There are many ways to contribute and we welcome that.”
The Colchester Orbital also forms part of Colchester Borough Council’s Woodland and Biodiversity Project, which strives to make the borough greener, help biodiversity flourish and manage green spaces without harming existing habitats. Through this project there are plans to further green the Orbital route and to work with Walk Colchester to add wayfinding signage to ensure the route is easy to navigate.
Although the Orbital covers a wide range of terrain over its length, an important aspect of the project has been the intention that it should be enjoyed, wherever possible, by the fullest range of users, across age and ability. Route sections with higher levels of accessibility (step and barrier-free; hard-surfaced and low gradient) are identified on the map, with suggested connecting transport options from the town centre. Partners involved in the project have been working to audit potential barriers along the full 24 miles of route options, and work will continue to take place over time to optimise access for all. Site visits to consider possibilities for access improvements have already taken place at Bourne valley, Lexden woods and St Johns.
Councillor David King, Portfolio Holder for Business and Resources, said: “The first interactive maps of the Orbital are great to see, and our huge thanks to our partners Walk Colchester and Myland Community Council and, in particular, Rowena Macaulay for all they have done to help delivery. This is great partnering work that will help more of us use the Colchester Orbital, appreciate the environment, and improve our physical and mental health.”
“The Orbital links the borough’s most beautiful and important open spaces and strengthens walking links between Colchester town, its suburbs and surrounding villages. Exercise and connection to nature matter now more than ever before and so I urge residents to try the maps and to use the Orbital route.”
The two maps, which have been built by local company Smart Networked Environments, are web-based only at present. PDF versions of the Orbital walk/cycle routes, with full colour maps and route guidance, are however available via mobiles.
You can find the Orbital map at: https://colchesterorbital.org/ and further Orbital information at https://www.walkcolchester.org.uk/the-colchester-orbital.
Keep in touch with Orbital news via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ColchesterOrbital) and Twitter (@ColchOrbital), or join the Friends of Colchester Orbital mailing list (email: email@example.com)
You can find Myland Community Map at: https://mylandcommunitymap.org/ and be in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find out more about Colchester Borough Council’s Woodland and Biodiversity Project at www.colchester.gov.uk/better-colchester/colchesterwoodlandproject.