Welcome to Wivenhoe

PUBLISHED: 10:44 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 15:14 20 February 2013

The waterfront at Wivenhoe

The waterfront at Wivenhoe

Peter Kennedy, arts editor of the Wivenhoe News, offers a whirlwind tour of what is taking place around the town this year and why when you visit you are always among friends

WHEN you first see, 'Welcome to Wivenhoe...Reduce your speed' the emphasis is on 'Welcome'.

So, some history: take a small riverside village on the upper tidal reaches of the Colne, equip it with a Norman church, a manor house, a number of public houses, and two prosperous shipyards, and you have Wivenhoe as it once was.

The railway arrived in 1863 and Wivenhoe had its heyday of fishing, shipbuilding and commerce. The manor house disappeared in 1927, the University of Essex came to Wivenhoe Park in 1964, more houses were built around the village and the two shipyards closed - now they are waterfront areas of residential housing.

Present day Wivenhoe is a town of about 10,000, with a bedrock of citizens from all walks of life including sailors, artists, poets, academics and commuters. Close to Colchester, just 45 minutes from Stansted Airport and 30 minutes from Harwich, we are also only an hour from London by train. Despite these dramatic changes, we still have fields and farms around us, woods and saltmarsh, a fascinating waterfront and the River Colne.

The heart of Wivenhoe lies in its people; we bump into each other in the deli, in the Post Office, in the Co-op, in the smokery, in the newsagents, in the best independent bookshop in the land, and we stop and chat in the street. And of course we meet in the pubs (of which there are a good half-a-dozen left). Wivenhoe is a salty raffish bohemian sort of place, more seaboots and sweaters - with its Sailing Club and its ferryboat and its Nottage Maritime Institute - than sandals and muesli.

The quarterly Wivenhoe News is a barometer of all that goes on. Over the past year it has covered artists and their exhibitions; writers and their book launches, art galleries and craft fairs, Christmas lights and late night shopping events, a performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in St Mary's Churchyard, the Wivenhoe Youth Theatre's production of a Jim Cartwright play, the folk club, the jazz club, the Wivenhoe May Festival, poetrywivenhoe, Wivenhoe Town Football Club and the 1st Wivenhoe Scouts.

The Allotments and Gardens Association has been flexing its green fingers for its annual show and has played a cricket match against the cricket club; the Wivenhoe Town Regatta 2007 had a perfect day for sailing - and for the Great Pram Race. The annual crabbing competition attracted a record turn-out. And all this is just a taster of the events that take place in the town throughout the year. So, as you can see, in Wivenhoe you are always among friends.

Peter Kennedy
Arts editor
Wivenhoe News

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