Prestigious women’s cycling event returns to the region
- Credit: Seana Hughes
Businesses, communities and cycling enthusiasts are gearing up for the return of the prestigious Women’s Tour to north Essex and Suffolk, with the region set to host the first stage of this year’s race.
More than 100 of the world’s best female cyclists will set off from Colchester on Monday, June 6 – and race to the finish line in Bury St Edmunds.
Both towns have plenty to offer people looking to catch a glimpse of the Women’s Tour – while a number of events are also taking place over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend from Thursday, June 2 to Sunday, June 5.
To find out more, including the stage one route map, visit www.womenstour.co.uk/stages/stage-1
Colchester hosted stage five of the Women’s Tour in 2021, as competitors raced 95.5km from the historic town to the finish line on Clacton seafront. This year, the town will play host to the Grand Depart, as competitors set off from the Sports Park at Colchester’s Northern Gateway, located just off junction 28 of the A12.
“We’re counting down the days until this exciting, international event comes to Colchester once again,” said Cllr Sue Lissimore, portfolio holder for resources and deputy leader of Colchester Borough Council. “The Grand Depart from Colchester on June 6 will be a fantastic way to complete a weekend of celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and we’ve got lots in store to welcome residents and visitors to the borough.”
A varied programme of events has been planned across the borough of Colchester, culminating in the Platinum Jubilee weekend. These include flags in the High Street, a gun salute in Castle Park, lighting the Castle Park beacon, museum displays and street parties.
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Colchester Sports Park
The 76-acre Colchester Sports Park is one of Essex's best sporting facilities, providing both indoor and outdoor activities – and featuring a one-mile floodlit cycle track and BMX pump track.
There is cycling provision for all, including people with disabilities and children, so visitors can hire a bike and take on the track. Paddy & Scott's cafe is the perfect spot to refuel after working up a sweat, and visitors are encouraged to cool down by exploring the open green spaces.
A long weekend of sport, cycling activities and entertainment is planned from June 4-6, including a Festival of Fun on Sunday, June 5 and pop-up stalls, entertainment and activities on the day of the Grand Depart.
Roman Colchester and Colchester Castle
Colchester is the former capital of Roman Britain and Britain's first city. For history lovers, build in time to visit Colchester Castle, set in the glorious green oasis of Castle Park. Built on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius, famously destroyed by Queen Boudica, it's now a modern museum packed full of ancient treasures and interactive displays telling the story of Colchester from the Romans to the Civil War Siege.
If art is more your thing, a visit to Firstsite, Museum of the Year 2021, should be on the list. Even here, Colchester’s history pops up in the form of a Roman mosaic re-laid in the floor of this 21st century landmark building.
The Gallery is open all year with free admission and a programme of exhibitions, films, learning activities and events; plus a café and shop.
Out of town
Heading out of Colchester, follow the river on foot or cycle to Wivenhoe, a quaint village sitting on the banks of the Colne estuary. Sit by the waterfront and enjoy a drink in one of the many local pubs, or grab some fish and chips and eat alfresco.
Alternatively, explore the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Walk in Constable's footsteps and sit where he painted his famous The Haywain in 1821 – the scene today remains almost unchanged some 200 years later.
Other attractions include the award-winning Colchester Zoo and Beth Chatto’s Plants and Gardens at Elmstead Market. Further along the coast sits Mersea Island – home to Colchester oysters, wild beaches and the charming town of West Mersea, where families can indulge in a spot of crabbing.
For more information, visit www.visitcolchester.com
Bury St Edmunds
Stage one of this year’s Women’s Tour finishes on Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds – marking the third time the town has hosted the event. This year also marks 1,000 years since the founding of the Abbey of St Edmund, home of Saint Edmund, the original patron Saint of England.
“After the resounding success of the Women’s Tour stage in Suffolk last year, I am delighted that it will be returning with the finish of stage one in Bury St Edmunds on June 6,” said Cllr Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for public health and public protection.
“The town provides a fantastic location to host such a prestigious event with the backdrop of the magnificent St Edmundsbury Cathedral and a wealth of other attractions to make it a memorable day for spectators and visitors alike.”
Councillor Jo Rayner, West Suffolk Council portfolio holder for leisure, culture and community hubs, said: “It is wonderful that West Suffolk will once again be hosting the Women’s Tour. We look forward to welcoming the crowds of supporters to Bury St Edmunds to cheer on the cyclists and to explore the town. Having the stage one finish will give a great boost to the local tourism industry.”
People visiting Bury St Edmunds for the Women’s Tour can also enjoy award-winning food and drink, fantastic shopping, arts venues and stunning parks.
A trip to Bury St Edmunds would not be complete without visiting the magnificent St Edmundsbury Cathedral and Abbey Gardens – developed on the site of the Abbey of St Edmund, one of the largest and most important Benedictine abbeys in medieval England.
The six-acre gardens are a mix of formal floral displays, intimate garden ‘rooms’, an aviary, crazy golf, bowling green and children’s play area. The Tour Village with activities, stands and a large screen will also be located in the gardens for stage one of the Women's Tour on June 6.
Arts and culture
The historic Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, the UK’s only remaining Regency playhouse, inspires audiences of all ages with impressive performances from leading arts organisations and local, emerging talents.
Bury St Edmunds is also home to award-winning music venue The Apex. Known for its amazing acoustics, its diverse music programme is complemented by dance and performing arts events.
The Hunter Club is also known for supporting a wide range of local grassroot bands, musicians and promoters, as well as hosting more well-known musicians, comedy nights and more.
Food and drink
Known as Suffolk's foodie town, Bury St Edmunds is home to Greene King and several award-winning restaurants – including Pea Porridge, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Suffolk. From cocktail to gin bars, there are a huge number of places to eat and drink, each with their own unique atmosphere.
The town also has a real café culture with an excellent choice of cafés and tearooms – perfect for a spot of people watching whilst enjoying a slice of cake.
From clothes to kitchenware, shopping in Bury St Edmunds offers something for everyone. As well as favourite high-street brands, the town has a host of independent and individual shops that you won't find anywhere else. That’s not to mention the modern open street-scape arc shopping centre with its futuristic curved flagship store.
Cyclists will enjoy the paths and trails through the town and surrounding area, the scenic parkland around Ickworth House and the 3km off-road cycle route that meanders deep into the woods of Nowton Park.
Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages are also ideal destinations for walkers, who will appreciate the historic splendour of Georgian squares, medieval architecture and rolling fields on foot.
You can also enjoy bowling, swimming, tennis, roller-skating and ten-pin bowling in the town.
For more information, visit www.visit-burystedmunds.co.uk