COLCESTRIANS have been able to enjoy the beauty of Castle Park for 130 years.

The gates to the historic attraction were formally opened to the public in October 1892 by the Lord Mayor of London, who became the first to enter.

Residents watched on as the park was opened with a silver key at the top of the procession in Museum Street.

The occasion was so momentous the mayor of Colchester ensured bunting and flowers lined the streets, including Head Street, North Hill and North Station Road.

“This ceremony, marking the official birth of the park, was the culmination of a relatively short but difficult period of gestation,” said David Hibberd, chairman of the Friends of Castle Park.

Mr Hibberd, who fell in love with the park when he moved to Colchester in 2019, explained a special committee purchased the site for £7,600 in 1882.

Gazette: Caring - the Friends of Castle Park with David Hibberd, standing centreCaring - the Friends of Castle Park with David Hibberd, standing centre (Image: Friends of Castle Park)

From then, the pavilion, bandstand and model boat pond were all constructed.

And in 1922, Colchester Council successfully completed negotiations to secure Colchester Castle and Hollytrees House, completing the park as it is seen today.

Mr Hibberd, 79, said: “Every time I come into Colchester there’s always something new to see in the park, always developments happening.

“The park must be very good for tourism here because of the 2,000 years of history physically embedded in the park.

“It is an incredibly interesting place.”

There is undoubtedly an unrivalled amount of history featured within the park gates.

Colchester Castle is the largest Norman keep in Europe, having been constructed on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius when Colchester was the first Roman capital of Britain.

Gazette: Festival - the Smoke and Fire Festival in AugustFestival - the Smoke and Fire Festival in August (Image: Newsquest)

And Hollytrees, now a museum, boasts 300 years of heritage within the beautiful Georgian townhouse.

It is why Mr Hibberd was so inspired to make his own mark when he joined the Friends of Castle Park, which has cared for the site for 15 years.

From planting, watering and hosting intriguing walks, it’s fair to say the group has covered all bases.

“There is significant interest here for me. I’m used to writing about history so I guess I am really interested,” said Mr Hibberd, who previously ran a plant nursery.

“I am the only man on the committee at the moment. The planting definitely keeps me fit.

“I feel I should support wherever I can and enjoy doing so.”

The group itself is going from strength to strength, with a growing membership of more than 100 volunteers.

Gazette: Boats - the boating lake in May 1985Boats - the boating lake in May 1985 (Image: Newsquest)

During the challenging weather provided by this summer, they certainly had their work cut out in ensuring the park was shipshape.

The dedicated watering team dragged a hose around the large site to ensure no plant or greenery went thirsty as temperatures neared 40C in July.

Mr Hibberd added: “We arrange good relationships with gardeners and support them in the tremendous work they do.

“I have experience, having run a plant nursery myself and made several large gardens, but we have others who have a fantastic experience.”

Gazette: Heritage - Colchester CastleHeritage - Colchester Castle

The park itself has seen plenty of change over the years and is often a hub of activity.

This year alone the Fleur East performed at the Anti Loo Roll Festival on the site, while Irish pop kings Westlife also took to the stage.

It shows there is still plenty of life in one of Colchester’s finest and most picturesque attractions.

Mr Hibberd said: “I am proud to be a Friend of Castle Park because it is what so many people come to Colchester to see.

“It really is a fascinating place to visit.”