Walk Leader: Fred Slattern
Text by: Andrew Budd
Photographs by: Rowena Macaulay
Selling the idea of a stroll round Greenstead, a 1960s and ‘70s housing development, calls for some marketing. So Fred Slattern, Colchester’s self-styled “slum poet,” promised a walk spiced with poetry and history.
As we all strolled and swapped tales, Fred spun his (mostly true) chronicle of this hillside – from the departure of the dinosaurs, to the arrival of early man and, much later, the first dwellers in what’s been incorrectly labelled the “largest council estate in the U.K.”
Everyone’s favourite spot was St Andrew’s Church, built in Norman times in a rural parish which was very sparsely populated for nearly 900 years, until the eventual arrival of a decent-sized flock of souls.
Centuries of peace were interrupted in 1648 by the Siege of Colchester, when the Parliamentarians set up a fort in the church yard, enabling them to bombard the nearby Hythe port with cannon fire and prevent supplies getting to the Royalists who had holed up inside Colchester’s ancient town walls. This rich fare of historical narrative was complemented by the spontaneous arrival of a local ice cream van, and the Gambolers celebrated their community with cones all round.
Thanks to the Gambolers, and to Fred, and Greenstead poet Belinda Colliani Federl, and to the ice cream vendor.