As indicated by its name, this website has a strong local flavour. It focuses on the villages of Birch, Layer Breton, Layer Marney and Layer de la Haye just to the south of Colchester in Essex (UK). Also the surrounding rural area, which has much of interest to offer, and the historic town of Colchester itself.

Some of the information on this site may be helpful to those moving into the locality, some of it to visitors, and some perhaps to long-established residents.

The Future of Birch Church

Planning applications for conversion of Birch church to a large five-bedroom family home were considered by Colchester Borough Council's Planning Committee at its meeting on Thursday 22nd October 2020.

Despite strong objections from Birch Parish Council, Church bodies, local residents and other individuals with relatives buried in the churchyard, the Planning Committee voted to approve the applications: 7 in favour, 1 against, and 1 abstention.

The ball now appears to be firmly in the Church Commissioners’ court. The Commissioners can be expected to need some time to fully assess the current position and decide how best to proceed.

For the time being ownership of Birch church remains vested in the Chelmsford Diocesan Board of Finance (i.e. the diocese). The Church Commissioners manage the process of dealing with the closed church. No work can commence on conversion of the church until the Commissioners have drawn up a new Draft Pastoral Scheme for residential use of the building, put the draft scheme out for public consultation, considered responses to that consultation, and negotiated a sale or lease to Mr Cottee.

It looks as if we are still a long way from resolution of the future of Birch church.

For fuller details of the history of this matter and of the current position see the Future of Birch Church section of this website.
Local Amenities and Services

Villages Information
A guide to amenities and services in Birch, Layer Breton, Layer Marney and the surrounding area.
Leisure Time

Places to Go, Things to See

Some suggestions for enjoying 'time out', in our locality.
Colchester Guide


A brief (and very rough) guide.
Local Links:Links to a selection of websites with local content.

Information on a couple of domestic matters —

2021-22 Recycling Collections Calendar for Birch

Recycling calendars are no longer issued
with Council Tax bills. They can be downloaded
from Colchester Borough Council's website.

There is a calendar on this site - see link below

Recycling Information for Birch.
Domestic Heating Oil

Most of our area is without mains gas so many of us rely on oil central heating. Oil prices are constantly fluctuating and there are significant variations in the prices quoted by different suppliers. See our tips on
Getting a Good Deal.
The page includes tips and information for anyone new to an oil-fired heating system.

And a couple of external websites relating to the locality —

Paxman History Pages

For a hundred years or so the engineering business of Davey, Paxman & Co was one of the largest employers in Colchester and a key contributor to the town's economy. The Company established a strong tradition of engineering innovation. Its products became known and respected around the world. Having previously worked at the Company for fifteen years, I felt it would be very sad if its long and proud history was lost and forgotten.

My extensive Paxman History website at is the fruit of twenty years of researching and recording the Company's history. Whether your interests are steam engines, large diesel engines or local industrial history, there is plenty here to explore.

The Layer Churches

C of E logo The parishes in our villages are part of the Benefice of Thurstable and Winstree.

On the Layer Churches website you will find details of our three churches, their locations and histories, our services of worship, forthcoming events and so on.

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Page updated: 17 Mar 2021 at 16:57