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

Public Inquiry Will Not Proceed

Following a Pre-Inquiry Meeting held at Colchester on 21st February 2018, the Inspector appointed to conduct the public inquiry about the future of the building issued an 'Inquiry Programme incorporating agreed dates' stating that the public inquiry would open on 9th October this year. From this it appeared that the start date for the inquiry was agreed and settled.

On 12th June 2018 the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government wrote to interested parties informing them that "the referral of the draft scheme for the proposed demolition of the closed Church of Birch St Peter, to the Secretary of State, has been withdrawn by the Church Commissioners for England" and confirming that, as a consequence, the non-statutory public inquiry will not proceed. The letter went on to confirm that "the Secretary of State’s interest in the matter has now concluded and the case will be closed".

Birch residents have no clarity on what will happen now about the future of the church building. Nearly 28 years after the building was closed for worship we appear to be nowhere nearer a resolution of its future.

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 —

2019-20 Recycling Collections Calendar for Birch

The 2019-20 Recycling Calendar.

If you have not received a copy, or have mislaid it,
visit the page

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 eighteen 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: 16 Mar 2019 at 15:34