Colchester is an historic Roman town situated on the River Colne, surrounded by many fine nature reserves and country parks. Military use of the town has safeguarded large tracts of semi-natural land nearby, including Friday Wood to the south, in the valley of the Roman River.

Further south still lies Abberton Reservoir, of international importance for wild birds.

On the Colne Estuary to the south-east is Fingringhoe Wick, Essex Wildlife Trust's first nature reserve acquired in 1959, and Wivenhoe Woods and Marsh. To the west are several fine small woods and the Fordham Hall Estate, which is former farmland planted up by the Woodland Trust.