There has long been an ancient tale about an underground tunnel that led from the Manor House in Manor Road, Laindon, to St Nicholas Church. Today this is generally considered to be an urban myth because the possibility of constructing a tunnel of that length on a rising gradient would have been highly unlikely in ancient times. However, the origins of such handed-down stories are fascinating, as there must have been some basis for their conception.
The subject came up at a recent memory day meeting at the Laindon Library, when somebody suggested that not all tunnels may have been underground. Maybe there had been an ‘above-ground’ tunnel, a route from The Manor House to Church Hill through trees and high hedges through which a person could travel without being seen.
I immediately remembered walking along St Nicholas Lane to school in 1951 where the high elm trees on either side of the road reached across and met in the middle forming a tunnel. Maybe many years previously, the whole of the route had been like that. Apparently such tree tunnels are known as ‘holloways’ or ‘hollow ways’, some in the south of the country having high banks on each side.
The following day, just by chance we decided to take a look at Noak Bridge Nature Reserve. This was our first visit there and we were impressed with the well-kept ponds and to my surprise, several ‘above-ground’ tunnels through the trees. I took a few photographs as we walked through them and we certainly wouldn’t have been detected from the outside. It certainly gives the theory of an above-ground tunnel from The Manor House to St Nicholas Church a little more credence.
I wonder if anyone else feels an above-ground tunnel would have been feasible! I would certainly recommend a walk around Noak Bridge Nature Reserve as it is well worth a visit and I have since found a similar very impressive ‘tunnel through the trees’ at Wat Tyler Country Park.