Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud!

I recently acquired a little ceramic ornament in the shape of a boot with the Laindon crest on it. A fitting reminder of times when stout shoes or boots were a must in Laindon.

It made me think of my early childhood when our unmade road was surrounded by fields that became water logged and muddy in the winter months.

My mother’s family moved to Laindon from Bethnal Green in 1923 when King Edward Road was still unmade. The main part of the road was made up in the mid- forties but the far western end which extended beyond Devonshire Road leading to our turning ‘Alexandra Road’, remained unmade. This was not a problem in the summer months which were absolutely lovely.

Not so when winter arrived. Coal had to be delivered in the Autumn when the ground was still firm enough to support the lorry. Once the ground became soft, even lighter vehicles cut deep ruts along the unmade track and sometimes even get stuck. The path at the side of the track which led to our bungalow was once lined with wooden planks, hence it became known as ‘walking the boards’. These sunk in some places and all manner of things were tipped into the spaces – ashes from our fireplaces, even heaps of winkle shells! Anything to help prevent us from getting a ‘bootee’ when walking along our unlit road. (We had no street lights).

Cleaning our muddy shoes was a regular, unenjoyable job. Even our socks and legs would get splashed with mud. When I started Laindon High Road School in 1957, I noticed that by the bicycle sheds there was a ‘shoe scraper’ which was sometimes necessary to use in winter before entering the classrooms.

Unfortunately the London Clay retained water, so the ground remained soft and damp for months. The only advantage of this was that it suited the growing of some lovely roses in the gardens around the village.

After some very heavy rain in 1958, our father’s vegetable patch looked like a swimming pool. He was worried his crop of potatoes, onions etc, would perish. So, on arriving home from school, my brother and I armed with garden spades, dug a narrow trench alongside the patch and extended it to the ditch at the edge of our garden. Our efforts worked, as the ground was on a slight slope, the water immediately began to run off the vegetables and into the ditch.

I would love to hear of other people’s experiences of ‘the good old Laindon mud’, if anybody has any stories to share.

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