At last! A beautiful warm, sunny day, only one of a handful since the end of a long winter and the very late arrival of spring. Westley Heights was extremely busy when seven of us mustered at 2 pm, suitably dressed in cool shirts and comfortable shoes. Ken Porter, Sue Ranford, Colin and Nina Humphrey, Paul Sargeant, David Osborne and Trevor Hart. Hand-outs were distributed giving details of the route and some features to be seen along the way. In good spirits we set off with, amongst other things, a sun hat, binoculars, cream for insect bites, camera, sun glasses and an ice cream cone.
The view from the Harvester (sorry, it will always be The Crown Hotel to us) was magnificent and we could see Little Burstead Church in the distance. During the start of the descent we recalled our early experiences of climbing ‘Crown Hill’ when children, either walking or cycling to see the bluebells, going for a picnic or to watch some cricket. We noted the position of some of the former buildings i.e. thatched post office, police cottages and the various large houses that had been built by Isaac Levy. We then followed the route of the original High Road, where it was interesting to see that several of the newer houses along there have retained the names of those which they had replaced e.g. Fleetwood Lodge and Park Lodge. On the corner of Berry Lane we were delighted to be joined by John Rugg.
At this point, we were slightly led off track by Colin who earlier in the week had gone exploring and made a discovery. With the aid of an old map and Google Earth he had been able to locate the site of the old clay pit which provided the clay which was transported by a rail link to the brickworks near Laindon Station. Entering a little gate and wading carefully through a thick patch of tall stinging nettles we became aware of a deep incline in front of us. Looking up, we could see a couple of houses high above on the other side which had been built on the side of the quarry. The brickworks had only operated from around 1900 to 1910 but the clay pit had been left undisturbed in the undergrowth. Without the aid of the overlay map, it’s quite likely to have remained that way.
We left Berry Lane where the area of the burnt out Triangle shops is still fenced off, and returned to the High Road, pointing out as we walked, the position of previous buildings including the nursing home, “Sissinghurst”. We stopped on the corner of Samuel Road to admire ‘Albany’, one of the few remaining large houses. Then on to the Methodist Church on the corner of Emanuel Road, where we saw the memorial stone laid in 1907 by Isaac Levy who provided the ground for the church. We noticed a tree (a confer) in the middle of the roundabout just before the station, which is said to have been in the front garden of one of the large old houses. I suggested it may possibly have been “Rosemary Lodge”, the home of Dr Shannon. (The following day, with the help of a Google Earth overlay map, we were able to confirm this was correct.)
We walked across the bridge noting the former position of the old Laindon Clinic and The Railway Cottages, then continued to the front of the station passing the car park where Churchill Johnson had once stood. Station House still remains, while the area around it has changed considerably. Work is at present underway to make the access road a one-way system which I am sure will be an appreciated improvement. It was now 4 pm and after a few last reminiscences of the old steam trains and signal boxes, we agreed the walk had been a great success. We’d chatted, laughed, remembered, learned and apart from one of two gnat bites and nettle stings, had spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.