My first walk of the year took place as far back as 11th January, when I showed an interested lady around the former plotland area in Alexandra Road, Laindon (close to Ford’s Research Centre). We enjoyed a warm, sunny morning, with little indication of the heavy rain that arrived during the following months. We returned after a couple of hours, having visited the two remaining wells, the sites of former plotland homes and the farmhouse ‘Sunnymead’, where Richards’ dairy had once been based.
The success of that outing gave rise to the idea of organising a few ‘Memory Walks’ through the year accompanied by a former resident to lead the way. After deciding on which areas to visit, finding suitable leaders and arranging convenient meeting and parking places, the programme went online at rather short notice only about a month before the first date. I have since been requested to repeat the first walk for a few people who hadn’t been able to make the 24th June. I would be more than happy to do so at a future date to be arranged.
On Saturday afternoon 21st July, Colin and I enjoyed a few hours running the Archive Stand at the Fuchsia Show at James Hornsby School. The stand attracted lots of interest and we happily chatted to several Laindoners as they viewed the photographs and even introduced one local couple to the website who hadn’t known of its existence. Success! Armed with the name of the website, they left for home keen to ‘log on’.
Blessed with warm, sunny weather for the following day’s walk, eight people plus one dog set off from the WI car park and hiked through the area of the former Victoria Avenue. Ken Porter, Denise Rowling, Colin and Nina Humphrey, Pat and Paul Hickman (with their Springer Spaniel ‘Ash’), Joyce Dean and Bob Springate. Unfortunately, due to a collision with a stone statue in her back garden, our leader Jill Barnes, was unable to accompany us as planned. “Please get well Jill, hope the bruise on your leg goes down very soon”.
However, with the aid of an ‘overlay’ map of the area, we were able to locate the exact spot where Jill’s Grandparents had lived during the forties and fifties. The area where their house ‘St Elmo’ had once stood is now a grassed football practise area. The back garden remains untouched, the bank and ditch on the north boundary is still intact and has some magnificent oak trees to testify to the age of this feature. It is of course, now very overgrown but this creates a wonderful feeling that this is now a secret place with lots of stories to tell. Photographs of the house can be seen in Jill’s article under ‘Families of Langdon Hills – The Bailey Family’.
The map confirmed that the more southerly part of Victoria Avenue is covered by the new housing estate. Pleased with what we had seen so far, we decided to move on. Ken and Colin took over as our guides and after exploring deep into the undergrowth and having to divert twice due to flooded areas, we arrived at ‘Golden Hill’ with its wonderful view across to St Nicholas Church. Ash wasn’t put off at all and went crashing through the wet muddy bits, wagging her tail and having a great time.
Entering Mark’s Hill Nature Reserve, we wandered along Gladstone Road, into Nore View Crescent where the splendid house ‘Nore View’ had once stood. (See Dr Rod Cole’s article ‘Nore View’, submitted by Ken Porter). We lingered a while, impressed at the wonderful position the house had occupied and pondered how dark it must have been during the winter with no street lighting. Someone remarked that in the early mornings, a line of little lights could be seen going down the hill towards the High Road, where people picked out their way to work by torchlight.
After opening a gate made from a log, we walked into a beautiful meadow of wild flowers. We were requested to stop on the far side, where we would find a low hollow area and a pond. We gathered around and were told the story of the Dornier bomber that came down in that very spot in 1940. Three of its crew were killed and a fourth survived after bailing out over Coryton.
In September 1985, the Thameside Aviation Group carried out a ‘dig’ to look for any significant parts of the crashed aircraft that may have been missed during a similar dig in the early 70’s. A representative of the MOD was on site just in case any human remains or live ordnance was discovered. Although the JCB worked continuously throughout the day, only a few small pieces of aluminium from the airframe were found. Basildon Natural History Society had given permission for the dig to take place on the condition that the excavated area would be left to form a pond suitable for wildlife.
The pond and the meadow make a rather lovely and peaceful memorial.
We made our way to Fife Road and then southwards along Gladstone Road, picking our way carefully around the huge muddy puddles that had formed after the torrential rains that had fallen only a few days earlier.
It’s worth noting that when Basildon Natural History Society took on the management of this area as a Local Nature Reserve in 1975, it continued to maintain the named roads within its boundaries as nature trails.
As we reached the southern end of Gladstone Road, Colin pointed out the concrete posts that surrounded a disused underground reservoir.
Turning northwards we made our way down Albermarle Crescent and were soon confronted with clear evidence of the reserve’s plotland history, for there, deeply embedded in the trunk of an old field maple were the two hinge bolts for a garden gate. It’s wonderful how nature has the ability to claim back its territory when we have finished with it.
We took a short break when reaching Peck’s Pond, for by this time we had been walking for over two hours and were beginning to feel a little weary. We stood for a while on its banks, appreciating the view before continuing on our way back to the car park. There, we said our goodbyes after an afternoon of pleasant company, interesting sights and conversations.
Upon arriving home, there was a message for me on the answer phone. I had won a prize in the Fuchsia Show’s raffle. A hanging basket of ‘Cascade’ a very pretty trailing fuchsia. A lovely surprise to round off a busy but most enjoyable weekend.