Memory Walk No. 3. 2012.
Keep calm and carry on.
Due to the hot, humid weather at the end of last week I began to wonder if anyone would want to go walking at the weekend.
By 1 O’clock on Sunday, the sky had clouded over and I watched as the heavens opened resulting in a short, sharp downpour of rain. I told myself to “Keep calm and carry on”. I’m glad that I did.
The rain cleared away quickly and we met up with some others at Tesco’s car park who had decided to brave the hot sultry weather. Seven of us set off armed with Deanna’s notes, some overlay maps, a tape measure and our backpacks.
The group comprised Ken, Denise, Nina, Colin, Helen, Keith and Andrew. Unfortunately, due to a two-day headache, Deanna had reluctantly decided not to make the journey down to Langdon Hills, so very sadly was unable to accompany us as planned.On leaving the car park we made our way along Mandeville Way towards the old railway footbridge. When Deanna’s family spent their weekends at ‘Halliford’, the bridge would have been a vital link between Laindon High Road and the High Bank and Berry Park plotland areas; today the bridge is still used by pedestrians, cyclists and dog walkers; I wonder if they realise how important it had been to local residents just a few decades ago.
We turned right into the top end of what Deanna fondly refers to as ‘Shady Lane’, this is in fact a remnant of Berry Lane that escaped being widened and used for road traffic and although the surface of the lane has been covered with tarmac, the lane itself looks much as it would have done before the area was redeveloped.
Along the length of this lane are some magnificent oak trees, their gnarled and hollow trunks show that they are of great age. Colin showed us how to calculate the age of the trees using a tape measure and a ready reckoner chart from the Forestry Commission. Ken and Colin took measurements of the trunks and allowing for a few ivy vines growing up the trunk, the girths were recorded as being between 2.5m – 2.8m, it was therefore estimated that they are somewhere between 150 and 180 years old.Sadly the site of Deanna’s family retreat is now under Aylesbury Drive and there are no visible signs of its existence. We therefore made our way to an open area of grass with a stand of oak trees which at first glance looked as though they were randomly placed. However on close inspection we could clearly see that a number of the trees formed a line running east to west. A quick check on the overlay map showed that in 1938 the trees would have formed part of the boundary hedge between the plotland properties in Arcadians Gardens and Hilltop Rise.Crossing Highview Avenue we entered Langdon Nature Reserve by way of a tree-lined footpath which runs a little north of where Hilltop Rise once connected Beech Hall Gardens to Glenwood Gardens.
Fortunately Essex Wildlife Trust have kept and maintained many of the old plotland roads as footpaths throughout the reserve so we were able to follow Glenwood Gardens to the point where it meets Crest Avenue. Along the way we stopped to look at clearly defined lines of trees that mark the boundaries of plotland roads and gardens. At Denehurst Gardens we took a short detour to look at the magnificent pond that once graced a plotland garden; the pond is now carefully managed by Essex Wildlife Trust. Some of the group took time to rest their weary feet and made good use of a poplar tree that had been felled to let more light into the area.
From the pond we continued our walk along a new footpath that cuts across Denehurst Gardens and leads to the area where Peter Jackson lived as a child.
The Anderson shelter that still stands in the back garden of Peter Jackson’s former home in Hillcrest Avenue is hidden deep in the undergrowth at this time of year. However, due to a bright yellow shoe lace tied around a nearby tree on Friday by our daughter Michelle, we were able to locate its exact position. She walks her dog in that area every morning, so knows exactly where it is.We then wandered down to the Visitor Centre for some refreshments, (scrumping blackberries and cherry plums along the way). Some had ice lollies and others had tea/coffee while we sat and enjoyed a little rest and chat.After about half an hour, we walked up to Dunton Ridge. The four little Exmoor ponies that now live in the field weren’t in sight, so we assumed they had found some shade amongst the trees.
Upon arrival, Colin set up the telescope that he had brought along in his rucksack. We took turns at looking for the Shard, the London Eye and the Orbit sculpture in the 2012 Olympic Park; although visible they were partially obscured by the haze of pollution that frequently hangs over the M25 and Greater London. Helen in particular was amazed at the view from there and how much of the London skyline can be seen. (It must have been a terrifying sight when London was ablaze during the blitz).
The afternoon had become increasingly warmer, so feeling hot and weary; we took a slow walk and returned to Tesco’s car park at 5 pm.
We’d enjoyed a very pleasant, successful and interesting afternoon, albeit somewhat hot and sticky. I think that on arriving home, most of us headed for a cool shower.