Photograph Display and Fourth Memory walk

Held at the Dunton Visitors Centre of the Essex Wildlife Trust

Looking down Fourth Avenue from the start of the climb
Nina Humphrey
The group at the top of First Avenue
Nina Humphrey
Looking up Fourth Avenue about 1948
Allan Young

To help promote the memory walk taken by Ian around plotlands we were asked to take the Archive picture gallery and some merchandise to the centre. The morning started slowly with a small number of visitors coming into see the display in the classroom. We did well with donations and the sale of calendars and cards. As the day progressed a steady trickle of visitors came in. The weather was sunny and calm perfect for the plotland stroll, Nina and Colin together with two of the visitors and Jennifer Shirley from the centre joined Ian at 13:30. Later during the afternoon Ken arrived

The Walk

I had the pleasure of leading the fourth memory walk in ideal dry and sunny conditions which, when walking around the avenues forming the Dunton Plotlands is an advantage. The eleven of us forming the group set off promptly at 13:30 from the Visitors Centre  located at the bottom of the third Avenue.

As we walked up to the start of the track to Forth Avenue I pointed out that the centre was built on the garden of “St James“ the residence of the Winkworth family. Mr Winkworth was a master bricklayer by trade and a keen ferreter. By the time I had finished talking we had arrived at Fourth Avenue, having passed through Mott’s acre which formed part of the garden to my home “Mon Ami” from 1952 to 1966, when I got married. Without me realising it we had passed through the area that my parents and I had spent years keeping clear to provide food for the animals we had kept, was now overgrown.

At the point where we were standing in Fourth Avenue were some of the pot tile beams that had been put down by the residents to try and improve winter access, but from memory this was only partially successful. Looking up the avenue towards the climb to Hill Crest all you see now are trees and in order to give an idea of how it has changed I provided the following photograph (from Alan Young’s book Down the Line) which clearly shows the number of homes that existed in the 1950s.

We proceeded to make our way up to Hill Crest and at the junction we looked westward. The growth of the trees and scrub did not allow us to get an idea of the view towards London that the residents had enjoyed from their Hill Crest homes. I indicated where Hill Crest had continued in a southerly direction down what was locally known as the Dip and I recalled a couple of reminiscences of two families who had lived down the the Dip.

We then made our way to the top of First Avenue taking about various families who had lived and pointing out where various properties had existed. But again the views to the West are now limited by the uncontrolled growth of trees and scrub across the avenue. In the 50s the only obstruction to the view were a row of majestic Elm trees, lost to Dutch Elm disease, that use to mark the line of a sudden steepening of the slope at the foot of the hill.

On reaching the bottom of First Avenue I reminisced about the Simmon’s and Bonnett families and the disaster that had befell the families during WWII, when Mrs Simmon’s had been killed. We then made our way through the track way, that linked the avenues, to Second Avenue. While walking through to Second Avenue we noted a large reinforced concrete post which was out of keeping to the general type of construction in the area and could well have been associated with wartime structures in the area. I would add at this point that when I lived in the area I had not known that this existed, which is not surprising as very little of this track way was accessible having been incorporated in the adjoining properties.

We made our way up Second Avenue stopping to look and discuss the area that had been occupied by a squatter after the Corporation had finished their destruction of the community. On reaching Hill Crest again two of the group who had only joined us as the result of an off chance visit to the Centre. We then made our way towards Third Avenue and making a detour into the garden that use to be “Hawthorn” the home of the Burke family. We where rewarded with an insight into the view to the West that the original residents had of London with all the major new buildings clearly visible.  The current structures in London obscure the view of buildings such as St Paul’s Cathedral that I remember from my child hood but never the less it still shows the magnificent panorama that the residents enjoyed.  I pondered on how the war time residents must have felt looking at the glow and smoke of the fires resulting from the bombing of London, thinking of the friends and family that many of them had left behind when they moved to Dunton.
While at the site of “Hawthorn” a mother and two children came in and was showing them the out line of the building and I was able to show them a photograph of the house taken from the veranda of “Trees”.

We then made our way down Third Avenue making a detour into the site of “Trees” where Mr Berninham had lived. The paths are still intact and the location of the substantial wooden bungalow is still clearly visible.  The groups discussion moved to what had been lost with the clearance of the properties by the Corporation leaving just the “Haven” as an example of the type of properties that made up Dunton Plotlands. They would have given a far better insight to the way the plotlanders had developed the area against the odds by leaving three or four of the properties that made up Third Avenue.

We returned to the Visitors Centre at about 3:40 and were preparing to finish when I was asked to just take them along Lower Dunton Road. This was to show the remaining members of the group properties I had talked about during the walk. We returned to the Centre just in time for me to collect Patsy and the packed up Archive materials.

Comments about this page

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  • A question just begging to be asked – Just what purpose was served in the Development Corporations decision to clear the dwellings in Dunton Plotlands? Since the time that these humble abodes were compulsorily purchased and subsequently demolished, what has the land been used for? Was this merely an exercise in power wielding? What future uses, if any, are in mind for this area, anyone know?

    By Donald Joy (14/12/2015)
  • No doubt the original intention was to use the land for housing.  The area concerned is now part of a very popular nature reserve owned by The Essex Wild Life Trust, containing ‘The Haven Plotland Museum’, a visitor centre, a play area and a newly created orchard.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (14/12/2015)
  • Thanks Nina, seems to be becoming quite a habit saying that. Sounds like a worthwhile place to visit, must put that on my bucket list of things to do. If I get the opportunity to get down there someday then I’m sure I will enjoy and appreciate it. Still don’t see why they had to move people away from a place where they were happy. 

    By Donald Joy (14/12/2015)
  • I came upon this website by accident last week and reading through the comments, I was interested to see the last one by Christy Lindsell talking about Merricourt.   My great grandfather along with my grandfather and his brothers built Merricourt in the the 1930s and he lived there until his death in the early 50s this must have been when Christy’s family purchased it. My father told me many stories of staying there as a young boy before and during the war.   I do have a few photographs if Christy is interested in seeing them?

    By Steve Kershaw (13/12/2015)
  • What a thrill it was to find this site. I used to live in a bungalow named “Merricourt” in First Avenue that was situated just before the track that linked the avenue’s on the right hand side going up the avenue. 

    I moved there from London in 1954 at the age of eight and fell in love with it, such a magical place it seemed to me. I am not sure that my mum and grandparents thought the same as it was January when we moved there and there was thick snow on the ground and we had to have a tractor to pull the removal lorry up the avenue, good job the bungalow was only half way up as I am not sure that we could have made it to the top. Snow was always bad news at the avenue’s, not just for getting about, but mainly because it covered the ditches at the side of the avenues which were filled with a stinky black sludge, consequently I have had a bootie full of the stuff on a few occasions..haha. 

    I remember the Winkfields, I used to play with Edna Winkfield, the summers seemed so much better then, with long hot sunny days, I spent most of the weekends and holidays outside exploring the woodland and climbing trees, I became such a tomboy and loved every minute.

    By Christy Lindsell (19/03/2013)
  • Yes Andrea, there were more properties further on up Third Ave, one was called “Willows” and the next was called “Trees”, you can still see the remains of “Trees” in the hedges. I have seen a picture of “Trees” and it looked very nice. It had a veranda at the front with steps leading up to the varanda it also had a flagpole with a Union Jack flying. Hope this helps.

    By Barry Ellerby (23/10/2012)
  • Just wanted to thank Ian for lovely walk had nice weather and great time thanks again.

    By Keith Nock (22/10/2012)
  • A most enjoyable finish to this year’s memory walks on a most gorgeous and perfect autumn day. An informative and thought provoking tour. As Ian our leader and former resident described how the area had looked during the fifties, the farmland, the plots, and people who had once lived there, it became obvious that his memories are very dear to him. It is surprising just how much there is still to see even after the vast changes that have taken place over the years. Our walks became more popular and better attended as the year went along and hopefully will attract even more people next year. We plan to advertise them earlier next time and we already have a couple of ideas on which areas to visit next. So, here’s to next year’s memory walks and those special areas and times that must never be forgotten.

    Editor: If you would like us to cover a particular area please let us know and we will see what we can arrange. The walks this year were an enjoyable trial and have enabled us to make them more informative and enjoyable for next year.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (22/10/2012)
  • Thank you, really enjoyed reading about your walk and particularly liked the 1948 photo of Fourth Avenue (Halcyon days? Well in the summer at least!). Was there another property, besides The Haven, at the top of Third Avenue which was later burned down? There are bits left there of foundations and garden. You can still get the feeling of former life there.

    By Andrea (22/10/2012)

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