Autumn 2011, brings several anniversaries for me and my husband Colin. It is 60 years since I first walked down Markhams Chase on my first day at school and 40 years since we moved into our house in Woolmergreen, Lee Chapel North. That gave me the idea of going back there to have a look around the old neighbourhood and take some, ‘now’ photographs.
On Saturday 22nd October, armed with my camera, I retraced my steps from the bus stop in St Nicholas Lane and walked along Markhams Chase as I had done when I was five years old. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and I took photographs along the way. Just before reaching the school, I turned left into Woolmergreen. I did a round trip to visit the square and the house where we had once lived. I then continued to the school and a few yards further on. I have added the photos below in order of my walk. A few of the original houses and bungalows are still there and I hope my snaps bring back some memories.
Once during our time there in the seventies, my sister and I did a ‘house swap’ for a week’s holiday. We stayed in her bungalow in Norfolk and were able to take our children on the Norfolk Broads, while she and her husband took their two young boys to see some of the sights of London. Upon our return, she told us how puzzled they had been on their first evening in Woolmergreen when they noticed a lot of aircraft overhead. At first, they thought something was amiss, a national emergency for instance. They found it a bit worrying to see so many aircraft travelling at varying heights in various directions, some appearing to be just circling around. Upon our return, we explained that we are under Heathrow’s flight path and aircraft stack overhead, waiting for their turn to land, whereas aircraft rarely fly across the quiet part of Norfolk where they live. We became aware of how accustomed we are to our busy sky last year when the volcano in Iceland erupted and the airports had to close. The sky here was empty of aircraft and to us it didn’t look right at all, in fact, the empty sky seemed quite uncanny. Getting back to my walk:-
Just a few of the original houses in St Nicholas Lane and Markhams Chase remain. Part of the large field in Leinster Road has been built on. That field was the original venue for Basildon Round Table’s bonfire and firework party, which was very convenient for us at that time. The venue was later moved to Gloucester Park. Most of the original ‘Alcatraz’ estate along the Laindon Link has been demolished and replaced with conventional houses. The area is becoming more crowded in view of the ever-increasing population. Very little green space is left and more houses are to be built on the areas where Markhams Chase Sports Centre and Basildon Swimming Pool once stood, the land having been sold off to property developers in order to pay for the new multi million pound sports centre in Gloucester Park.
Thank goodness for the conservation areas and beautiful woods at Langdon Hills, where we can go walking and where carpets of bluebells can still be enjoyed in early summer. In 1973, Colin and I both joined Basildon Natural History Society. Colin along with other representatives of BNHS and Langdon Hills Conservation Society were instrumental in securing the future of the area of woodland and meadows now known as Mark’s Hill Nature Reserve. The reserve was opened in 1981 by the wildlife artist Gordon Benningfield, but because of torrential rain, the opening ceremony had to be conducted inside the Triangle Community Centre. Nevertheless, it was a very special occasion. Colin was the Society’s Conservation Officer for many years and regularly attended Sunday work parties in the reserve.
December 4th 2011 sees the 30th anniversary of our move to this house in Langdon Hills and whilst wondering where all those years have gone, I think that perhaps it is time to have an anniversary celebration. I only hope that we don’t find ourselves ‘snowed in’ the following day as happened on 5th December 1981.
We have no plans to ever move again, we are very happy living here, particularly as we are in walking distance of the plotland area of Laindon where I grew up. I will always be drawn back there as it still feels like home and as the words of the song say, ‘there’s no place like it’.
Now let’s take a pictorial walk down Markhams Chase and maybe Memory Lane.