diamond geezer

 Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Random borough (33): Barking and Dagenham (part 4)

Somewhere famous: Ford Dagenham
There's only one famous place in Barking and Dagenham, to be frank, and that's the Ford Motor Works, opened in 1931. It's located here thanks to a major flood two centuries earlier when the Thames broke through river defences to create a large lake - the Dagenham Breach. Upgraded later to a deep water dock, the ease of shipping in coal and steel made this an ideal spot for the largest car factory in Europe. One of the early vehicles off the production line was the Model Y, a saloon in competition with the Austin 7 - both vehicles with "an almost unbelievable lack of brakes" (and careful drivers). After the war came the Anglia and the Cortina, as well as worsening industrial relations, until the Fiesta proved to be Dagenham's final four-wheeled output in 2002. More than ten million cars were built here, and you can still see several on local streets where a strong brand loyalty remains. The vast site still churns out engines, apparently one in four Ford engines worldwide, but the days of high production and high employment are long gone. You won't get close to the main plant on foot, but you can catch the 175 bus into the heart of the works on any weekday or before 7am on Saturdays. Damn, missed. The wind turbines on site are visible across much of East London, forming London's first wind farm, and they're 120m from ground to top of rotor [photo]. Visible closer by are two elevated water tanks painted with the Ford logo, which rise up beside the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (which bisects the site) [photo]. And somewhere in Ford's 475 acres, as a throwback to the storm event that gave this place life, the lake-like remains of Dagenham Breach ripple on.
by train: Dagenham Dock   by bus: 175

Somewhere random: Barking Riverside
If you were to walk every mile of London's seven strategic walks, the only borough you'd never set foot in is Barking and Dagenham. There are very few footpaths in the borough, but there is one I've been meaning to take for ages, through the industrial wasteland along the northern banks of the Thames. Join me now on one of the capital's least glamorous outings, the three mile walk from Dagenham Dock to Creekmouth. Once you've read my description, some of you will be straight down for a look, and some of you will vow never to come anywhere near. [here's a map]

Dagenham Dock is an amazing place, probably for all the wrong reasons, as I've described in some detail on a previous visit. A railway station serving industry rather than housing, plus a bus station serving almost nobody, beneath a thundering arterial viaduct, close to wind turbines and a power station [photo]. There are plans for considerably more commercial activity here - it's ideally located - but thus far (apart from Ford) there are only a few strips and scraps down to the river. Chequers Lane is the preserve of lorries, not somewhere you'd ideally want to go on foot. Along one side is the new Barking Power Station (a mega-magnet for pylons) and on the other a Hovis distribution centre (plied by yellow articulateds). Don't walk all the way down to the desolate end, turn right past the drinks deployment warehouses and the integrated logistics hubs. And don't worry, it gets better.

Once the warehouses stop, the grass begins. Ahead is the Ripple Nature Reserve, a huge expanse of green hummockiness, accessible through a gate to the south of Choats Road [photo]. It's all been reclaimed from dried-out lagoons of Pulverised Fuel Ash (mmm, lovely), and the unusually alkaline soil supports rare plants such as marsh orchids. Along one edge runs the Gores Brook, one of the borough's non-event streams, wiggling through the reeds on its way to an estuarine outfall. I thought I'd be alone here on the grassy mounds, but a single birdwatcher had also taken advantage of the sunny morning to come and peer at atypical wildlife through his binoculars. Down by the Thames came an uninterrupted view across the mud to Thamesmead [photo], then past a black jetty to the incinerators of Bexley [photo]. But it was the acres of landward prairie that drew my eye, mostly in surprise that so large an area of brownfield London lay undisturbed and undeveloped [photo]. Give it time. One single new building has crept in, a stack of silver containers creating Barking Riverside [photo]. This is an education centre, firmly shuttered at the weekend, but open to wide-eyed kids of all ages for ecological awareness during the week. In their grounds, dug into a long mound of earth, they boast the Guinness-approved "World's Largest Bee Hotel" [photo]. Residents can choose from two classes of accommodation - bamboo, or drilled logs - and every bedroom is guaranteed a river view [photo]. I genuinely wasn't expecting this.

It's all change as the path turns inland to follow one of the ugliest roads in London - River Road [photo]. This is proper industrial, mostly of the waste and tipping variety, at least in those spots where anything commercial has survived. A guard in a turban sat at one entrance to ensure I didn't wander inside his tip and get accidentally dumped on, not that I would have. On one side of the road the site of Dagenham's Sunday Market, on Saturday an echoing void. On the other the rusted coils of the old Barking Power Station, whose dismantled acres are slowly being covered by a vast new housing development. You might have been tempted to live here had the planned Dagenham Dock DLR extension ever left the drawing board, but that was binned. Instead the East London Transit is due here next year, more a glorified bus, which'll increase services on River Road from two buses a day to several an hour. Until that promised housing spreads, the former frequency is by far the more justified.

And finally into Creekmouth, a remote former village which is now essentially a pub surrounded by venues for manual work. Recycling's big here, and electrics, and engine-fiddling, and wholesale, and chucking mess in skips, and things that smell. There's only one nod to visitors, and that's a path between the warehouses to the mouth of the River Roding. Here stands the mighty Roding Flood barrier, poised above Barking Creek like a giant blue guillotine in case one day its protection is required [photo]. You can get right up close thanks to a nature reserve squeezed along the river, courtesy of the Environment Agency and the Creekmouth Preservation Society. The barrier dominates, but that's Beckton Sewage Works opposite and the warning light at Tripcock Ness on the far side of the Thames. I arrived at low tide, most fortuitously, so followed the steps through a gate at the far corner of the reserve. Suddenly I was down below the protective wall, walking along an artificial foreshore colonised by spiky plants. The concrete staircase dog-legged down into the river, increasingly green and increasingly slippery. But it was oh so worth it for the reverse view of the barrier, rising tall and proud above defiant vegetation [photo]. Three miles of estuarine and industrial contrast, with a secret triumph at the end.
by train: Dagenham Dock   by bus: EL2, 387

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards