diamond geezer

 Monday, June 04, 2018

"The intention of the Basildon Heritage Trail is to rouse a deeper sense of personal identity among the townsfolk; to generate awareness of how the built environment and open spaces affect our wellbeing and that of the community; and to create a lasting tourist attraction second to none in south Essex."
The finest tourist attraction in south Essex?! I was sold. Who hasn't dreamed of journeying to a postwar new town to enjoy a seven mile heritage trek? I grabbed a digital copy of the figure-of-eight route, which reassured me I could begin the Basildon Heritage Trail at any point, and kicked off at the bus station. [9 photos]

The colourful 'Ceramic Tile Panel' across the top of the bus station was designed by William Gordon, and consists of 16,000 hand printed tiles depicting the history of Basildon. The panel goes out of its way to stress that Basildon is an ancient settlement, kicking off in 412 AD, lingering long in Viking and medieval times, and only leaping past 1500 in the last few metres. Down below, folk fresh off the bus from Laindon or Vange can pop into Shoeworld for Final Massive Reductions, grab a £20 meat pack from Leggs Butchers or ponder a wedding centrepiece from The Icing On The Cake.

When it opened in 1985, Eastgate was the largest covered shopping centre in Europe. It still feels vast when wandering around inside, tracking between Debenhams and Asda, or ascending the ethereal escalators to the upper car park. But the place to be, on the hour every hour, is on the Upper Level outside Next to see the unique Cats Cradle ‘Pussiwillow III’. This whimsical kinetic sculpture tells the story of the Owl and the Pussycat, with guitar-playing felines, a bright pink balloon and three bicycle wheels to help it rotate. If the style looks familiar it's because it was built by Rowland Emett, who also designed the breakfast-making machine in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But bits of no longer quite function as intended, alas, and these days when it jiggles into action the shopping populace barely give it a second look.

The main pedestrian precinct, around which the town centre is based, is broad and long. A lot of it is quite lowrise, but there is a whopping great residential block on stilts in the centre to add a residential focus. Public sculpture isn't quite at Harlow levels, but the Mother & Child fountain provides a useful spot to slouch and vape, while the Sputnikesque Town Clock now acts as a useful beacon to guide folk into Costa's central pavilion. Alas architecture which once would have been deemed bold has since been found lacking, densitywise, and the council have big plans to redevelop Freedom House and the tumbleweed East Square into a defiantly un-concrete leisure complex.

At the precinct's western end, behind the just-closed M&S, St Martin's Square is already undergoing serous repaving in readiness for the market moving in. Careful negotiation of the temporary barriers will lead you to the Basildon Centre, which the Queen was unfortunate enough to visit in 1999, and the world's only steel and glass bell tower positioned just outside. This shiny needle houses eight bells - six medieval and two millennially commissioned - while on the ground floor is a kind of religious drop-in centre, with comfy chairs and community-based reading material, which it didn't appear possible to drop into.

Eventually the Basildon Heritage Trail makes a break for the ring road and invites you to admire Wendy Taylor's Armillary Sundial, which is hidden from traffic below the centre of a major roundabout. Apparently it's "a symbol of optimism and progress", which are two buzzwords any aspiring artist can attach to a sculpture in a new town and the council will commission it post haste. Venturing beyond the ring road is a matter of diminishing returns, with the southeastern loop seemingly contrived solely to see three municipal buildings and a bumpy lawn where the moat of Basildon Hall used to be, before it was demolished so that only its name would linger on.

But the northwest loop is the sloggiest, a four mile detour simply to see a nice park, and the town's one genuine historical treasure - St Nicholas's Church. This 13th century timber-steepled place of worship, of the kind scattered intermittently across medieval Essex, was built atop a (very) compact hill with panoramic views. I trudged miles out to see it, partly because I'm a completist, but mainly because a couple of Depeche Mode used to live along the way, and sweated up the grassy slope and subsequent path to the church door. Here an usher glared at me to ensure I didn't enter and spoil the wedding taking place inside, so I made do with spotting butterflies in the churchyard and eyeing up the skyscrapers of central London 30 miles away above the gravestones.

You already know whether or not you're the kind of person who would enjoy walking the Basildon Heritage Trail. If you're wavering, perhaps best stick to the town centre, where most of the intriguing stuff is, and which the BHT might have been wise to stick to in the first place.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
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 

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
our bow
ian visits
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  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
2023 2022
2021 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