Fire comes to Dagenham

As part of the Dagenham Town Show parade, the [REDACTED] torch, outriders, runners, police and sponsors came to town. Other boroughs get the torch on midweek mornings, we got to incorporate the visit into the annual carnival parade.

Unfortunately, I’ve no idea of the identity of the chap carrying the touch, if you know drop me a comment.

Open House

Once again the London Open House weekend has swung around and found me plan-less; not that I’ve had no warning, dg has mentioned it on and off for the last month.

I shall make hasty plans, restricting myself to my home towns and try and turn up something interesting.
Dagenham Civic Centre: Just me and three old ladies to trouble Dave the mace-bearer and part-time Mayor’s bodyguard [well, he’s mainly there to see that no oik takes off with the chain of office – valued at around �20k]. It’s obvious he loves both the building and his job – delivering a guided tour of the parts of the centre the public are lucky to ever see.
Following a fifteen month restoration at a total cost in excess of �1.9M, the building is now restored to its original 1930s art deco style and many original features have been rediscovered.

Barking Town Hall: Designed around the same time as its Dagenham counterpart, construction of the Barking Town Hall has interrupted by the war. Only the underground parts finished and converted to emergency air raid shelters. This was a rather brief tour by someone who could have easily spoken for longer on her subject; others in the party had asked for a brief tour to make other commitments.
There are plans to next year extend the building by another two floors – hopefully in keeping with the existing style and not taking inspiration from the new library opposite.

Eastbury Manor House: Dating from around 1560, Eastbury is one of the two surviving manor houses in the borough. Although rather grand in appearance, the inside is rather spartan, with large rooms mainly used for meetings and short events rather than any long term displays. By far the most disappointing of the buildings visited this weekend.

A walk on the wild side – to Barking

After making good my escape from entrapment in the building yard, I carried on down River Road hoping to get back to the riverside at some point.

River Road
Once one of the primary industrial roads in Barking, servicing the old Barking power station and various warehouses and stores along the Thames, now the road primarily services the building yards in the area and the Sunday Market on the site of the old power station.

On either side of the road at this point are reminders of the high voltage history of this area; from decaying switchgear and the buzz of still active pylons, to the warnings of buried cables and risks of electrocution.

The next landmark of any real significance as you continue down River Road is the Crooked Billet pub. Very much a locals’ local, nothing fancy – just a place for a pint and somewhere to take a break from a walk. The pub began life in a wooden cottage in 1719, later moving to its current premises.

Dead (?) switch gear Danger to Life The crooked billet

Barking Creek is the name given to the stretch of the River Roding that runs though Barking; Creekmouth is where it joins with the Thames. Just opposite the Crooked Billet is a gateway that leads to the Creekmouth Open Space – one of the few intentionally publicly accessible areas along River Road.

A foot path leads though the space to two information points and finally to the Barking Barrier; a 60 m tall structure supporting a 200 ton steel barrier that, when in the closed position, prevents high tides and storm surges from entering the mouth of the Roding and flooding further upstream.

Erosion of the river banks is a significant problem in the Creekmouth, not helped by the Chinese Mitten crab – a foreign invader to UK shores that makes its home in holes in the bank, causing damage and eventual collapse.

At the very edge of the Roding, just before the barrier, attempts have been made to reduce erosion and to trap any silt washed down the Roding by the emplacement of twig bundles embedded in the bank to simulate the effect of plants roots. This seems to be having positive results – many of the bundles are now only just visible peeking through rich river mud deposited around them.

Though I looked I was unable to find any mitten crabs, but on the Thames banks on the other side of the barrier I did find many large woodlouse type creatures – about an inch long and looking exactly like a scaled up woodlouse – not something I had expected to find there. I’m still trying to get a positive ID for them.

Barking Barrier - 1 Erosion defenses Unknown Creature -1