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

A walk on the wild side – inadvertant acts of trespass.

Saturday last I decided photograph the area of Dagenham south of the A13 – the industrial heartland. Recent demolition and construction projects has altered the face of the area significantly since I’d last paid a visit well over fifteen years ago. Back then Fords controlled much more of the land around Chequers lane and the roads were full with trucks delivered car parts and raw materials and carrying away finished cars.

So on a bright sunny day I went exploring, hoping to find a way down to the Thames.

Down the lane
Heading down Chequers Lane, past Dagenham Dock station I hoped I may be able to reach the river directly, but builders yards and light industrial parks prevent access. I did manage to get a couple of photos of the new-ish Barking powerstation on old Fords ground by the Dagenham Breech.

Most of the areas was dead quiet, it seems very people few work the weekends there. I did get one or two odd looks as I stood photographing things that caught my eye, but there wasn’t really much to see. Back up the lane and heading west.

Barking power station Barking power station Piles

West to the Thames
I’d planned to go along Thunderer Road, which according to the maps runs right alongside the Thames and leads into some waste ground / parkland. However I missed the turn off for it and carried along Choats Road, past the old bus garage and car parks and over the Mayesbrook stream until I found a gap in the fence to access the higher ground along side the road.

The top of the embankments afforded me a good view upstream and downstream and across the Thames as well as back to the power station and Fords. I could see no one obviously about to chase me away and no significant danger apart from rabbit holes so I set off across a scrub meadow down to the river.

The old bus yard Mayesbrook Industrial pier

Along the bank
Reaching my goal of getting to the river, it seemed a good idea to see just how far upstream I could walk along the river. In the hot sun there was a heavy tar small coming from the bitumen and stone banks – I’d have thought all the volatile organics would have boiled out long ago.

In places the banks are in need to some repair to prevent the collapsing away totally, in other places it is too late for repair. Scattered along the river edge and semi submerged in the Thames are various odd wooden and steel piles; reminders of past docks, piers and industrial workings. Two large weathered metal cones on poles set in the ground loom over everything – possibly radar marker? The different shapes would suggest that.

The wildlife seems to enjoy the freedom and seclusion. I saw plenty of rabbits and the odd kestrel hunting them. Insects and songbirds were also in abundance.

Radar reflector? Collapsed river bank Decaying Ironwork

An inadvertent act of trespass
Rounding a curve in the river I could see a pier jutting out from the land, as I neared it there was nothing really stopping me getting access to it. I walked past a half barrier and was on the pier. The whole area was totally dead with not a soul in sight

The delights of an empty pier don’t last long, so after taking a few photographs I headed back onto land. Further progress along the river side was prevented by concrete walls built up to the water edge so I headed in land try get back to a road.

This is when I found myself fenced in in a deserted yard with no way out except back along the river, or under a very low, very locked gate. It being rather obvious I wasn’t supposed to be there I decided crawling under the gate was the fastest way out. A few seconds later and I’d hauled myself though the 8″ space. Reaching back under for my camera bag I looked up to see several signs warning of dogs on site and prosecution for trespassers. A few meters further down the road was an electric fence. I’d made the right choice to get out where I did.

Pier Posts Electric Fence

This map shows the general area I explored and photographed. The numbers link to photos.

Part two tomorrow…

Fenchurch Street to Limehouse – The long way. Part one: Fenchurch St to the Thames

A couple of weeks ago I took a ‘cruise’ down the Thames from Tower Bridge to Greenwhich, on the way I noticed and had pointed out many interesting things and places along the river.

Saturday I decided to go explore some of those on the North bank of the Thames on foot [1]. The first part of my journey took me from Fenchurch Street to Wapping where I stopped for a beer and lunch.

Fenchurch St Station. First port of call was Fenchurch Street station. Designed by George Berkeley, an engineer with the LTS and built in 1853-54 to serve the central London extention of the Blackwall railway as well as the London Tilbury Southend (LTS) line. The grey brick building has retained it’s Victorian charm over the years. It is however, rather less well known and used than some other mainline stations in London.

Trinity Sq Garden memorial Heading away from the station towards the River and the Tower, the next interesting area is Trinity Square Gardens. This small public garden contains the site of the scaffold used for many executions on Tower Hill as well as the memorial to drowned and loster Fishermen and Sailors of the Merchant Navy (shown in the photo).

All Hallows church Turning 180 degrees from the monument in the gardens brings the impressive green copper spire of All Hallows by the Tower into view.

This is the oldest church in the City of London, the original church on this site having been founded in 675 by the Saxon Barking Abbey (the remains of which can be seen further downstream in Barking).

Being so close to both the Tower and the Tower Hill execution area, the church has dealt with many beheading victims including Thomas More and John Fisher. On more upbeat note, the church was the venue for the wedding in 1797 of John Quincy Adams later the 6th president of the USA (1825-1829).

The church has survived the great fire of London in 1666, which started a few hundred yards away in Pudding Lane. However was almost destroyed by a bomb in 1940, only the tower and a wall remained standing. The late Queen Mother laid a new foundation stone in 1948
and the church was re-dedicated in 1957.

From here we move into the estate of the Tower of London, much has been written about the tower proper, so I decided to locate a different building on the site to photograph and research. The Wharfinger’s Cottage down on the tower wharf by the the river cruise jetty was my target.

The Wharfinger's Cottage Wharfinger was an old term used to describe the supervisor of a river wharf.
The building shown in the photo dates from the late 19th century, but is built on top of foundations dating back at least as far as the 1680s. The wharf in front of the tower used to be busy with goods, weapons and men arriving at and leaving from the Tower. The Wharfinger was responsible for the orderly running of the wharf and for prevention of thefts of goods. He lived on site with his family in the purpose built cottage.

The wharf is no longer used and so the the building is now used by the Tower administration.

The Tower of London, showing Traitor's Gate to the left of the photo and the four towers of the White Tower appearing above the trees.
A final image to leave you with from this part of the journey is of The Tower of London and surroundings taken from ~130 ft up, on the west walkway at the top of Tower Bridge.
The Tower of London, showing Traitor’s Gate to the left of the photo and the four towers of the White Tower appearing above the trees.

[1] Diamond Geezer was also out and about on Saturday, exploring the
delights of the boroughs on the South bank. His walk starts here