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…

The Wantz stream

To the East part of Dagenham is an area known as Eastbrook. The name coming from the Eastbrook family, who in turn probably took their name from the local stream, then called the east brook. The family were in Dagenham from the 1280s until the 17th century, however the name lives on.

The stream on the other hand, has had several name changes. The longest lived of its many names seems to have been a corruption on the the medieval ‘Wythenbroke’, Wise (or Wisdom) Water. This lasted until the name became East Brook and this in turn lasted until sometime in the 17th -18th century when the name changed to the Wantz stream. Wantz coming from the crossroads near the stream source, The Four Wantz corner, Wantz being a corruption of Wents, an old common name for four way junctions in Essex and Kent.

By the early 1950s the source of the stream and the major part running though the Four Wantz & Eastbrook areas was little more than a polluted stinking trickle, so it was culverted and now lives inside a large drain not surfacing until it reaches the junction of Church Lane and Ballards Road.

The surface portion of the stream is now reasonably clean (obligatory mud burrowing shopping trollies aside) and home to the usual small freshwater plants and creatures including the crested newt. The stream runs above surface for about 1km before joining with the Beam river to the east of Lower Mardyke avenue.

The Beam river then continues to Dagenham Breach and the Thames ending the run of one of East London’s shortest streams and Dagenham’s only (partially) lost waterway.
(photos to follow when the camera behaves itself)

Water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

With all the talk of water shortages, hosepipe bans and drought orders, you’d be forgiven for overlooking all the water we do have. There is lots of water in East London, you just have to know where to look. Oh, and I really wouldn’t advise trying to drink any of it.

There are many streams and rivers running though London, Diamond Geezer has already posted on one of the lost rivers, the fleet. In a new series of irregular posts I’m going to write more about the streams and rivers in my area, starting with one partially lost stream. The Wantz stream.