Thurrock Local History Society
Walking the Mardyke
by John Matthews
John Matthews, local historian, opened the November meeting by declaring that there is a lot of history attached to the Mardyke but also a lot of brambles and nettles! The name means “boundary ditch” and part of the Mardyke forms the boundary between Barstable and Chafford hundreds. The main source of the Mardyke flows south from Holden’s Wood in Warley, down to Bulphan, across the fens to North Stifford and on to Purfleet where it flows into the Thames near the QEII Bridge. For most of its course, it forms the boundaries of parishes through which it flows. Various tributaries were described – two flow from Thorndon Park, another flows west from the Plotlands in the Langdon Hills and another flows east from Upminster.
Up to the 19th century the Mardyke was navigable to Bulphan. A riverside seven mile walk, the Mardyke Way, runs from Bulphan to Ship Lane, Aveley passing the fens to Stifford. Stifford road bridge is the most recent of several replacements, the earliest stone bridge was built in the 15th century. The walk continues on through Davy Down riverside park, where one can see the Victorian viaduct and the pumping station, then to the Thames Chase Community Forest and on to Aveley. The Mardyke continues on to Purfleet where a bridge from Purfleet crosses to the Rainham Nature Reserve which offers free entrance to Thurrock residents.
The Mardyke finally flows into the Thames where, on the bank at low tide, tree stumps can be seen, the remains of an ancient forest, which have been dated to Neolithic times, probably the oldest things in Thurrock.
The talk was well illustrated with maps and photographs and certainly inspired some members to explore this less well-known, rural aspect of Thurrock.
At the Christmas meeting at 8 pm on Friday, 14th December at Grays Adult Community College, Susan Yates will celebrate the 60th Anniversary by telling the history of the society and joining all present in partaking of the festive buffet. Visitors are welcome.
Time for TIME TEAM! Henge