By Neil Davies
"I was up some time before the sun made an appearance. Leaving my garden gate and venturing into the blackness of the woods seemed like utter madness but it was something I had wanted to do for some time, If nothing else, Percy, my canine Duracell, was glad to be out in the cold morning air. We were making our way to a true place of beauty, just a few hundred yards from our house.
It is easy to imagine that life on a post-war council estate is bereft of those sights and sounds for which rural England is renowned but in my town, South Ockendon, we are more than fortunate. An early morning walk to Davy Down to witness the sunrise provides all the proof that could ever be needed that a local haven of peace and beauty does indeed exist.
Such is the beauty of this well hidden gem that I have to remind myself of its location. Wedged between the ever changing face of South Ockendon and the endless rush of traffic heading to and from Lakeside, this is a place which belies the surrounding industry – it could easily be taken straight from rural Suffolk or Norfolk. The ancient waters of the Mardyke flow slowly, silently towards the Thames at Purfleet and they would be equally at home in many of England’s beauty spots. I’ve often thought that if it wasn’t for its location, it would be more widely known.
The history of the river itself, which was documented before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, is punctuated my more modern landmarks. The imposing water pumping station, although Victorian in appearance, was built in the 1920s. The station faces the stunning Victorian viaduct. Known as the ‘Fourteen Arches’, the viaduct is a solid and impressive reminder of times gone by. It isn’t difficult to imagine great iron steam engines powering their way along en route to London or Southend. Instead, c2c trains regularly career across at speed, demonstrating the integrity of the 120 year old construction.
Over the past few weeks, I have begun to record some of the spectacular sights with the intention of spreading the word and increasing awareness of Davy Down, the Mardyke and the woodlands of South Ockendon, comprising Brannett’s Wood and Low Well Wood.
I hope you enjoy the images and that they encourage you to pay a visit to this unsung hero of the local landscape.