14th July 2015
Barry used to have a boat at Bridge Boats, next to the bridge onto Canvey Island. John Lawrence used to run it but ever since he’d passed away the place was slowly falling apart. The land is owned by Morrison’s (who own land more visibly on the other side of the island with a large store on it) which compounds the uncertainty of the whole site.
He used to work on Foulness near RAF White City, for P&EE (Proof & Experimental Establishment) driving hovercraft out onto the sands to recover boats/people. Sergeant Terry Cochlan(?) was jailed for killing someone after he left the job.
Lots of yacht and boat clubs on the Thames.
5 companies run cockle businesses in Leigh, plus a few independents. 3 companies cook the cockles on site, some ship them to Kings Lynn in tipper lorries.
Barry used to work on the Vanguard and you could earn 3p per basket or 10p per basket (unloaded). Each vessel could catch 600-800 baskets in a single trip. Old style cockle boats use to have low sides for people to rake the mud/sand from the boat, rather than mechanised dredging. In the late 90’s (approx) everything became mechanised and they needed less workers so there were less jobs to go around. Now they have one machine that does everything, you put the cockles from the boat into one end, clean and cooked cockles come out the other end. Some companies freeze theirs straight away, other don’t. One company (Derek and Craig (possibly Deal’s?)) use a more complex cleaning process from the other companies so their cockles are the cleanest.
Now the quotas are:
50 days (one trip per day) per season (July to October)
500 baskets catch maximum per trip (each boat has a line drawn in the hold to indicate this)
There are maximum limits to sizes of boat and dredger
Most of the catch is found on the Maplin and Foulness Sands
the Boroughs (?)
Other fish that can be caught are sole, sprats, herring, cod (in winter), mussels, whelk)
Oysters found on Southend shore, Chinese pickers prosecuted for not having a licence
Cockle shells must now be discarded properly rather than on site, and are nor sent to the ‘Colony’ (Hadleigh Salvation Army Farm) to be ground up for chicken grit, used on golf courses, paths etc broken shells are called ‘shram’ (local term?).
BWSCC rules stipulate boats can be on shore for 8 weeks, only if remedial work is taking place 2 weeks max on concrete standing
There are 3 cockle boat working out of Whitstable and 2 from Queenborough. One Essex boat pays a licence fee to cockle in the Swale (private grounds)
The whole Estuary is regulated by IFCA (Association of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities) http://www.association-ifca.org.uk/
The barge in we can see in front of the BWSCC hut is a breakwater, and we discuss the barges used in a similar manner near Bradwell (River Blackwater/North Sea) which Brum says don’t work and were a failed attempt
There is a licensed North Sea dredging area from where sand can be sourced http://www.bmapa.org/documents/crown.pdf
Main problem with the dredging is poor visibility. Especially problematic for archaeologists diving on the London wreck, which is happening at the moment. Visibility is sometimes down to 0. Also, as the wreck (on two sites) is near to the edge of the main dredged shipping channel, there was meant to be a dogleg left around the wreck so as not to disturb it, but some divers have said that it looks like some of the ship and artefacts have been scattered around due to the dogleg not being adhered to.
The quantity and quality of the cockles doesn’t seem to have been affected by the recent dredging of the channel. The cocklers received a reasonable amount of compensation and this year they’re all driving around in new trucks.
New Cobelfret http://www.cldn.com/roro_cobelfret_ferries.html ships have a much larger displacement than the old ships, causing much larger wash. This has been problematic with wash being much stronger when it reaches shore, with a child being washed into the sea for the paddling pool. (possibly this? http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/11327052.How_speeding_ships_are_causing_...)
Cockle boat Vanguard once had a record catch of 728 baskets (in approx 1963), and he once earned £112 in two days, when the price was 10p per basket.
Cockles were steamed in pots with wire baskets, sifted by hand. Now the dredgers have water jets and a rotary grill to replace using rakes. He (they) used to unload the boat using yokes and tourists used to come and watch them walk the planks to shore.
‘If the fishermen were to go, the town would die!’
The BWSCC own the land right up to the pontoon. Many people have tried unsuccessfully to buy the land.
The Vanguard was bought from Jonathan & Jago (ship builders) for £4000 in the 1940’s and had a 6 cylinder Kelvin engine giving 66 horsepower. It was built for hand raking but when dredgers were fitted at a later date, it warped the hull due to not being fit for purpose. It now resides in Canvey after a refit.
Tom 'The Watch'
Jobs that have been lost? Lightermen, working the barges and ports. With the better road networks (a decline in barge use) and the containterisation of freight, the job of lightermen has disappeared. Dockyards have changes and now a single man (and crane) can unload tons of goods in a short time. When goods were unloaded by hand much of it went ‘missing’.
Most of the oil refineries have gone and now Coryton is only used for storage rather than refining. Jobs lost and changing use of environment/local areas.
They’ve (who?) been working on improving the water quality for many years now, which has resulted in a good standard of cleanliness…it used to be much worse. The paddle steamers (Royal Daffodil, Royal Eagle etc) used to travel back and forth to London (Southend Pier to Tower Pier (5 hour trip), sometimes to Ramsgate). When they turned round at Barking they churned up raw sewage from the outflow there to create a really bad smell. After the steamers were twinscrew boats which were named similarly. The Waverley still runs a few times in the summer.
You used to (when?) be able to walk out on the mud with a garden fork and spear lots of flat fish, but why have all gone now. You also used to get eels but you don’t see them any more.
The Eel Grass near Two Tree Island has slowly (over 30 years) expanded to cover a lot of the exposed mud. It used to be taller but now its shorter. You can see a concrete structure which is part of the sewage works. They used to pipe sewage under the river to the island and then spread it. You could grow fantastic tomatoes on sewage.
In the 1950’s there used to be house boats moored on the sea wall by the BWSCC hut. The Council decided that they didn’t want people living there so they had to move. You can still see lilies growing on the bank from that time.
Lots of people live in small communities along the rivers, tucked away, in boats, caravans and small yards, enjoying the peace and quiet, being away from the hustle and bustle.
The West Canvey Marshes (and former oil storage facility) is reportedly one of the most diverse sites in Europe http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/may/03/ruralaffairs.science.
Power stations Grain and Kingsnorth (both in Kent) have been decommissioned and will be demolished this year.
16th July 2015
'Water gypsies' live on a barge in Benfleet Creek, surviving off grid for many years. They visit Bridge Boatyard occasionally to fill up with water.
The BWSCC hut has been there for 50/60 years and has a few timbers rescued from the pier when it was once hit by a ship. The club wanted to give it a pitched roof but the council denied them. But when the cockle shed were built they were all allowed to have pitched roofs (privileged, other reason?).
There used to be a flock of turnstones who would fly on to the balcony of the club, and even eat for from peoples hands. There would also often be pied wagtails entering the hut and sitting on people, but neither of these things happens any more.
The Canada mostly eat weed when they visit. Herring gull also visit but not occasionally as the black headed gull.
Regulations mean that spent cockle shells are not to be kept on site and must be taken away (to the Colony). This isn’t very economical as sometimes half a trailer load must be taken instead of waiting to fill it up to full. Disinfectant is applied when they reach their destination, hence they now have to pay to have them taken away, rather than previously having sold them. ‘It mustn’t smell like a fishing port!’
The maritime festival was ok, but hopefully it’ll be bigger and better this year. It brings a few extra people to the area and doesn’t impact much on the usual business proceedings apart from restricted access at some times.
Tom ‘The Watch'
The dives on The London wreck have been undertaken by two Steves. They have a licence to dive wrecks but since it is a sea grave they are only allowed to remove certain things. The project is connected to English Heritage and the Museum of London.
The increased aircraft traffic from the airport is fine as they disappear within a few seconds. The only people who moan are people looking for a compensation payout.
Nigel works mooring tankers (ships) at Shell Haven / Coryton (?). It used to be a gas storage facility, with the land turned to permafrost underneath the storage containers to stop the gas escaping. When it became oil storage they kept black oil (crude) and diesel.
‘There’s a tug running up there with a bone in his mouth!’
Mick used to work as a tipper driver at Redlands (now Cleanaway) Pitsea Tip 50 years ago. Many of the workers there didn’t know what they were putting in to the tip. Tankers (lorries) used to discharge their contents (chemicals, sewage, unknown substances etc) into 10ft deep trenches, which were then filled in on top. If the load was particularly dangerous then the driver would be made to wear a mask and protective clothing, and the other workers would know to stay away as it must be particularly dangerous. Mick would deliver 5-6 lorry loads in a day (time work) or more (on piece work). On one occasion a green mist formed a few minutes after pouring a substance into the tip, so they all did up their windows and kept a wide berth. Another time, a tanker fell into the hole and was only retrieved as it was three years old…an older tanker would have been left in and covered up with all its remaining cargo on board. Some of the chemicals used to turn the aluminium of the trucks green. When they were building the Battlesbridge bypass, lots of the earth from either side of the River Crouch was used to top the rubbish tip at Redlands, as well as any ‘muck away’. A torso was found one day and one of the workers reported it despite many saying they should just cover it up. After a week long police investigation of the site and its workers they discovered it to be that of a murdered east London prostitute. Driving when the tip was dry wasn’t too bad, but rain always exposed nails which often gave you a puncture. Fitters who maintained the lorries and plant were exposed to all that they had been driving about in. Many workers became ill and died of cancer later in life. Known hazardous chemicals included arsenic, strychnine and mercury. There were often small fires but a rather large one burned for years even after being covered with tons of earth. A driver of a Scammell truck from the firm Brockies (?) ran over 20 geese on the road, killing many of them. He was subsequently banned from the site.
Skips used to be emptied on Two Tree Island tip, many of which contained asbestos.
There used to be football pitches on Two Tree Island in the 70’s and 80’s.
‘Blowin’ a hooly’
You used to be able to go crabbing in Gasworks Creek (?) but there hasn’t been any there for years.
Characters from BWSCC:
Bill & Bella
Carrera’s Tobacco Company in Basildon used to dump a lot of their fake cigarettes on Two Tree, but once he (and someone else) found a bale that contained actual cigarettes, that they were really chuffed about, and which lasted them for ages.
There is a group of nudists that use the island. One day I was walking on Two Tree Island and came across a lady laying there with no clothes on. She didn’t attempt to cover up and must have heard me coming with my wellies on.
There are sometimes naked beach combers that wander the shores of the island.
There are two posts on the island which were used to winch out newly built MTVs from the Jonathan and Jago shipyard.
There are man made ponds on Two Tree Island which were possibly used for oysters, eels, as fish traps.
There were ‘wars’ between oyster fishermen from Leigh and those from Whitstable, particularly over the oysters in the middle of the river/on The Ray.
The Souvenir is/was a fine example of a bawley and was known to be used for transporting sprats/whitebait.
A now banned activity on the shore was to line up two barges side by side. Across the gap would be placed a greasy pole. Men had to race across the pole to reach a pig on the other side. The first man to reach the pig, won it. Often the pig was tossed into the water to add a bit of excitement to the proceedings.
Flounders used to be found at William Booth’s jetty in Benfleet Creek.
Wildfowl’s used to maintain the island before the Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) took it over.
They used to use Punt Guns in the area but after the change in gun laws many people just threw all of their guns in the water/mud.
There were no Brent Geese in the area before the 1970’s.
One day a fisherman dropped his oars overboard. Someone (?) said 'Oh don't worry about those, we can go and get them in a few days!' So in a few days they walked to a specific spot on Two Tree Island and lo and behold, there they were!
Lesney’s also used to dump their old Matchbox cars on two Tree Island.
There was also a nudist colony that used to operate from the scout hut.
17th July 2015
Norman & Brum
The old dredger type (on the cockle boat) had one pump and one steel pipe, which blew water into the sand/mud to loosen the cockles from it. They were then collected in the dredger. Now, they have 2 pipes attached, one for blowing water and unfair sucking the cockles back up once they have been collected.This means each boat only needs a crew of two to operate. Unloading is also done by machine so only needs two people. Previously, you would have upward of 5 people raking the mud to collect the cockles by hand. Unloading would also need 5 people, two in the hold, two runners and one on the dumper.
Tom 'The Watch'
Doug Emery (Brum’s father) bought the Sylvia May cockle boat with his d-mob money.
Because the boats now fish when the tide is in, rather than when it is out, the boats go out on the flood tide, and in on the ebb tide. This doesn't seemed to have had much effect on the silting up of the creek.
Wind has an effect on the height of the tide. Today, for instance, it was predicted to be 5.7m, but you can see that with this strong wind blowing the tide has only reached 5.5m. In the 1953 floods, it was the combination of incoming spring tide being pushed by a strong storm win that caused the water to breach the sea wall in many places along the eastern coast line.
Paul Gilson is a local fisherman and very vocal about issues concerning the river, fish and local communities…he is quite a thorn in the side of the authorities, especially regarding the dredging of the river channel which he believes is why the mud is disappearing from the foreshore and exposing the stones beneath. To this end they have made a scapegoat of him by fining him an exceedingly large amount (approx £250k) for apparently catching undersize fish. This large fine has caused him to lose his house.
You can now see 4 hard standings on the foreshore between Leigh and Southend, but their exact construction is unknown. The hard standing at Wakering Stairs is made from Hazel wands and we (he and I) saw some when we walked the Broomway last year.
In recent decades we seemed to have gained a lot of new wildlife, collar doves, marsh frogs, avocets (which command an egg watching programme when they are nesting on Two Tree Island) and egrets. But we have also lost hares (except on Foulness Island), newts and door mice.
A few years ago, when they were starting to build Shoebury Garrison, they removed around 200 lizards, and introduced them to the Hadleigh Country park. But the next day there was a huge grass fire and all of them perished. We have lost most of our small ponds in the local area. If you look at an OS map form even just 100 years ago, there were hundreds of them, but now very few remain. They were very handy for use as horse ponds, to wet the wheels of carts as well as water the horses.
Bats, newts and lizards are a headache for any developers who have to deal with them before any building work can start.
When I was on the hardstanding near The Crowstone recently I saw a shoal of bass and it reminded me of the fish kettling technique. This is where you make a V shape from stakes on the shore and as the tide goes out the fish get trapped. Then all you need is a dog and a club. It’s actually a poaching technique and illegal.
Another illegal method was used by wildfowlers: punt guns mounted on boats would kill hundreds of birds at a time by sneaking up on a flock of birds, scaring them into flight and then firing one shot from a large bore shotgun.
Decoy ponds were used in Essex (mainly on the Dengie) as a way to catch large numbers of ducks. The ponds were star shaped and the points of the star were curved and had hidden nets at the shallow ends. There was also a wall made from reeds where a man and his dog could hide. The dog would usually be red in colour and fox like, which would be deployed to scare the ducks into the unseen nets to be caught.
James Wentworth-Day wrote a lot (including in Town and Country magazine) about many rural practices.
Another practice is long line fishing, where you lay a long line, with many, possibly hundreds, of hooks loaded with bait, on the river bed at low tide. You would wait for the tide to come and then receded, revealing lots of caught flat fish. Sometimes the bait would attract birds which obviously led to unwanted results. Now it's mainly used for deep sea fishing.
Oyster fishing is making a return locally as it is becoming commercially viable again. New food hygiene regulations mean you have to purge the beds with water purified by being exposed to the UV light from the sun. There is an oyster bed near the pier in Southend. I collected some and cooked them at home.
When they raised the beach level in Shoebury (and also in Southend) they dredged lots of stones and sand from near Brighlingsea (North Essex). The boat blew this ashore down a huge pipe, which made an incredible noise. It has now been colonised by all kinds of wild plants that weren’t there before.
Morrisons supermarket, with all their steamy vegetable racks, are selling samphire for £4/250g, or £16/kg, which is ludicrous considering you can go and pick sack loads of it for free just up the road. When I was stuck on a boat once with no food on board, we picked and cooked loads of samphire with butter and black pepper, and washed it down with lots of wine.
Hadleigh’s last shepherd, Frederick Wanstell, lived in a cottage on the saddleback, which had no running water or electricity, with his wife and five children until the 1930’s. His son became a teacher at (?) school who was hated by everybody.
20th July 2015
Mike (?, owner of Tosca) at Mike's Boatyard
Nothing ever changes, even though they've been there for years.
NATURAL HISTORY IN BENFLEET URBAN DISTRICT 
By Councillor H. R. TUTT.
BENFLEET URBAN DISTRICT is bordered on the south by the Hadleigh Ray, a navigable creek at high tide, where are wide stretches of “saltings” covered by the water at periods of spring tides; behind these lie the marshlands, now given to cattle and sheep for grazing, the marshes being protected by a dyke or sea wall of earth to prevent flooding at periods of exceptional tides. Behind the marshlands northward are slopes to the higher ground, where the district possesses four large woodland tracts and a good extent of open country, and yet all the amenities of a modern town.
It is natural, therefore, that with so varied a topography there should be a varied flora and fauna also, corresponding with the different districts. The saltings in the south are exceptionally interesting in bird life, ducks of various kinds, the waders, and gulls abound during migration periods and in the winter months, while many are residents and inhabit the adjacent marches in the breeding season.
During both spring and autumn migration many rare birds pay a passing visit, pausing here to feed and rest in their long journey from the Continent, across the South-East of England to their winter quarters. The Curlew is plentiful in winter, arriving from its moorland home about the end of October to feed in the creeks along the Thames Estuary: Redshank, Plover of various kinds, flocks of Dunlin or Ox-birds, those small waders that fly in mass formation, many hundreds strong, wheeling and circling over the water as though actuated by one mind, and the Snipe are all fond of feeding on the flats as the tide ebbs; while Widgeon still come here in some numbers in hard weather accompanied by Mallard and Teal. Flocks of Black-Headed and Herring Gulls appear as soon as the nesting season is over and among these are a few Great and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls from their breeding places in the far north. Many rare birds like the Spoonbill, the Godwits, Turnstones and Stints have been observed from time to time when on migration. During August the graceful Terns or Sea Swallows, so called from their long forked tails, come up the creeks to feed before departing southwards for the winter. In most winters, too, Geese visit the estuary, flying inland along Hadleigh Ray to the broad tracts of grassland west of our Urban District and leaving at dusk for the open sea where they spend the night in safety. They are very wary and exceedingly difficult of approach. To those interested in bird life this region is exceptionally attractive from the possibility it gives of obtaining observations of very rare species in migration times.
On the saltings are a number of interesting plants, chief among them being the Sea Lavender, whose pale blue flowers are massed there during August; the Sea-Beet from which our vegetable beetroot was produced and such plants as the Glasswort, specially adapted for a life where plants may be covered by the tide from time to time.
The marshes are full of bird life. In spring scores of Skylarks are aloft filling the air with song: another graceful bird of this genus is the Meadow Pipit, which flies upwards and descends again with wings held back with never a single flutter, singing till it alights on the ground. The Peeweets or Lapwings wheel and circle over their nesting areas, and the musical, whistling call of the Redshank is heard everywhere. The Yellow Wagtail whose brightness always draws attention, is on the marshes in the nesting season, and so are the Reed Bunting, the Sedge Warbler and the Reed Warbler. The Kestrel or Wind Hover comes over the marshlands from the wooded ground to feed and is often seen hung as it were in the air, head to wind, quite stationary, as with wings fluttering rapidly to maintain its position, it searches the ground beneath for prey: the Barn Owl is there in the twilight hawking for mice and rats.
It was on these marshes at Hadleigh that the small butterfly, the Essex Skipper, was first discovered, nearly half a century ago, and both here and in the adjacent higher land there is a very varied insect life, many species of butterflies and moths, some of them real rareties, being known to our local entomologists.
Plant life on the marshes is no less prolific, for besides those species which grow in the damp meadows, there are the water plants which flourish in and along the ditches; there is no prettier sight than the Water Ranunculus in full bloom in Spring when the white blossoms cover some of the shallow stretches of water.
But the greater part of the Benfleet Urban District consists of land from 100 to 200 feet above sea level and it is on this portion that the wooded areas lie. These who love the flora and fauna of the country and yet require all the amenities of town life, will discover in this region plants, birds, insects and animals that will afford them delight and all within easy reach of their own houses.
In one wood alone, The Hadleigh Great Wood, Mr. Tamlin Watts, a well known local botanist, has discovered over 200 species of plants, a fact that serves to indicate what a wonderful variety there is. The primrose is still with us, and we hope now that the Urban District Council is acquiring some of the woodlands as public open spaces this plant will soon grow more extensively. All the woods are crowded with bluebells, which give such a wonderful misty, mauve appearance through the underwood when they are fully out.
As well as the Rabbit, the Hare, the Squirrel and the Field Mouse, we still have the Fox and the Badger with us. It is easily possible for those who know the “earth” to watch fox cubs at play outside the hole on sunny evenings in spring, but the Badger is more secretive and only the real naturalist is likely to find him. The Stout and the Weasel frequent the woodlands, the Mole and the Hedgehog the more Open country, and all can be frequently observed by those who know the district well.
Among the birds of woodland and open upland country are the Magpie, the Jay and the Jackdaw, the two former Very pretty Woodland species. Here, too, in the winter the Woodcock still comes. The Thrush family is well represented, all three Species, the Song Thrush, the Blackbird, and the Missel Thrush being common. They are joined in winter by the Fieldfare and Redwing from Scandinavia.
The Green Woodpecker is plentiful, his cheery laughing note ringing merrily through the woods in spring. The Sparrow Hawk is also found sparsely in the district. There is no garden anywhere in the district where a piece of suet or a marrow-bone hung from a tree will not attract several species of Titmice, the prettiest and most agile birds we have. In two or three areas four or five Nightingales can be heard singing at once on a May evening, and many of the Warblers, all spring migrants are quite common in the area.
The South Essex Natural History Society provides for those who take a deeper interest in one or other branches of Nature, and monthly lectures are arranged over several months of the year. Those who delight in plants, animals, birds or insects, who love glorious views, who seek refreshment, invigoration and quiet after the rush of business life, who desire to live in a health giving air as fine as any in our land, will find their needs amply supplied in the Urban District of Benfleet.
Supplied by David Hurrell
21st July 2015
Hogweed on Canvey
22nd July 2015
Ian Slater, Harwood, Steve Kurtz, Steve Barnes @ The Crooked Billet
Ian has a 'ship-in-a-bottle' model of the Souvenir, made by a guy (someone met by chance!) in 1930's. It was made from a photo of the boat.
The boat was made by Cook's of Maldon in 1933, but the original plans have been destroyed. The boat was built by Sam Thomas, to replace their older bawley, the 'Moss Rose' which was built in 1890. After forty years of service it was considered to have served them well and it was time for a new boat. The mast was taken from the Moss Rose and used in the new boat. The rest of the boat was made from 2 inch pitch pine and has two grown oak knees, and was built with less draft (dimensions?) than the Moss Rose. The inscription on the bottle describes the boat as a 'sloop' but that refers more to a yacht. This might indicate that the boat was maybe used more for pleasure than work. The correct term is a 'bawley'. The boat was used for fishing during the war years and this meant that it wasn't used at Dunkirk like many other boats from Leigh-on-Sea.
The boat was used up until the bad winter of 63/64 when it was sold to Laurie Pasque (spelling?) who worked for the Gas Board. His family used it mainly as a motor sailer, and moored it east of the pier. Many photos of the pier during this era show the Souvenir in the background.
Ian and his brother Robin wrote a pop song (?) in the 70's and received a reasonable royalties cheque. In 1977 they invested some of this cash in the Souvenir and own a half share each in the boat.
Originally she has an old petrol paraffin Kelvin engine in her which created about 30hp. This would have only been used for manoeuvring. But when the brothers bought her she had a Ford 6D engine which generated 130 horse power, which was probably too much. She was a home form home and decked out in a rather chintzy style.
It was a hard job digging the boat out of the mud, and took them (Harwood, Stuart, Fran & ?) two weeks of hard labour. Eventually they saw a small and slow movement and Fran used the Dory to free the front. Very slowly the rest of her began to move so Brum pulled her with his motor boat and she came loose. They dragged her to the shore where she now rests. The tide was 5.7 but Ian says it was a 6.2 tide when he took her there. The shape of her belly and low draft must have helped the recovery effort. Rescued her from 'the graveyard' where many other boats end up beneath the mud. Ian said that at one point he had enough money, due to the selling of a house, to renovate her and make her seas worth again, but due to becoming a father and 'life happening' the money went pretty quickly and this was never realised.
'Most people look old at boats romantically but when we look at them all we see is hard work, which was done without the use of power tools.'
All the caulking red and lead putty. It took Harwood 5 years of hard graft to fix up Lady B and even now she still leaks.
Fresh water kills a boat and if you don't regularly cover her with salt water she will fall apart. It is also getting harder to find the right kind of wood. Harwood had to learn a lot about oak, and straight grain before he knew what to look for to find the right wood for his boat 'Lady B'. Eventually he found lots of oak in a farmers field and had to search for straight enough pieces.
There are two plans to where the Souvenir will rest and Harwood has been talking to the people at the Pier and Foreshore. Ideally she will be on a mooring near to where the 'Trojan' used to be, but slightly further out and surrounded by deep mud, in order to deter people from tampering with her. If this is not possible then he will create a new mooring near to where she was originally resting.
Michael and Stevie Meddle have invested quite a lot of cash into diving the wreck of the London as they were worried about losing significant archaeological finds due to the dredging. Whilst working on this project they have become experts at low visibility diving. Michael and Steve have also donated the use of half a container to the project for use as storage, which will come in very handy.
There shouldn't be a problem with routing into the side of the Souvenir as most of the metal spikes (nails?) should be deeper than 1/4” deep. Harwood has done some research into CNC routers and has devised a method (with Stuart ?) to rout on the side of the boat.
'From a long line of crabs!'
'There comes a point where it beaches you!'
'Reframing what a monument can be.'
23rd July 2015
The Endeavour is taking a boat load of 'pilgrims' from St.Clements church in Leigh across the river to Canterbury some time this summer.
Paul Gilson has dredged up many artefacts form the river bed whilst fishing. The dredging of the channel for the super port though has helped to deplete fish stocks.
Linda comes from a Leigh family connected to the river and like many people, was born in Rochford hospital. The first time she ever left the house (as a baby) her family took her out to the Ray. Her first memory as a child is of the foghorns of all the boats, as in those days (1950's) they didn't have any radios. The Southend Standard used to have tide tables and time tables of boats that were going to travel along the river and they would sit and identify them by the colours on their funnels, knowing where they were from and bound. She also remembers sailors walking up Leigh hill with kit bags over their shoulders after landing ashore and returning home.
Her father ran (Captain Richard Pyner) away to the sea ages 16 and was trained as a Marconi Radio Officer. Their boat was sunk whilst at sea and whilst one of his friends drowned, her father was rescued. Their family saved up for their first boat by collecting sixpence's in half a coconut shell until they had enough (£20). Even though they tried to escape from connections to the sea it was hard as they could see it from their window. The family ran a bakers/grocery and off-licence in the old town.
'It was common for people to change their accent in order to disassociate themselves from their background.'
Linda's grandmother owned a fishing fleet in Whitstable and her mother was born in Kent ('a maid of Kent'), even though the family were a Leigh family.
North Street school used to educate children of all ages and was referred to as Leigh University. The children used to play by 'Black Joe's' (Harvey's Cockles), where there were house boats, barges and landing craft with a community of people living aboard. It was pretty rough with plenty of poverty, drunkenness and wife beating.
Two Tree Island was only accessible by boat or by the 'water splash' up what was sometimes called Mill Fleet. It was just marshes at the time and had not started being used as a tip at that time, that starting after the 1953 repairs. There were two elm trees on the island, hence the name, but they were lost to Dutch Elm disease in the 60's.
Barges were working in the area until 1969. Bob Robertson was one of the last barge men working from Pin Mill in Suffolk and delivered timber to the wharf in Dock Alley.
Barking was very different in the 1800's, with it's abbey, market gardens, and the biggest fishing fleet in Europe, called the Short Blue. They were owned by the Hewett family and fished as far as Iceland, but with also connections to Yarmouth and 'Ari Charbour (Harwich Harbour).
Many sights have change since the 50's: the changing shape of the creek, the holiday home in Allhallows have appeared, the ships shapes have change and the sludgegulpers are the best as they look 'ship shape'.
They used to moor boats from Joscelyne's Beach and walk to them rather than mooring them out on the mud and having to use a tender. The cinder path used to be made from a lovely pale grey stone, not Kentish rag, until the council covered it in pitch.
There was a lot of animosity when Leigh Town Council joined Southend and (someone?) as a protest made a wooden coffin, put in on the back of a cart with a big sign announcing that it was the end of Leigh, and set fire to it. The council also made some changes which changed the face of Leigh forever. They announced that Les Warlands boat yard, which had been on the sea front for more than 100 years, had to be cleared as it was an eyesore. In the very same meeting the planned golf course opposite Two Tree Island was approved. There was also a plan (a deal with the railways) to pull down most of the old town for 'The Road to the West' scheme which involved a grand plan to ease traffic out of Southend. The first bridge was built (which you can see today) but (reason?) the building works went no further.
The old regatta was much different to the resurrected version of today, with mainly boating people from Leigh and Burnham. There also used to be a bridge, with a shelter, across the railway line from the east end of the old railway station (now Leigh Sailing Club) until a regatta in the 1960's, when it started to sway under the weight of people watching the boats. Actually, that's Leigh's second railway station as the first one was the other side of the level crossing (which was). The regatta is too noisy now with loud music and lots of drunken people, but it does raise a lot of money for the sea scouts and sailing club.
Bell Wharf used to be at the end of Watch End Lane and was built with the rubble from the old Bell Hotel that was pulled down to make way for the railway. There was also a goods yard near there, where they now keep the boats.
St.Clement's Church was used for navigating but was often referred to as 'Mount Misery'. The Canons, who lived in the library building, were from the Kings family. They helped save the cockling industry by implementing new processes to clean the cockles after an outbreak of food poisoning. The Osborne family records go back 500 years. Trevor Osborne's Uncle was lost when the boat 'Letitia' was blown up (on the way back from Dunkirk?). The Cotgrove family came over with the Dutch.
Things that make Leigh unpleasant to live in are the increased air traffic from the airport, as they fly low over the garden, over-population (of the country and the town), too much litter and rubbish everywhere and generally less freedom for people.
24th July 2015
Jennifer & Ed Simpson
The Leigh Heritage Group has formed to try and gain listing for various buildings, trees and other monuments in order to give them some kind of protection. In particular some large ancient oak trees by St.Michaels School, Hadleigh Road, which are the only evidence remaining of the grounds of Lapwater Hall, and the large cedar tree in the library gardens, which is one of two original trees.
The Leigh Society formed out of a protest group in the 70's. Unfortunately when Leigh Town Council joined Southend council they lost a lot of powers and influence on what can be done in the town and can only now make recommendations.
Lottery funding has been secured to renovate Strand Wharf and make it a designated public space with no access to motor vehicles (except that of John Cross of The Boatyard, as he needs access). John is in talks to make his cottage into a Maritime Museum, which would leave the Heritage Centre with room to concentrate on social matters, as they would prefer.
Southend Council bought up a lot of the old buildings (that were in dire need of repair) with the intention of demolishing them to put the relief road through. Lots of the buildings were eventually torn down but the road never built (only the bridge). Lots of old buildings were also lost when the railway was built in 1854. But the community were happy as it meant they could get their catch to Billingsgate Market much quicker. Someone bravely started up a road service to transport the fish to London in 1830's to compete with the regular and long standing boat services. But the railway was much quicker. Mr. Brown, the agent for Billingsgate Market, kept a tally of the individual loads and divvied up the monies weekly. On a good week the town could earn £400, on a bad week £3. Many families sent their children to collect the cash from Mr. Brown.
The archive have a lot of letters written by Julianna King (since 1874) which describe a lot of the characters, buildings and changes in the old town. Lots of volunteers have transcribed them as part of their U3A course. They are looking to get a grant to publish a book of the letters. The Kings family made lots of changes to the town including changing most of the Churches form Anglican to Anglo-Catholic. The Brother of Canon King was the Bishop of Lincoln. They also set up a soup kitchen, in the Brewers' shop, for the fishermen when they had a particularly bad season.
In 1898, there was a fishing tragedy when the Cotgrove's boat was shipwrecked. One brother managed to cling on to the boat, and survived, but the other brother perished.
Alfred Boyton (Gotty/Gottie), fisherman
Joe Juniper, fishmonger
In the 1800's a small boy was found trapped in the Church. The only word he could speak was 'Deal', and no one knew if this was his name, when he came from or something else. He was adopted by one of the local families and known thereafter as 'Churchy Deal'. The Deal family in the town have descended from this boy.
A cottage industry in the town sprung up around 'white weed', which was caught from the river bed, and processed in many homes by the women folk. It was sold from the 'The Moss Shop' as well as exported to other towns and countries. There was a boom in the 1950/60's as it's value increased byt this dropped away by the 1980's. Now it is still processed, in much smaller quantities, at Hadleigh Colony.
According to the tithe map of 1847, there were oyster pits in the creek owned by Lady Olivia Sparrow and occupied by John Plumb.
In 1892, the original wood framed Peter Boat public house burnt down. It was the first call out for the brand new horse drawn tender from Southend. Fishermen dammed off the creek to provide water for the tender, but the pub burned to the ground. This however revealed a Smugglers chamber beneath it.
There have been 14 pubs in Leigh Old Town, including the United Brethren, which wasn't in existence by 1977, and the Kings Head which was chopped in half by the railway being built, and was eventually all torn down.
On Strand Wharf was a large house owned by Richard Chester, and also a wash house and toilets, but that has also gone. Strand Wharf also had one of the towns two wells (in addition to the conduit), but generally the towns water supply was very poor and led to many illnesses including one of cholera.
The beach between Leigh and Chalkwell was littered with lots of large anchors (for mooring?) which were overlooked by a watch house.
There used to be a gas works (near to the where the bridge is now) which supplied the gas for the towns lighting. There were often small explosions and accidents.
The brand new building development Eden Point, was named after Reverend Robert Eden, who was a large land owner in the town.
The town has had three stations, the first (1854) being west of the original crossing point (next to the Ship Public House and Market Square). The second, east of the crossing, is now home to Leigh Sailing Club, and the third, the current one on Belton Way.
25th July 2015
Michael (owner of 'Boy Michael' LO92)
Only 14 licences were given out (when?) for cockling, 10 in Essex, 4 in Kent. There are to be no more. A licence is connected to a boat and non-transferrable. TO obtain the licence you must by the whole company, keeping the boat and licence together.
All catches must be logged before the catch comes ashore. For 2 years all logs of fish catches must happen electronically, and sent to DEFRA & MMO (fish) and IFCA (shellfish). Previously, logs had to be made but submission was optional. The authorities can board a boat at any time to check on procedures, net sizes and quotas. They often check (sometimes everyday) and use different vantage points and vehicles, and have the power to monitor radio and telephone communications. Occasionally the navy board ships (with guns) in order to check, but they usually check foreign (Spanish) boats and boat further out to sea. Michael was once caught with 22 buckets over quota of cockles. He went to court and received a £2500 fine.
30th July 2015
The boats were mechanised about 10 years ago. Before that everything was pretty much done by hand including unloading the cockles into baskets, carrying the baskets on yolk across a plank to the shore at the beach and into the shed.
The cockles were put into a huge pile waiting to be cooked. After cooking they would be put into a de-sheller which separated the meat from the shells. In 1990 a rotational de-sheller was brought into use, after being made locally. The cockles were then put into brine bins for a few minutes to separate any remaining sand or shells.
The yokes were usually made from beech wood, which was often delivered to the timber wharf, but John's was especially made for him from layered oak and mahogany. Beech wood, often known as 'Leigh oak', was terrible for making boats but okay for yoke if they were looked after properly. Each yoke was sculpted to the shape of the man's shoulders using an angle grinder, which was affectionately known as the 'Canvey plane'. As you built up the muscles on your shoulders this helped as it raised the wood above the bones in your back and it became more comfortable. The long plank used to bridge the gap between the boats and the shore was made from pine. Wooden cockling boats were used right up until the 1990s when steel boats were slowly introduced. Cockling would also take place all year round before the quotas and season were introduced. You earned 2p per basket unloaded, but each boat brought in 500 baskets with three people unloading. Cockling seven days a week, and sometimes two times per day, you could earn up to £100 in one week. Cockling proved to be a rather lucrative business and several of the cocklers are referred to as the 'Cockle Barons', being worth in excess of £1 million. This is a far cry from their humble beginnings as some of them were often referred to as the 'mongs', as their small community was often thought to be rather inbred.
Cockling families include the Cotgroves, Osbornes, Wests, Meddles, Dells and the Deals. Other characters included Black Joe, Sprog (Dave Osborne), Roy West, Brian Phillips, Peter Osborne, Georgie and Stephen Dell.
Because shared that they worked in or up to 100 years old and rather ramshackle. They rebuilt the sheds in the 1990s and these are the sheds that you can see today.
John used to work on the boat 'Cambria', which is still working today.
11th May 2014
John B (Farmer on Foulness Island)
The great hail storm of 1992 struck around 3am, for half an hour, moved very fast and caused lots of damage. It made a noise like people hitting broom handle ends on the roof, very scary, lot of wildlife killed, including several 100 partridges, which roost in round coveys(?), a circular area on the ground 20m across, they all lay dead apart from one which was stunned, but came to and took off skyward.
The storm had run north to south (Whitstable/Burnham line), and was half a mile across, which you could tell by the vegetation which had been cut down in a swathe across the island. Game crops, particularly kale, the broad leaf was reduced to just a centre stem, hares that were killed, and maybe a sheep but the was not confirmed. My vehicle had to be repaired, broken windscreen, wing mirror, golfball dents all over the roof and bonnet. Some were the size of golf ball dents but most were marble sized. 300 head of gulls were recovered from the island by the RSPB.
30% of the game were lost to the storm, one week before the shoot. Had to make a quick assessment on whether it could go ahead, which it could, but it affected the numbers of game later on in the season.
One many, who is not with us any more, kept some hail stones in the fridge for a while and took photos of them.
Foulness, being so flat, has always been susceptible to extremes of weather. Before they put the electrics underground the power was always getting knocked out by lightning strikes. He saw lightning hit the pole(?) once, which blew the transformer up, it came down the wire, in the house and blew the cooker panel right of the wall. They were please to see it go underground.
Once a lightning bolt hit the roof and fell on the lawn light a firework, this bright flash and a 'bang', which happens all very fast.
Foulness used to be a thriving community. I'm a supporter of the heritage centre, passionate about the island, what goes on here, wildlife etc, community and whatever, but its highly likely that there will be enough people to support it and keep it going, because were drawn from a source of people that were born on here, lived on here, raised our families on here, it was a thriving community. We've only got a few people and half of them are from the mainland, so to get enough resources, people that are keen enough, will be hard. Its a shame.
Someone asked me the other day, 'Well, how has the island changed?' and I said "With the greatest respect, there is no point me tell you because you wouldn't understand." You might think that the wildlife was fantastic, but its disgraceful to what I used to know. There is not 25% of when I was a lad. When we were spring sowing we'd have to get off the tractor 5 times a day to move nest beds, lapwing, and we'd move them and make little piles of clods like this so if anybody else came along later he'd know they were nesting there. Just don't seem 'em now. The reason for this is not man, but persecution by predators, because 30 / 40 years ago they changed the law for predators, buzzards, sparrow hawks etc and because there wasn't any at the time, because our forefathers had persecuted them all, of course they did because if they realised that if you did you wouldn't have anything else. So we've had 40 years of that and what have we got now, nothing! We got loads of hawks now. I saw a kite this morning. I chucked it a pigeon, but it didn't come to it. You see hen harrier, marsh harriers. We always did have the odd one or two. But the scenario with the sparrow hawk, which only eats song birds, doves, small game birds, they are devastating. They only live off of live prey, but for them to survive they have to eat 365 birds a year, so you don't have to be a mathematician! If you have a breeding pair, without rearing any young, that's 700 song birds birds a year! Then when they want to rear chicks, how can they support 4 birds? It's crazy, absolute madness! What were they thinking. Foulness: 9000 acres, 6 sparrow hawks, 4200 head...am I right? Where are this massive great bunch of songbirds? Well, they're not in my garden...I wonder why! I'm not being bloody minded. They're not eating fresh air! The numbers don't stack up. There used to be only a few red kite in Wales, but now if you go to the west country there's thousands...ah, but they only eat carrion, roadkill, dead sheep etc. A chap told me down there, that the peregrine falcon, one of the most superior birds on the wing, is killing four times a day because the kite is taking his food away. There's no logic! What has deteriorated here, over the last ten years, we used to have around 30 gold finches, and 30 green finches , they'd come to feed in the wintertime, and I mean, we're not a wooded area so you wouldn't expect a lot, but there was 30 for years and years...I think there is 8 now. And that is in the space of 5 or 6 years. In another ten years this place will be dead because at the moment there is enough. With the amount of game birds we put down, that is whats drawing the majority of wing predators, because our returns are 36%, and the accepted was normally 40-50%, 30% would be left to breed and 20% predated. Now 50% are being predated. If we didn't allow that there wouldn't be sufficient food. You may have 3 or 4 buzzards, 3 or 4 hen/marsh harriers, but they need to take one a day. That's 40 a week, 160 a month. The fact is, we have got the right amount of predators, but we haven't got the amount of song birds, smaller birds, to feed them. What will happen is that the predators will start eating each other, and the chicks of.
Somewhere between the horrendous wars, and the 60's, we did very well, to get a lot from nothing, in the space of 30 years it went boom! It's the same with wildlife, somewhere within what our forefather did, and how they ran the country side, in the 70-80's, was just about right. I've said this at conservation meetings...why on earth don' the RSPB sit down with conservationists and say 'what can we afford?', 'how should this be?', 'what sort of habitat do we need?', 'we know this works, that doesn't' and so forth, ok, well we've got 9/10,000 acres and we need this sort of habitat for this and that. It's the same with badgers, they're so rife now, they're even digging up young rabbit before they've even got their eyes open. Yes, they eat worms and bugs, but if the grounds hard and they can't get in, they'll have a nest of egg! 20 years ago they devastated the gull and tern colony at the point. There was big ruckus in the conservation meeting that the badgers were doing it. We walked up to the sea wall and there was a pheasants nest which had been eaten. It had been pulled apart the egg shells were all smashed. Then we saw a gulls nest out on the saltings and in the mud we saw some badgers foot marks.
21st August 2015
Sharon came back to live in Leigh after 25 years away. She left because she was unhappy at how the place was changing, with new people moving in, and romanticising the place, whilst for most local fishing families life was really hard and not the idyllic life that most people speak of today. The locals weren't necessarily a sensitive breed and didn't see the place as idyllic as people do today. But when she returned she saw that no only had the place changed, but so had she, and accepted that everything does and must, so enjoys being back here once again.
As a child of the fishing families, times were hard at school as there was some kind of stigma attached to them. They also probably smelled pretty bad as they used to play in the great piles of cockle shells.
The children in her family used to play at the sewage works on Two Tree Island in the 1960's and once they found the skull of an animal (unknown). There are some apple trees there now which are part of the works legacy. Mr Kerry used to work there and I'm going to have a chat with some of his children next week. They used to collect a plant that they called 'sea heather' (not sure if it is the correct name) but the flowers dried which meant that it looked like it was in bloom for most of its life. They also used to play (bounce) on the planks the cocklers put down between the boat and the shore. Some of this activity was capture on a Pathe News film (Youtube link to follow shortly). Also, the boat that is now sunk near the eastern tip of TTI wasn't quite so sunk and they used to climb on it and play.
Her fathers (Bruce John) boat was the Navigator and is now on the salt marsh near to where the Souvenir was moved from. The boat was originally painted the same green as the Endeavour, and also their house...probably from the same tin. They used to sell their catch (cockles, winkles, whitebait) in Margate and Ramsgate (by walking along the street with the food in nets, dripping on the pavement) or to Billingsgate market. The boat he used (name?) has been restored and is still sailing.
There also used to be a boat catching brown shrimp but that isn't here any more. There also weren't any egrets here 20 years ago and when I returned from Florida (where they also live) I saw them here for the first time. The 'egret pool' is on the western end of TTI.
A lot of women worked on the boats during the war as the men were away. Her grandfather turned to bait digging after her stopped fishing, but was killed whilst out in bait digging.
There are a lot of sea shanties that people used to sing, and some of those may have been lost to time.
There used to be a ball bearing factory on the High Street near the Crooked Billet and they were always finding them, or scraps of metal, when they were playing. They also found lots of old clay pipes whilst they were digging in the garden.
Sharon wanted to scatter her dads ashes in the old town but had a lot of trouble finding somewhere quiet that wasn't full of tourists. After looking for quite some time Mike's boatyard said that she could scatter the ashes from there and have a bit of privacy whilst doing so. Sharon wants to be scattered in Old Leigh too. She has an old telescope, a family heirloom, and it would be great to see all the things that have been seen through that. Imagine all of the eyes that have peered through.
Romance is in the ruins.
Held together by sentiment.
Comfort in familiarity.
22nd August 2015
Citizen Science Workshop 2, with Marc Outen
black headed gulls (in winter plumage)
Collared doves (here since 1950's)
great black backed gull
lesser black backed gull
whimbrel (heard call only)
pheasant chick (dead)
green vein white
brown tailed moth
Brackish (10-15 parts /1000 salt to water) water habitats are need as well as fresh water, sea water, salt marsh etc.
The mud is very calorific, hence it attracts lots of wildlife (approx 4 Mars bars worth (600c) of energy per square meter.
Dog poo adds a considerable amount of coliform bacteria in to the environment, which can be problematic.
Pat said that she once found some morel mushrooms on Two Tree Island, which could have grown there because of the warmth from below (tip).
25th August 2015
Maureen (daughter of Mr. Kerry), questions asked by Sharon Emery
She remembers the fishermen's nets being spread across New Road and the men mending the nets. Corks were sewn into them as floats. She said the men used to talk to her very patiently as a little girl and explain what they were doing. They were smoking their clay pipes at the time!
The sea heather I remembered us collecting she also collected and it is actually called sea lavender.
She remembers eels at the sewage pipe on Two Tree Island and also off the end of the pier.
When her dad was in his little building at the sewage pit on Two Tree Island he would send the children off to collect horse mushrooms which grew nearby and would cook them with the wild tomatoes which also grew around there. The children would go to the station and sell the mushrooms to the day-trippers!
We all remembered the fog horn sound and the very dense fogs as children.
She also feels Old Leigh has changed very much and the newer buildings don't fit in and doesn't see that Old Leigh as it is today is an improvement on how it was growing up down there.
She remembers having a very happy childhood.