We combined our day out with a visit to the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park. It is on the site of Mucking Marshes Landfill. Thurrock has an interesting history of making money from landfill sites. I have many childhood memories of the landfill near our house in Aveley and especially the flies in the summer. I am happy that many of them have now been put to more aesthetically pleasing use including several RSPB reserves. Some childhood memories are worth moving on from to make newer, better ones. A few hours at Thameside Nature Park looking out over the marshes from the viewing platform and some time watching the kids enjoy the zip wire was fun and my mum enjoyed the swing.
We are well into the school holidays in our house and I am still balancing family, friends, gaming time, other random outings and activities to keep the kids out of mischief.
This week I organised an excursion to the wilds of Essex plus a visit to the grand-parents. We do not manage to visit my parents house during term-time due to school timings and therefore they come up to ours. It is a treat for them when we spend a day at theirs during the holidays and they love to spoil us.
I wanted to take my guys to Coalhouse Fort as I have many fond memories of playing in the grounds. There was a little park with a swing, slide and roundabout. The small lake also had rowing boats. I recounted how I had ripped my knickers on the slide and how I was injured walking too close to a swing . I also remembered clambering up onto the fort roof but I think that was technically trespassing. The play equipment has long since gone and the boathouse was burnt down- after all as the Ranger explained 'Well, it is Essex'. However, there were still lots of families enjoying a day out and a picnic and there was still an ice-cream van in the car park.
Coalhouse Fort Map
Coalhouse Fort Fact:
It was featured on the Most Haunted program; they decided it was so haunted that they decided to make a double episode.
I certainly had an eerie feeling sensing the ghosts of my childhood so close in those old fort grounds!
It is not just the buildings and land use that has altered- childhood has evolved too. My youngest was happy because he managed to collect some great Pokémon species on his walk around these two Essex tourists spots. Hs favourite was a 'Dragonair' at Coalhouse Fort - just where that dangerous slide used to be! He also interacted with other Pokémon addicts and had battles to take over virtual gyms. How times have changed from my ripped knickers on that slide to Pokémon battle at the Fort. I can't help wondering what my grandchildren will be doing as they go for walks around their parents old haunts.
The Cory Environmental Trust Visitor Centre
It is strange visiting old childhood haunts. The feel of familiarity but with sharp overtones of change is a strong reminder of how things constantly evolve. Coalhouse Fort is a great example of how places change. It was built between 1861 and 1874 to fortify the Thames estuary to stop a French attack. In the First World War it was used as an Examination Battery to control shipping on the Thames. The Second World War saw it taking a more active role as it was equipped with anti-aircraft armament. Following the wars it has had many uses including storage for the near-by Bata shoe factory but was purchased by Thurrock Urban District Council in 1962 as a recreational area. Alongside the old fort buildings are grasslands, saltmarshes and a flood meadow that are 'Sites of Special Scientific Interest' housing an abundance of wildlife. Thinking about how Coalhouse Fort has morphed from a site of battle and defence to one of recreation and wildlife is heart-warming. However, I did have a little heart-sink moment when I think how we are now turning our back on the EU which has been a major force of peace in Europe allowing for these buildings to be upcycled.
Thurrock Thameside Nature Reserve
Old Fort Buildings and lake