Walking the Essex Coast 20 (i)


Stanford-le-Hope – Mucking – Muckingford – East Tilbury – Tilbury

17th August 2012

South Essex is rubbish. Walking the Essex Coast proudly links into the wasteland literary tradition by traversing an area that is undoubtably the well-spring for the theme, because Essex has, since the 19th century, been the recipient of about half of London’s shit (no wonder Londoners take the piss out of Essex). We have on previous stages, passed the operating landfill sites at Barling and Bowers Marsh, we’ve walked beside the capped landfill that is Canvey Downs, and today we trek across the former Mucking landfill site, as well as crossing what is surely the best place to study the wasteland closely; the beach that lies to the east of Tilbury power station. Approaching from the East, into the afternoon sun, the beach glistens. It is a long strip of fragments of glass and ceramic; an uncapped Victorian rubbish dump. Some of the shards seem to be recent, although most are clearly tide-worn and much older. I lived in Grays during the 1980s, and was brought to here by a friend who, according to the fashion of the time, collected Victorian/Edwardian bottles as ornaments. It was popular for beachcombing then, and there are still intact bottles to be found, although I’m not completely convinced of their antiquity. The low mud ‘cliffs’, about six feet tall, that fringe the beach are a series of rubbish strata and some of the waste must be more recent than Victorian, for I don’t think they had plastic and polystyrene in those days, and these materials are clearly seen protruding through the upper layers. The lower the strata, the more murky and uncertain the content becomes.

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Essex coast 20 112 (1)

Nowadays, London is expected to get its act together by disposing of its own rubbish with the residue being shared more evenly between the south-eastern counties. The new traffic from the capital is earth. Tons upon tons upon tons of it, and you would have no idea that earth moving was such big business until you saw the scale of it in these parts. We had seen on  previous walks that Wallasea Island is being re-formed with gravel extracted from the cross-rail project, and that the ‘London Gateway’ is being built from the contents of the river bed being dredged on to the shoreline. At Mucking, the contents of the Thames Tideway excavation – twenty miles of sewer, twenty five feet wide – are arriving on the Essex shore in the form of white clay, being used to cap the remainder of the Mucking landfill site.

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Further down the estuary, as we close upon Tilbury power station, above the glass beach, there is a new fence lining the marshes and, at the end of the fence, a long series of piles of earth. Lorries are plying to and from a jetty where the earth is being unloaded, and I assume, but do not know, that this site is earmarked for large scale housing development, but as yet, there is no hint of even so much as a single footing having been dug.

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Essex coast 20 124 (1)

As we discovered on our last walk, wildlife reserves are emerging full-blown from the Essex wastelands. The first part of Mucking Marsh is now ‘Thurrock Thameside Nature Park’, the biggest project Essex Wildlife Trust has ever undertaken. 845 acres, and, the trust promise,  an ‘avian hotspot’. The trust invites you to explore ‘wild Essex’, but actually, its sites are well pathed, the people you meet are friendly, bird hides are strategically placed and on this particular site, there is a magnificent visitor centre, brand new and still to have its official opening, sitting on a rise in the land overlooking the Thames estuary. We are however, about to enter a different kind of wild Essex…

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3 thoughts on “Walking the Essex Coast 20 (i)

  1. As a resident of East Tilbury I along with others have fought long and hard battles with Cory (Enviromental) for the last 30+ years and to say we are optimistic of seeing this site being brought up to scratch by the wildlife trust is dubious in our lifetime we feel.
    Cory have been the proverbial pain in the rear since it began bringing the London Garbage to site,but they had planning permission and after huge protests from the residents ,where TV and Press showed our plight, we were doomed to accept that for years,this would be our Nemesis.
    As is the norm with landfill sites,the stench and the blight on the landscape remained with us until Cory actually reached the deadline on 31/12/2010,but as you will see from the dates,Cory placed Planning Applications to extend the workings with Thurock Council so many times we were buried in this garbage due to lack of information from Cory ,who were lax and witheld any future operations from residents and Councillors alike, their plans more often than not got approved much to our despair,year upon year,decade upon decade!
    The saving factor was the promise of EWT using the land to make the landfill into something special,but we always have a nagging doubt or a gut feeling that there will always be a stumbling block to overcome,which is par for the course where Cory are concerned,and low and behold that stumbling block has arrived right now.Planning Applications,to extend yet again,we the residents have won a couple of battles this year but the last meeting was as though East Tilbury,Linford was uninhabited as far as Cory are concerned,because NOBODY knows that this debarcle is still ongoing (we have discovered that most of the residents thought Cory had finished on 31/12/2010 as promised ) and the decision will be made on 20/12/2012 at Civic Offices in Grays at 7pm where we will do our damdest to knock Cory into a cocked hat once and for all.We have offered Cory a way of receiving topsoil/covering material without the use of HGV’s and that will be by barge on the river,but Cory say this is not viable due to tidal issues!This would place too much restriction and the process will be longer to complete ..we don’t give a damn if it takes 20 years as long as the residents can use the country lanes that are impassable and lethal to drive through.

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