Last Saturday we went for a walk. The weather was somewhat cold and damp-feeling, but there was almost no wind, and the sun came out towards the end of the day.
We decided to walk from Purfleet, Essex, to South Ockendon, following the line of the Mardyke for much of the way. It was a route we’d not walked before despite having visited this area a number of times in the past.
We began by taking the Overground from Harringay Green Lanes to Barking, then a train to Purfleet.
Exiting the station, we headed east along London Road, turning north on Lockyer Road and picking up a footpath past the Royal Opera House’s High House Production Workshop. After crossing, in turn, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the Purfleet Bypass, we reached Armor Road, where we caught a glimpse of a large lake occupying the disused Bluelands chalk pit, overlooked, in the distance, by a Premier Inn hotel.
The fenced-off body of water, with sheer chalk sides surrounded by dense scrub and woodland, was interesting, but it was hard to get a good look at it. Palaeolithic flint tools have been found here (mentioned in this report), but it seems there is a plan, announced in 2011, to fill in the pit and build a hotel and commercial buildings on it.
After crossing Arterial Road, we headed into Watts’s Woods, emerging by electricity pylons into open land by the Mardyke. Here a footpath ran along the south side of the river, while to the north were flooded grasslands and more pylons.
Having spotted several horses grazing, we started taking photos, but a woman wearing wellington boots soon made her way across the muddy, partially waterlogged field and, from the other side of the river, asked us what we were doing.
She explained that grazing of horses by the Mardyke in the winter months is prohibited by the council, but the horses had managed to escape temporarily and were due to be rounded up again shortly. She seemed suspicious at first that we might be snooping for the council or the local newspaper, but we managed to convince her we were only taking photos because we liked the view.
Continuing east, we crossed Ship Lane and, shortly afterwards, passed under the M25. There was quite a bit of flooding and at one point we were forced to make a detour up into Brannett’s Wood to avoid the water.
At Stifford Bridge, we emerged briefly onto a road, but then continued east along the Mardyke path until we reached a footbridge south of the Mardyke Valley Golf Course.
As we turned north, uphill and across the golf course, it began to rain rather hard, but it stopped after a while and the sun came out at last.
The rest of the way across farmland to South Ockendon Hall was pleasant in the fading light, and we began to see mist rising atmospherically from the damp earth in the ploughed fields.
From South Ockendon Hall, it was a shortish walk west to the main road, and then on to Ockendon station, where we took a train back to Barking.