Mark’s Gate to Barking (Gascoigne Estate)
Thursday October 18 2019
We were certainly, as the ?Bible puts it, ‘unto the East’ today having started at Whitechapel for the District Line to Hornchurch which took us to Collier Row (a bus route in the 200s so we may never live that long) and from there a mere 5 stops to somewhere called The City Pavilion – a rather odd name for somewhere virtually in a field but it seemed to be a sort of civic community centre hosting events as diverse as the Panto and a Psychic Evening. From there it was a short walk past the Whale Roundabout to Mark’s Gate and the start of the 62, a low number bus for a fairly, if you pardon the expression, remote route.
We had noticed the ploughed fields and the bus stop called Furze Farm so thanks to Hidden London for this entry explaining the origins of the area. Whalebone Road to which we were alerted by the well …whale bones … at the roundabout is such an evocative name with somewhat fuzzy origins - the consensus seems to be that a whale was stranded in the Thames and the bones from its carcass formed an arch which has variously been along the road in front of a house now demolished and most recently at the Borough (this route lies entirely within the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham – LBBD) Museum . So whales have been going astray up the Thames for nearly 400 years as another victim died off Greenhithe recently – perhaps they come to London to die?
The whale theme continued when we crossed the A12 at the Moby Dick Junction and passed the huge golf complex where the crazy course featured a whale and a pirate ship... There is also a proper course and it all seems very reasonably priced and lacking in pretension, and of course you are promised ‘ a whale of a time’…
This road crossing signals the route arriving in Chadwell Heath, where the 62 is joined by the 362; most of this route was residential – houses rather than blocks of flats – and Chadwell Heath offered some local shops: Scruffy’s Dog Grooming anyone? We were not quite clear what Vatra Romanescu might be – clearly more than just a shop, and some research indicates a nationalist /right wing organisation. This was not our only Romanian encounter of the day as three lads (should have been in school?) briefly joined us on the top deck where we had been alone – and asked us whether we could drive , and seemed amazed when Jo disclosed her age , and the length of time she had held a licence.
The Blesma organisation on the other hand is NOT Romanian but a charity helping limbless ex-servicemen, which has in fact moved from here in the past few weeks, though their logo is still atop a building. The other key sight of Chadwell Heath is the Eva Hart Pub, still looking very nice, which commemorates her – a young survivor of the Titanic, and also Mary Wollstonecraft , born locally. We have Wetherspoons to thank for this local history. This was in contrast to the deserted’White Lion’ at Chadwell Heath.
After a couple of bends we got onto another straight stretch of road through what is essentially the Becontree Estate – as this website has it, the size and vision of building so many homes was revolutionary and this route only passes through part of it. Post Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ you can see where homes have been ‘improved’ or at least customised.
At this point I asked had we not been to the Valence Museum (there was a sign to the park of that name) and Jo said she had no recollection which is a shame as she wrote the entry!
Though shops had been included in the original specifications for the Estate leisure facilities less so, so LBBD had more recently added a Youth Zone near to Parsloes Park, itself a LBBD resource that was created at the same time as the Estate but has had its facilities updated since.
For much of this this stretch the 62 is the only route; there is of course Becontree Station, another stop on the District Line: one way or another we passed several of these outlying stations today all similar in design, many on a bridge above the platforms , but all sadly in need of some repointing and spruced up paintwork. This was in contrast to the earlier Chadwelll Heath a TFL Rail station which had seen some TLC.
Though we passed under the overhang of the elevated A13 the 62 route stays north doing a detour to Upney – another residential stretch with many overhanging trees scraping the bus roof enthusiastically. There was barking Bus garage too, where the drivers changed.
Once past Upney’s station the focus of the traffic, shops and institutions became firmly Barking and its regenerating (it’s not quite there) town centre with tired looking shops and shopping centres and many new office/shopping and above all residential facilities springing up. With a school named after it I wondered how much of Barking Abbey remained …
The Barking Abbey Ruins are part of the larger area of parkland that is now called Abbey Green. The location is that of the original buildings of Barking Abbey, founded in 666 AD, until it was demolished shortly after 1541 AD. The only surviving building of this period is the Curfew Tower, which is now the gateway to the adjacent St Margaret's Church, but was originally a gatehouse to the Abbey. Most of the remaining ruins are now buried and hidden
So not that much then.. Most of the few remaining passengers got off as we passed the station and shopping hub of Barking after which the bus, along with several other routes, has to contend with a contra flow while a large residential development is ‘finished off’ (this usually means a couple of trees, some gravel and pots) and then pushes on for four stops to terminate on the Gascoigne estate , which clearly pre-dates most of the current building boom. There have been several noticeable changes in Barking since project 1 so it will be interesting to see how far the transformation is planned to continue.
Our trip had taken an hour – it was not the most thrilling of journeys but wen t from a whale to fishes a reminder of former industry from the green belt farmland through well-established communities into Barking which is clearly trying to be a major residential and commercial area.