Barking Riverside, Scrattons Farm and Thames View

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Changing, yet changeless…

Barking Belonging

I was “born n bred” in Barking as the saying goes, into a welfare state with free healthcare, decent affordable housing, proper pensions, and free education. Quite a change from the situation many young people find themselves in these days! Technically, I’m an “Essex Boy”, because Barking was in Essex.. until 1965! I attended the local schools, then on to higher education…the first in my family to be a “college boy”. 

The story of Barking and Dagenham too, is a story of constant change. I have lived most of my time on Thames View Estate, since the houses were built there in the mid 1950’s. Thousands of new homes were built in the shadow of a coal-fired power station, and the “giant” electricity pylons carrying hundreds of thousands of volts across the land. For decades, vast areas of the old marshes had been used to dump ‘fly-ash’ from the power station. Millions of tonnes of it!   In those days, the area was perceived as being suitable only as a place to dump its waste in landfill by those in power. The rubbish dumps were the playground of many local children.  Many people around here still have old pottery, bottles, and metal toys that they rescued from the soil. We’d often venture further out to the banks of the River Thames, and explore the WW2 air-raid bunkers, long since derelict, built to protect workers at the power station from bombing by the German Air Force… some change! We’d find piles of discarded army surplus gas-masks and army kit, which we’d wear and clomp about in. The area was so vast, there was still plenty of the old marshland creeks to explore. There were still, right into the 1980’s, a small herd of cows around the Choat’s Road and the shoreline. Sometimes the cows would manage to dodge around the fences and wander onto the housing estate. Industrial development and the giant Ford works along the A13 and the ‘car culture’ brought its own changes, and affected the sense of ‘belonging’ and identity to the area. Some things haven’t changed, though. The River Thames seems timeless. Go there, and you can still see the massive bird feeding areas and the important wildlife habitat that have existed there for ages. It’s like that, here… changing, yet changeless.

It all goes to create a unique place full of character and identity and a sense of ‘belonging’ for those who live here, even though much has changed: the old power station is long gone, the cattle moved off, the fly-ash buried out of sight,  but small bits of the original wide-open marshes have survived. Most recently, the most noticeable change is the massive 800 acre Barking Riverside housing development. This too, is bringing its unique set of challenges. We, all of us, bring our own sense of identity to this shared space. But I guess ultimately, this has to be about ‘belonging’. Are we capable of creating spaces in which people share that same sense of a unique character… and belonging?


By Kevin Hudson, local resident and REB member
Autumn 2023 Issue

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