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Taking a Walk: Essex Eden, arisen from rust, rubble and asphalt

Regulars | By Patrick Barkham | December 2017


It was not beautiful – between hummocks of bramble and thickets of sallow, there was a dumped car seat and a rusted pipeline. It was not tranquil – the beep-beep-beep of a reversing lorry was carried on the wind, alongside the cackle of a green woodpecker and the repetitive thud of a drill entering concrete.  But the apocalyptic terrain of Canvey Wick was tremendously enlivening. Flat, bleak and rough, it is one of Britain’s most bounteous, improbable nature reserves. Canvey Island’s Thames-side shores were once enjoyed by holidaying Londoners. Sediment from the river – sand, gravel, silt, chalk – was dumped on the grazing marshes of Canvey Wick at the eastern end of the island in the 1960s, as industry took over from tourism. An oil refinery was constructed at Canvey Wick but the oil price shock of 1973 saw the unused facility abandoned.  Rubble and asphalt gave rise to...

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