the red penguin


Upminster is the first of my walks covering places “not in Essex but in Essex really”. I know there’s still a lot of confusion or denial with those people and places who are really part of Greater London, but for the purposes of this website anything that is in “old Essex” is in Essex. Upminster definitely doesn’t feel part of the London urban sprawl, so it’s going down as Essex.

It’s particularly interesting to me because I came here every day for seven years and I’ve hardly been to the place since. I went to Coopers Coborn school from 1980 to 1987 (so now you know how old I am!) and about two thirds or more of the other kids were Upminster residents. So they’d often talk about the landmarks – Upminster Windmill, Upminster Court, the Tithe Barn and so on – and I wouldn’t really know anything about them apart from glimpsing the Windmill a couple of times a day as we sped past it on the 248 bus taking me back to civilisation (Romford).

I started off by parking outside a building I haven’t seen before and which certainly wouldn’t interest me back then – a Bauhaus-type design in Fairway. It’s odd because it’s the only house of its type, being surrounded by more traditional designs, unlike (say) Gidea Park where a number of Art Deco houses were built.

There is virtually nothing about the history of this house on the web, other than that it was built in 1934 for the engineer of the P&O; ship SS Oronsay. A vertical brass plate with ORONSAY on it still sits on the house – not shown on my photo, but I was aware I was in a residential street and I didn’t want to look too much like a burglar.

I headed towards Hall Lane and had a glimpse of Upminster Golf Club, which I haven’t really seen before. Weirdly, one hole seems to be on the east side of Hall Lane, so you need to cross over the road to play it, and the other 17 are on the west side.

On to the Tithe Barn, which pretty much every child in my school had an educational visit to at some point in their lives, although I don’t honestly remember ever seeing it before. I think I did though and I’ve just blocked it out. Love the way it’s called the Tithe Barn Museum of Nostalgia, which must have really endeared itself to all of us at the time.

Talking of nostalgia – a quick walk around Upminster Playing Fields. When I was about 14 or 15 I got the bus one Saturday, met up with a load of friends and kicked a ball around all afternoon. This was a really odd thing to do because I was never particularly sporty at school, and having a long bus journey twice a day five days a week I wasn’t in the habit of leaving Romford at weekends. But I did do it, which is probably why I remember it so well about 35 years later.

People always seemed to be talking about Upminster Court, just across the road, but it’s really just a big old house. With an extraordinary dull backstory. (Well it’s kind of interesting if you like your engineering, I guess).

Google Maps started to point me towards a footpath at the end of River Drive – somewhere I definitely haven’t walked before. I went down to the end of the road – which still had lots of Union Jack bunting from yesterday’s Royal Wedding – and followed FP273 for a while. It really does take you into the middle of nowhere – it’s hard to believe you’re still in the London Borough of Havering. The path takes you over and then along the River Ingrebourne and then along the side of some fields, coming out at the back of some houses near Upminster Bridge station.

The goat in the back of someone’s garden told me I was heading towards town again.

I ended up in Wingletye Lane, crossing over the push-and-pull Romford to Upminster rail line which I used to get very occasionally, and then along the road back to Upminster.

I paused to the look at the Ingrebourne again on the actual Upminster Bridge which gives the area it’s name. I’ve been trying to work out why there’s an old birdhouse of some kind strapped to an enormous tree trunk spanning the river, but the internet has failed to explain this so far.

So I walked onwards with the excitement of Upminster Windmill to come. Although I’ve glimpsed it many times I’ve never had a chance to get close to it – until today. Sadly it wasn’t quite the experience I’d been expecting.

It’s been under major restoration work since 2015 and should be completed later this year.

I headed along St Mary’s Lane and left into Station Road. Among the everyday photos I took was one of Kinda’s – I can’t believe it’s still hanging on. It closed in 2017 but this was the go-to place for all of our school uniform. I remember my parents baulking back in 1980 when they had to buy me a regulation school parka with furry hood at a cost of £60 (the equivalent of £180 in 2018!)

Othello is worth a mention as I went there maybe 10 years ago and ate more food than I’ve ever eaten at one sitdown. I swear I put on a stone that day. Must go back some time …

Grabbed one more photo of the rail lines which by now comprise the end of the District Line along with the line to Fenchurch Street and the single track back to Romford. I love the way you can see St Andrew’s Church in Hornchurch (the church with the horns on it) rising up over the tracks. It’s exactly one mile from the bridge.

Finally I headed back to my car up Hall Lane, stopping to marvel at a sign put up by the council to inform people that the free car park is 357 metres away. It’s not even a round number of yards (390) so it must be exact. OCD at its finest!

Sunday 20 May 2018, 864 views

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