Marina at Wat Tyler Park

Marina at Wat Tyler Park

Some accounts of The Peasants Revolt 1381 state that Wat Tyler came from Essex others Kent. There is a road in Blackheath named after him as it was there that the rebels set up camp before entering London, In 2009 Basildon named a park after him. It is on the site of an old explosive factory, built 1891 which was partly owned by Alfred Nobel. Explosive factories were in isolated areas so it was located next to Timberman’s Creek a tributary of the Thames. The area has been used more recently as a land fill site. The RSPB has a Visitor Centre and Discovery Zone in the park which is the gateway to their South Essex Marshes reserves.

The land was bought from the Ministry of Defence in 1969 and was opened to the public in the 1980s. The site is still in the process of being reclaimed. Excavated soil from the Olympics was used to recontour the site. Areas that were used for landfill are being reclaimed and are due to open in 2016. It is interesting to see how the industrial landscape is reverting to original marshland. The Marina is still used for mooring and there are a couple of rusty boats there as well. From here you get good views over to Thames Gateway and the giant cranes.

Conservation at Wat Tyler Park

Conservation at Wat Tyler Park

Before visiting I looked on the park’s website and was interested that some traditional Essex cottages had been relocated into the park. I was expecting something like Beamish, the living museum of the North East. I was wrong. Yes some buildings have been relocated around a “village green” but their conservation is very poor. Galvanized hinges, posidrive screws and plastic guttering were some of the materials used on buildings dating back to the 17th century: a travesty.

Sculpture at Wat Tyler Park

Sculpture at Wat Tyler Park

The park lacks a clear focus. There is very little on Wat Tyler just a couple of information boards in the visitor centre. The exhibits were generally poor and uninspiring. There are the remnants of the explosive factory and its buildings but they have not been developed into a coherent exhibition. The narrow gauge railway track used to unload and load cargo from the wharves has been transformed into a children’s Thomas the Tank engine ride. Strange structures appear haphazardly, for example, a large metal pink object that on closer examination is meant to be an insect. The park is neither an open air museum nor an amusement park. Currently, it’s trying to do both and doing them both badly.

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