We’re continuing our virtual version of Beating the Bounds on Leyton Marshes, compiled for those that couldn’t take part in person on Rogation Sunday.
We will now follow the map, from 🏀 Stop no.2 , along Sandy Lane, to the boundary between Leyton and Walthamstow Marshes, which also marks the boundary of the Parish of Walthamstow, to reach 🛩️Stop no.3.
Here’s the clue:
“Near here an early tri-plane flew –
The pilot’s name was fishy too.
And also here: SSSI
Rare Fern of Adder’s Tongue nearby.“
The first part of the clue relates a famous event on Walthamstow Marshes:
🛩️ A V Roe Flight
The first ever full powered flight in the UK took place on Walthamstow Marshes at the railway arches over Sandy Lane (Clapton Junction).
This area was at that time in Essex but is now within the London Borough of Waltham Forest. The creator of the plane was Alliot Verdon Roe (the ‘fishy’ name) who called his triplane ‘Bullseye’ after the braces manufactured by his brother’s firm, which had helped pay for it.
On 13 July 1909, he achieved a flight of 100 ft (30 m), and ten days later one of 900 ft (280 m). Over the next two months further successful flights were made and the aircraft was modified slightly: the drive belt was replaced by a chain, the vertical tail surfaces were removed and both the engine and pilot’s seat were moved forwards. Roe was then evicted from the two railway arches he had rented on Walthamstow Marshes.
On 12 July 2009, an event was held on Walthamstow Marshes to commemorate the first all-British flight under the auspices of the Royal Aeronautical Society, with several generations of Roe’s family in attendance. A new historic marker was unveiled on the northern entrance to Roe’s former workshops:
The second part of the clue also relates to Walthamstow Marshes:
“And also here: SSSI
Rare Fern of Adder’s Tongue nearby.“
The Walthamstow Marshes consists of 88 acres of ancient marsh and wetland. This area was threatened with obliteration when the Lea Valley Park Authority applied to the Greater London Council to dig them up for gravel extraction and replace them with a marina in 1979. The local community mounted a fantastic campaign to prevent the flora and fauna being dug up and the ancient accumulation of gravel beneath, laid down over thousands of years by ice sheets, being excavated to the depth of 36 feet.
In 1979, the front page of the Hackney Gazette ran with the headline ‘Fight is on to save wildlife marshes’ and BBC Nationwide made a film about the campaign; this is still available to view on YouTube!
One member of the Save The Marshes campaign, Brian Wurzel, had spent years botanising every square inch of the marshes and had complied a complete list of every plant there was on it, hundreds of plants from the rare to the common. Without this wealth of information, Walthamstow Marshes may have been lost forever.
The campaign convinced both Hackney and Waltham Forest Councils to object to the plan but the decision came down to the Greater London Council. A marshes exhibition of all the glorious plant diversity on the marshes was put up in the GLC headquarters at County Hall. Ken Livingstone, at that time GLC councillor for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, fully supported the campaign.
On 4th February 1980, the GLC Minerals Committee met to decide the application for gravel extraction. Literally just seconds before the vote was taken, the doors burst open and in came some thirty or more primary school children from Harrington Hill Primary School, Hackney. They all piled into the room and onto the platform behind the councillors, within a couple of feet of them, on top of them almost, the very moment the vote on the future of the marshes was about to be taken.
The vote was called. It was unanimous. The application to dig up the Walthamstow Marshes for gravel extraction and replacement by a marina was rejected. The campaign had been won. That didn’t of course put an end to the campaigning!
Five years later members of the campaign won for the marshes the designation of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) from the Nature Conservancy Council, now called Natural England. Two hundred different types of flora were identified, alongside the rare Adder Tongue Fern. The SSSI designation, based on this evidence of both fauna and flora which campaign members had collected, was official acknowledgment of their great natural value and made their care and preservation secure until the present day.
You can read more about this incredible campaign here.