Serendipity can work in mysterious ways. Some years ago Elaine showed me a media report on Jubilee Marsh, near Southend-on-Sea, where 3 million tonnes of spoil from the Elizabeth Line tunnelling project had been used to reinforce and extend a saltmarsh. I made a mental note to visit it someday.
Then, today, the Volans team took the train to Rochford, Essex, to visit the self-same marsh. I only realised last night that where we were headed and where I had wanted to head several years ago were one and the same place.
We were hosted and guided around the site by RSPB team members, Lizze and Rachel. The visit followed an event that Volans organised at Somerset House some time ago, where residents were invited to imagine the local ecosystem as some sort of salt marsh. And there were also interesting links to our infrastructure and tunnelling conversations with at least one client.
What a joy it was to breathe the open air, to watch egrets and flights of golden plover, and taste marsh samphire as we progressed around the site. At one point, our guide wondered aloud what the marsh would become when sea level rise inundates much of the region.
An excellent account of the background story by Robin McKee can be found here.
One thing we discussed with our taxi drivers there and back was how the area around Southend-on-Sea became an overspill area for Greater London after WW2. As we arrived in – and drove through – Rochford, you could see the changed development patterns very clearly.
One thing we didn’t discuss though, was the wave of school closures in the wake of growing concern about RAAC, or reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, used in a huge number of buildings at the time. It now turns out that Essex has more such buildings than anywhere else in the country. I wondered whether our alma mater, The University of Essex, was affected by the crumbling concrete syndrome, but apparently not.