In 1895 a parcel of land was given to the people of Southend-on-Sea. The land had been reclaimed in 1870 from the Great Western Mere. This was a marshy lagoon that stretched from the Kursaal to Bournes Green and included part of Thorpe Hall Avenue. Small parts of it remains in Thorpe Bay Golf Club, and in Southchurch Park, that this land eventually became, contains two lakes. The lake in the east of the park has become part of a nature reserve and the lake in the western part of Southchurch Park, is home to a host of seabirds, ducks and swans. At the furthest corner of the western lake, model boating takes place, sometimes in conflict with the swans, who regard the lake as their territory!
Southchurch Park in Southend-on-Sea was finally completed in 1927, but even before this it was used in 1914 for the 14th Rifle Brigade to parade and perform drills in preparation for war. One of the first recorded cricket matches was played there in 1906.
That parcel of land which is now Southchurch Park has become a popular and thriving part of southchurch community. Its had Green Flag awards, and is home to Southend Manor Football Club, Southend Model Power Boat Club and cricket clubs. There are activities taking place in this part of Southchurch every day. Dog walkers traversing the perimeters of the lakes, children fishing for shrimps and ‘tiddlers’, football training and ‘new mothers’ keeping fit. Swans tangling with remote controlled boats is a sight to be seen but that doesn’t compare to the sound and feel of their beating wings as they take off and fly over your head. Picnics on the grass in the summer and taking the tortoise for a walk in the walled garden and waiting for the tennis court to become available is all part of Southchurch Park life.
When the swans start to build their nests on the island in the centre of the west lake, the southchurch park community respond by patiently waiting for signs of the cygnets. Once the cygnets appear, the call to action begins. Days spent counting the cygnets swimming around the lake and opinions divide over the swans’ ruthless pursuit of any ducklings that may have managed to escape them. The park community is on red alert once the cygnets find their wings. Countless rescue missions involving cygnets stranded outside of the park or that have crash landed into bushes. Bob ‘the swan man’ is always on call and is guaranteed to be seen with a cygnet tucked under his arm as he returns it to the lake. Southchurch Park community mourns when a cygnet doesn’t survive but before they know it the cygnets finally fly the nest to find a partner and their own territory to bring up a family in.
Southchurch Park Café is always open and in the summer weekends, music is performed. It is a haven when the weather turns cold and hot refreshment is needed.
The generosity of those landowners, Ingram, Baxter and Dowsett, by donating their land to Southend-on-Sea, has insured that ‘a little bit of old England’ survives in the heart of Southchurch, today.
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Thanks for reading, Sharon Harris.
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