The Essex A to Z – A is for Aviation

Bradwell Airfield
A is for Aviation and for today’s post I braved the cold January weather to visit 2 sites in Essex. Now if I had left 1/2 an hour later I would have stayed dry, but as it was the rain had passed by the time I reached my first destination at SOUTH FAMBRIDGE,

20160110_100223Yes that’s right South Fambridge was the sight of one of, if not the first airfield in the country. Somewhere around February 1909, Noel Pemberton-Billing (who incidentally went on to found the Supermarine company of Spitfire fame) set up an Airfield on a site that was formerly home to a hydraulic crane factory. Unfortunately the field proved entirely unsuitable, as the planes literally bogged down in the mud and the Airfield closed in November 1909.

Today very little remains of the site a housing estate sits on the fields and there is a road named in Pembertons honour, There are also still a few of the workers cottages he built St Thomas Road. Lastly there is a memorial set by the side of the road just as you enter the village.

essexaz-a-13Moving on I made my way out to Battlesbridge by the aptly named Watery Lane, and taking the old road through to South Woodham Ferrers I took a circuitous route heading to the end of Essex, or Bradwell on Sea as it is called on a map. My destination is the War Memorial for RAF Bradwell Bay, Set by the power station you really do feel you are at the end of the road ,large skies all around and marshes and water on 2 sides.

In 1939 a grass landing strip was established at Bradwell Bay and in 1941 this was Upgraded to a Full Airfield with 3 runways and upwards of 300 buildings on the site. During the war the airfield served as a front line base and also an emergency landing base for returning fighters. It was closed in 1946 and later the Nuclear power station was built on the Northern area of the Airfield. These pictures are of the memorial and also of the Runway.

essexaz-a-8From here I turn around and make my way home through the pretty village of Tillingham and Southminster back to Southend, 72 miles in around 2 hours and not more than a couple of hundred yards of dual carriageway. I only saw 2 other motorbikes while out and one of them was Geoff our mechanic! although I spotted 4 scooters and seemingly an endless supply of lycra clad cyclists out for a ride.

Links for further information

South Fambridge:

Bradwell :

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The Essex A to Z – Introduction

essexaz-a-1I need to get out more on the bikes and sometimes I need an excuse to ride. So this year I am setting myself a challenge (and indeed my customers) of getting out once a fortnight and getting a photo with your bike included on the theme of Essex A to Z, 26 letters and 52 weeks in a year means this will be a year long challenge. My Photos will be posted here and also on our facebook page where customers can also load their photos.

At the end of the year, Myself, one of the mechanics and at least one of my customers will look at the customer photos and pick one to win a prize. The prize will be unique and personal to that customer and good for the workshop or the home. More details will be released later in the year.

To join in and post your photos follow the link below.


The Shop 1974

August 1974 ?

August 1974 ?

The date on the slide says processed May 1975 ,but looking at the Registration numbers I suspect this was taken for the August 1974 Reg change , Notice all the cossacks are consecutive numbers.

Mum and Dad moved to Southend and opened John Parker Motorcycles in May 1973, in what was previously Jim’s cycle shop.  KTM’s Cossacks and Mobylettes were the first of the brands we would be associated over the next 40 years and i remember a representative from the Russian factory spending a week or 2 at the shop looking at how we improved their reliability. From what i remember (and i was under 10 at the time) before a new Ural left the shop it would have new piston rings, gaskets, brake shoes and other upgraded parts fitted.

To the left of the picture are 2 Mobylette X7 mopeds , designed with folding handlebars and lowering seat so they could be stored inside the boot of a car.

The inside shot taken at the same time still shows cycle parts in abundance. and on the floor sit 2 KTM mopeds and another pair of Mobylette’s. Just beside the counter (which still sits in the shop today !) can be seen the paraffin tap connected to the very large tank in the garden.

Inside John Parker motorcycles in August 1974.

Inside John Parker motorcycles in August 1974.

40th Anniversary Ride – Home again.

John Parker Motorcycleshome-6So we complete the circle and return to the shop, the shop that after 40 years is so familiar and truly home. 40 years and 41 weeks after the shop first opened .For the next few weeks we will have a few photos from the archives of the shop over the years and it is intresting to see just how little the building has changed ,unlike me.

So at the end of the day here are the Stats, I completed 80 miles , 227 photos in just under 7 hours riding , all on our Skyteam Demonstrator at an average of under 12 miles an hour ! or to look at it another way just under 3 photos per mile or 33 photos per hour ! And all without getting further than 12 miles from the shop . His was completed on less than 3.2 litres of fuel so gives a rough mpg of 115 miles per gallon.



And the bike? Well it behaved flawlessly as you would expect the handling on those ballon tyres takes a bit of getting used to and as the engine was still very new (see the speedo in the last shot in KM’s) I did not push it too hard but it still happily rolled along at 50 mph. The seat was comfy and it wasn’t until after about 6 hours I started to feel a bit ‘achy’ from sitting on it for so long ! Overall a great little bike for nipping around town and the local villages on.


40th Anniversary Ride – Photo 40 – Shoebury Garrison

Shoeburyness GarrisionSaid to have been the site of the Viking’s fort in Essex in 893 the garrison site at South Shoebury has a long history. The Army have been on this site since 1797 and was a permanent presence from 1845 to the mid 1990’s when they finally moved out , Today the site has been converted into ‘posh’ housing and due to being behind the original Barracks walls has an isolated, often controversial role in South Shoebury with residents being accused of wanting nothing to do with the community.

And so our 40th Photo and we reach the end of our 40 year celebration run , although next week we will return to the shop as all journey’s must at the end come full circle.

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40th Anniversary Ride – Photo 39 – Great Wakering

Wakering churchSt Nicholas Church Great Wakering

Great Wakering and its surrounding area has been inhabited since from before the roman times and the villiage name Wakering comes from Saxon times and means ‘settlement of the people of Wacor’. It is thought the church lies on or near the site of a saxon minister and was built in the 11th Century with the tower being added in 1200. So all together this building is old.
This shot is taken from around the corner near the Duck pond and is not the usual view across the church yard however it does give an impression of a building that has looked over the villiage for centuries.
On a different for those of you who remember the 1980’s comedy ‘Just Good Friends’ this is the church at the start where Vince and Penny were due to get married and Vince left Penny standing at the alter.

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40th Anniversary Ride – Photo 38 –Wakering Stairs

sta-1staa-1This was meant have been a shot of the trex with the Broomway stretching out into the distance ! But there was so many people around I decided to move a couple of hundred yards back and take these shots of where the road to the Broomway is crossed by an old military railway line.
The Broomway , until 1922 the only way onto Foulness island by land is a 6 mile unmarked byway out on the Maplin Sands. It is a very dangerous place and is only passable with good local knowledge. Today the area is still controlled by the MOD and live firing exercises still take place out onto the sands.

Anyway old Half deserted railway tracks make for an atmospheric backdrop.sta-3 sta-2

40th Anniversary Ride – Photo 37 – Barling Weir Pond


barlweir-5Reputedly haunted by a lady in grey who is seen walking along the road near this spot , The weir pond in Barling is like many similar ponds in Essex and indeed England today a Duck pond where children and indeed adults pop along for a few minutes to feed the ducks.
The origins of this and many other village ponds however are much more important to the economy than that . They were the watering places for cattle as they were moved around the countryside whether between fields or going off to market.
Interestingly my uncle who stayed holidayed in Barling near the pond with relatives in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s remembers tales of a young boy who drowned in this pond when his feet got tangled in the weeds etc. So maybe that ghost story may just be true.


40th Anniversary Ride – Photo 36 – Barling loop

barl-9barl-8Never heard of the Barling loop ? Good long may it remain so . It is a 1.5 mile road that is in the back of beyond, it is as quite and as flat as any road in Essex can be. Ever since my days in the Boys Brigade, when we used the loop for sponsored cycle rides I have loved this stretch of Essex countryside, flat with massive skies and fields of rapeseed. It has always been a favourite for a quick ride out when I need a few minutes away from the bustle of Southend. Today a wildlife reserve graces the road, and I really must one day soon stop and take a walk around this little hidden gem.

On the day of the ride the Essex Kite Park was open and it was to good an opportunity to miss so today’s pictures feature kites , rapeseed and a trex.

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40th Anniversary Ride – Photo 35 – Rochford Hall and Church

Rochford hall

Rochford hall

From Wallasea we make our way back past the ‘Shepard and Dog’ pub where the local classic bikers often meet on a Saturday lunchtime and back through the Stambridges’s to arrive at Rochford. Market town of the Rochford 100 and the main administrative centre for the area before the growth of Southend.

The Church dates back to the 13th/14th century and has an impressive brick tower dating to the 16th century. Buried in the church yard is James Banyard founder of the ‘Peculiar People’ a religious sect that flourished in the Southend area in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

St Andrews Church

St Andrews Church

The church and the area around also feature strongly in the Murder of Emma Hunt in 1893, Emma was found by a young local boy face down in a pond with her throat cut. Suspicion fell on the young man who found her body but after extensive inquiries he was released . Emma Hunt is also buried at Rochford church. For a full report and many more interesting stories of Southend, see Dee Gordon’s excellent book ‘Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths around Southend on Sea.’

Rochford hall is famous for its association with Ann Boleyn. A Manor house has stood in the area of Rochford hall from Pre Doomsday times. The current hall likely can trace its history back to 1455 when the current building was started on the site of an earlier stone manor house. By the time of King Henry VIII’s reign the home had passed to the Bolyen family and in particular to Ann’s sister Mary.
Whether Ann spent much time at Rochford is not recorded but it adds a certain romance to the area. Lord Rich acquired and expanded the hall and what we see today is less that a quarter of the hall at its peak.
In 1897 Rochford Hundred Golf Course took a lease from Mr James Tabor on some of the land and the golf course we see today was started.

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