And we’re off! In approximately 2 hours, aiming to document our progress as we go on Instagram, if anyone is interested: @minkypink.
But first, a word on Barking, our home for the last 2 years, before we leave it behind forever. (Dumper’s remorse? Maybe).
If we had the money, we’d buy a place in Barking. Somewhere nice near the river to rent out and hold onto until we decide to retire and live either off it or in it. In a few years’ time, my bet is that Barking is going to be smoking hot property – Dalston East, if you will. They’re thinking Big, and all those stupid Fresh Wharf shenanigans aside, I kind of love it. It’s got a fantastic sense of community, and aspirations in the creative industries that I wish I could be a part of.
A few things I appreciate, in no particular order:
– the crazy-good history! Barking Abbey was built in the 10th century by Saint Erkenwald for his sister Saint Ethelburga (evidently a family of high achievers). It was so rich and beautiful that William the Conqueror couldn’t shoot Harold’s eye out fast enough, so keen was he to move in and made all the kings of England eat humble pie off the nuns’ flagstones.
– Captain Cook got married in St Margaret’s church. Fact.
– The new Abbey Leisure Centre’s soft play area The Idol received £100,000 Arts Council funding (of an annual £0.5million Barking/ Arts Council pot) and was designed by Turner prize nominee Marvin Gaye Chetwynd.
Admittedly it’s all black, but conceptually it’s great. And apparently the black is to create a sense of danger, which is rare in council soft play areas, so I applaud it.
Also it was designed by a Turner prize nominee, which is super cool and inspiring, so who cares.
– The Granary development right opposite our boat is positioning itself at the heart of a new “artistic quarter” which if the existing building is anything to go by will be really quite beautiful. Especially once someone gets around to sorting our poor, neglected river out. (Don’t all leap up at once – rumour has it that Ilford Film used to dump all their processing waste into the river, so the silt is full of nasties. If true, no self-respecting dredging company will want to touch it with a barge pole. This is hearsay incidentally, so hopefully it’s not true. , because this river area deserves to be bloody lovely one of these days.
– The scraggy Fresh Wharf industrial estate that overlooks us has already been contracted to developers. I haven’t seen the plans but it can’t possibly be worse than it is already. And frankly the sooner the owners hand it over and the mooring residents can try to build a cordial new neighbourly relationship not riven with petty arguments and historical resentment, the better. (See: the arrival of Concrete Singh below).
Our next door plot now
– Barking has an arboretum! A proper one, with loads of different trees in it. It’s lush. Also next to it the Creative Square outside the beautiful Town Hall puts on occasional light shows and concerts. In two weeks there’s a Folk Festival with Dagenham son Billy Bragg headlining.
– There are a couple of great little cafes, notably:
1) EzO Bistro within the Barking station concourse, open since summer last year and lined with second hand books and original art. They serve great fresh coffee, crepes and sandwiches. The Owl gets his second caffeine hit there every morning (they remember how he takes it) and the owners work their butts off to make it a genuinely nice place to spend time, which if you’ve seen Barking station is something of an accomplishment.
2) Relish, the council run community cafe in the Barking Learning Centre (home to the library, the Barking Bath House and a gallery, amongst others). The food comes in abundant portions and is really very good. The Bun and I take ourselves out for lunch there at any excuse really… Which is easy as the GP is right opposite and our Children’s Centre is just over the road.
– the Gascoigne Childrens Centre is deservedly OFSTED rated Outstanding. I’m really going to miss it.
– they have sex ed posters like this hanging from the lampposts:
– the Queen is coming to visit next month. Apparently it’s the 50th anniversary of the borough but whatever – THE QUEEN! I love the Queen.
– Finally: the transport infrastructure is really good. The C2C, the Overground and two underground lines run from Barking station so you can be at Kings Cross in half an hour. Not bad for zone 4…
So things are Happening in Barking. I like it. And in a way – family proximity and a beautiful stretch of river notwithstanding – it’s more “us” than Kew is (which has a Society specifically dedicated to making sure NOTHING EVER CHANGES).
But we have no investment in the area; even once the development is completed (assuming there are any boats left), the mooring fees will just go up in line with the improved local area and facilities… All hope lies with a few brave boaters and their community mooring aspirations.
In the meantime, the situation at Fresh Wharf is as precarious and frustrating as ever. The latest word is that mooring licenses won’t be renewed after October, and in our immediate area, living conditions are actually worse since PMC Soil Solutions packed up all their lorries and left. The estate managers in their eternal social compassion and wisdom moved the friendly but very noisy and excessively hardworking Concrete Singh into the plot next door. (highlights so far have included clouds of cement dust billowing over our decks and through our portholes, and all-day Sundays and 10pm week night finishes, bless their grubby cotton socks.)
All in all we’re over it, and we’re off. We’ve met some truly lovely people who we hope we’ll see again, and we wish the best of luck and fair winds to all the friends and acquaintances who are staying on to fight another day. If they can stay the course and emerge triumphant, it will be so worth it – Barking Riverside is truly a diamond in the rough.
So, with a song in our hearts and smiles on our faces, we wave goodbye and turn our backs on Barking, heading south through the barrage and down the River Roding, to sail up through London Town and into the sunset.
It’s the summer solstice, so with any luck it’ll be a good one.