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The Three Arches!

By Trevor Moss

(from a Facebook posting to Wickford Local History Group, January 2014)

The Three Arches

The Three Arches where the railway crosses over the river Crouch (photo by Chris Green, summer 2013)

What was it about that place that has spooked so many Beauchamps students including me? I relate to the previous comments about it being a landmark on the cross-country circular route from the school and back. Many a Beauchamps boy or girl, who lacked being naturally blessed with fine tuned co-ordination skills or Olympic sprint speed or speed of eye, thus denying them of being selected to the cricket nets, netball courts, field sports & track, the football/rugby pitch etc were cast off for PE lessons and instructed to go on unsupervised cross-country runs. I for one became quite good at distance running as a result. By the time the route had taken you down from the bottom of the school playing fields, through the meadows which are now a housing estate to the Memorial Park and then around the park to the two hills and the adjacent copse in which the ancient oak tree “Old Hairy” resided (if anyone remembers that – I wonder if that tree is still there?), the path for the route would continue to follow the river Crouch – river being a rather grand term for something which was not much more than a ditch at that point in its course unless the rains combined with high tides to see it flowing in force. Eventually in an almost meditative state of mind the vision would come into view…that of the Three Arches bridge.

There were a few of us who would approach that uncomfortable spooky place and have the balls to run through the arch which accommodated the footpath, always dark and dank irrespective of the weather, time of day or the season of year. We would come out the other side to then pluck up the courage to climb up the steep escarpment to meet the tracks of the railway line running atop of the bridge. From there we would venture, or rather trespass, across the bridges modest spans to the other side of the river and scramble down to where the stagnant pond and the wild woods that surrounded it laid beyond.

On one occasion I remember some of us running along the rail tracks to the approach to the bridge only to be confronted by a diesel locomotive looming down on us from the opposite direction. With its one attachment transporting radioactive waste from Bradwell Nuclear Power Station this secretive unit and its cargo headed straight towards us and we had to dive into brambles and nettles and suffer getting scratched and stung to pieces as a result of avoiding being struck down by a train which wasn’t going to stop for anyone, whether a terrorist group or a bunch of truant school kids!

On another occasion I remember going across the bridge to the stagnant pond (which I assume it got its name from the duckweed which covered its surface and it’s gloomy greyness when a stone was thrown into it’s depths casting aside the weed, and of the smell of it’s rotting vegetation). I then witnessed a massive adder by the water’s edge, it having half swallowed a frog. All that was visible of the partly consumed creature was a pair of rear legs sticking out of the snake’s mouth! The woods on both sides of the bridge were eerie but in a very different sense. On the stagnant pond side, dense, wild, stunted and demonic and on the main side the woods were broader, more glade like and could have been occupied by Robin Hood and his Merry Men or The Knights Who Say “Ni!” demanding a shrubbery or the habitat for fairies or for a brief sighting of a white hart (deer). I have had both haunting nightmares and mystical dreams of the bridge and its surrounds.

I’ve often thought that there was more to that area than meets the eye and from the comments on this topic it would seem many others may have encountered similar experiences too. Andrew Collins went to Beachamps and has subsequently become an acclaimed author on subjects of the occult, the arcane and the ancients, whether it be initially focusing on the mysteries of Runwell Church or his latterly musings on the Great Pyramids of Giza or the pre-history of mankind and the temples of Göbekli Tepe. Andrew may not have needed to go questing so far around the world as to find somewhere in time or space which is more other-worldly than The Three Arches.

 9 January 2014

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shotgate pond 1980The Shotgate Pond – January 1980. (A. Cox)

The bridge and railway in the background.

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3 arches pond - Jon GReavesThe pond as seen from the bridge – early in 1980. Photo by Jon Greaves.

3 Arches mapThe red arrow shows the location where the railway crosses over the river.

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These are some of the comments that were made on Facebook (Wickford Local History Group).

Jill Fairweather: Oh the memories of the 3 arches! Thanks Chris for these excellent photos.

 Sarah Tricker: The 3 Arches! Now that brings back memories! Is there still an access route to them and beyond. Feel like walking up there with the og.

 Alan Haines: They have done some work from last time I was there with the path in the arch as it was broken up and dipped down a bit and would flood in winter….

 Adam Rector: I remember fishing here years ago. I caught a very small flatfish just under the arch here and can recall my mate snapping a fishing rod here, although this was mainly good for eels here.

 Lisa Spooner:  Omg, we used to play down there!

 Alison Deane: Gosh I remember this place, used to get very muddy when it rained and if you carry on walking you eventually end up at Battlesbridge where the pub used to serve drinks and rolls/sandwiches from a hatch in the summer.

 Colin McGlone: Spent many a childhood day at or around the three arches.

 Veronica Flint: Whereabouts is this?

 Colin McGlone: Veronica, this is in the Memorial park, way over the back. It’s a railway bridge over the Crouch.

 Chris Green: The Three Arches no less

 Neil Parish: An unusually magical place. Many fond memories.

 Frances Mitchell: Loved the 3 arches. Used to walk along the railway back towards Shotgate. There was a public footpath that had steps leading down to Beauchamps drive where the school was. Used to cross it on my own en route to Hilltop school. Can’t imagine anyone letting a kid do that now!

Neil Corder: Loved it there, spent many happy hours down there.

 Lisa Spooner: Likewise!

 Diane Clarke: I used to play here as well…..great place to bunk off school!

 Gary Price: Every summer holiday we was at the three arches or the tit hills in the park

 Frances Mitchell: Loved the Tit Hills.

 Chris Green: The tit hills aren’t tits any more.

 Neil Corder: They was great to sledge down until they put trees on them.

 Chris Green: Any time it snowed there would be dozens of kids all over them. They ruined the fun by planting trees and various shrubs all over them. Shame really.

 Neil Corder: Chris, do you have any idea when the three arches was built? I always felt very uneasy in the woods where you have to walk through to get to it & if I’m honest I still do!

 Lisa Spooner: Neil there’s some interesting information on Wickfordhistory.org.uk

 Neil Corder; Bless you Lisa thank you

 Lisa Spooner: You’re welcome, Neil. I haven’t been back there for years, although I have been back to the memorial park with our dog. My dad used to take us fishing down there catching eels………… yuk !

 Neil Corder: I used to go there a lot when I was a kid. I lived in Ulting Way which was just a stones throw from there, I used to spend ages down there.

 Neil Parish: Am I right in thinking that there was an eerie bit of graffiti shaped like a silhouette? Back then we were warned not to go there because of ghosts and witches … Now it’s paedos.

 Mark Baldwin: It was ‘And don’t talk to any strange men, now bugger off over the park till it’s dark’

 Neil Parish: I remember that Mum used to occasionally warn us when we went out because there was “a man” that had been seen in the park. Anybody know who “he” was.

 Lisa Spooner: Me and my friends got approached in the woods by a weirdo with a knife !

 Chris Green: There were plenty of wierdoes about back then.

 Lisa Spooner: I can remember Mark Wood and Mark Neave coming to our rescue! It must of been about 1985 ish

 Alan Haines: The three aches were built in the end of the Victoria times like most railway in the UK. It carried two lines then as it did not just go to Southminster but also Maldon ( which had two stations ) there was an extra loop at Shotgate factory area that allowed travel from Southend so no need to go into Wickford. The Woodland there were much large before the railway that cut it into under half and the other side were cut down to make the newer water waste management that was moved from the Wickford side of the railway but on Runwell side of the river.

 Nick Atkins: I remember this and the nature reserve just across the river with a stagnant pond. One summer evening in 1975 we refloated a bath tub that had been chucked in at the three arches and paddled and pushed it back to Wickford.

 Lisa Spooner: We decided to go skating when that stagnant pond was frozen over, seemed like a good idea at the time until the ice cracked and we fell in! How stupid were we?

 Chris Green: I bet that was bloody cold, Lisa

 Lisa Spooner: It was bloody freezing, Chris!

 Neil Corder: What side was the stagnant pond? The nature reserve side or the farm?

 Lisa Spooner: The nature reserve side.

 Emma Fairbairn: I use to camp over the other side of the river. Obviously my parents didn’t know

Lisa Spooner: I might have to take a trip down memory lane!

 Neil Corder: You’re brave Emma. Have any of you ever heard of The Signalman written by Charles Dickens? The three arches would of been a perfect setting for it. Does anyone remember the dreaded “creek” we had to jump on a cross country run?

 Dionne Ewing: I don’t remember these arches but I remember the ‘creek’ on cross country!

 Lisa Spooner: I don’t remember the creek, Neil.

 Neil Corder: You should remember the three arches, Dionne. You had to go under the walking bit to get to it. The creek was past the three arches towards Battlesbridge. Mr Cowgil used to make us jump it while doing a cross country run.

 Dionne Ewing: I reckon I was so scared going under there I ran through with my eyes shut.

 Neil Corder: It is creepy down there I have to say.

 Lisa Spooner: Maybe I won’t take a trip back memory lane!

 Graham Ursell: Neil, I never made it to the creek, me and Howard would hang back then turn round before we got there

 Simon Dunmore: Fishing for eels. Happy days! and you’re right Chris it was Mark Lewis.

 Chris Green: Eels, I remember that. We used to catch baby ones in jars when the tide went out. Eels or frogs and toads and newts.

 Lisa Spooner; My dad took us fishing for eels.

 Nicole Harrington: I used to live at the bottom of mount road by the entrance to the park there. When it snowed we took a tin tray and sledged down the slope by the entrance. Many a day spent by the three arches, on our bikes in the woods too. Summer holidays they used to have a play hut in the park and you could go and borrow stilts and other things – Life was very simple back then!

 Emma Fairbairn: Loved the playleader in the summer holidays – great memories.

 Gill George: And the pool in the park!

 Dionne Ewing: Wow ^^^^^ see it was spooky! Fascinating bit of history and I could almost imagine myself doing cross country whilst reading it, and yes we were unsupervised!

 Chris Green: To Barry Moss: You’ve just painted a brilliant picture of how most of us felt about the place. Funny to think that part of the landscape could keep us amused for so many hours and be the source of many a childhood adventure. It definitely was an eerie place. Especially seeing it for the first time up close, knowing full well that less than 20 minutes previous, we’d been told to stay away from it. I took my seven year old twin boys there last year and regaled them with ripping yarns when I was there age. Their faces were a picture.

 Tina Draper I remember stopping there for a fag during cross country with Dionne Ewing and Donna Shepley

 Simon Dunmore: The tree is still there, Trevor, at least it was a couple of years ago when I last went back, but we knew it as ‘big ben’ !

 Emma Fairbairn: I am defo gonna have to take a trip back over there in spring.

 Lisa Spooner: School reunion Emma lol x

 Trevor Moss: Hi Simon. That tree was so old it’s probably been called a score of names!

 Gina Bowers: Excuse my ignorance but where is this?

 Neil Corder: Hi Gina it’s down the far end of Beauchamps field, if you walk through the nature reserve it’s just the other end, the nearest road to it is Beauchamps Drive

 Gina Bowers: Thank you Neil, it looks like a nice Sunday morning walk with the kids.

 Neil Corder; You will love it – well worth a visit.

Simon Watling: I still ride my bike along here from time to time and always stop at the 3 Arches for a drink (from my container not the river) There is definitely an uneasy stillness about the place. I remember on the cross country runs, three abreast along the river bank, now its so overgrown your down to single file.

Mark Hill: I used to go fishing there and once Wayne Gustafason and I sailed a bath tub for there to Battlesbridge, all was going well until it sunk at the weir and we got stuck in the mud.

Chris Green to Mark Hill: Wayne Gustafeson, there’s a name I haven’t heard in a lot of years. Give him my best when you see him.

Julie Dennis: Ahh the 3 arches many a time did I bunk off school here!

Julia Cook; I loved this place!

Mark Hill: Will do Chris Green

Debbie Ounan; We used to play over here and in the wood but it wouldn’t be allowed nowadays.

Michael Martin: YEAH::::::::::::::::::::The 3 arches. Many a good summer spent there with Paul Gard and Stuart Tullis

Lisa Spooner: We used to do that! We lived next to the foot path where the 

Lisa Spooner: Went ice skating on that and fell in!

Mark Baldwin: Seem to remember visiting that with you a few times Jon.

Jon Greaves: Yes we went tadpole catching there a few times. We were told it was private property so whenever a train went by we’d run and hide lest we get a visit from MI5. I just posted a pic of the Three Arches pond that I took in 1980. In 1972 me and a friend caught two enormous carp in there with nothing but fishing nets. I regret to say we took them home and put them in his garden pond where they survived but I doubt they were as happy.

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