10th December 1942

Dull all day, but warm. Went down to Lt. Wigborough with Nott and Charlie Baldwin.  Then we walked across the fields to the Lower Barn.  There was once a house at Lower Barn, long since gone, but you can see its garden still.  Charlie said he once knew a man who lived there.  Its remoteness from any other habitation must have made it very attractive.  I have no record of its name.

It was not, however, the “edge of the world”, for there was once yet another house, a tiny cottage right down by the sea-wall itself.  Its site is now indicated by a little triangular earth-work, surrounding a few very stunted fruit trees, all bowed over by the wind.  Who can have lived in such a wild spot?  Probably some marsh-man.
I saw two huge Redhills, the biggest I have ever seen, quite bare, and brick-red in colour.  Both are full of rabbit burrows, but I could find nothing in the upcasts but the usual fragments of briquetage.  Charlie said “Many years ago some clever men came down from London and dug holes in these Redhills, but they were no wiser when they’d done it.”  I asked him what he thought they were for?  He said the old Romans built ‘em, to stand their cattle on in times of flood.  They were certainly used for that in times of flood, and the finds on Canvey Island included medieval potsherds on the top of the hills, showing they were certainly being occupied 600-700 years ago.

We talked about the ever increasing high tides about these coasts.  Charlie said he had been told it was due to the increased amount of shipping on the sea, which must naturally squeeze the water out onto the land!

When Charlie Baldwin was a boy he tended sheep and cattle grazing on the saltings, including the Ray, because, as he said, it was all arable then, so that the saltings had to be used.  So they should be again, but also the cattle-tracks have all gone.

He spoke too of sending away hay, straw, and timber by barge up to London, the barges then bringing back chalk from Purfleet.  There are wharves at both Copt Hall and Abbots Hall, and I said I should like to see chalk brought there again.  He replied that no men would ever undertake unloading chalk in these times.

Back to Colchester at one o’clock.  Weather still dull, but improved towards tea-time.  Left office early, and went round by Dedham, but the Sissons were out.

Joy gone to a sale-of-work and whist-drive in the village tonight.  Lovely clear starlight, but no planes over.  Yet on recent nights we have heard them going out in the very worst weather.

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