Occidental Refinery Visit 3 + Emergency 3rd Bridge/Flood Barrier off Canvey

Posted: December 30, 2011 by BTP Liam in Case Study, Event Review
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Today was quite a story. It began with us heading out at 11 o’clock and starting in the car park in the RSPB Reserve off the  left of Canvey Road. We followed the pathways from here to the seawall, and then proceeded west. From here we saw the sewage pump of TN8 Northwick, now mostly situated in part of the second last recycling centre at Northwick Road. Later along the way, we found an old concrete drainage exit point, and saw many old groynes, in the marsh and stream between Canvey and Pitsea, from the seawall, which is nothing but an earth mound which means it must be the old Dutch seawall.

As we continued along the wall we saw a familiar sight, nine horses, three of which were having a good mooch about along the seawall directly in our path. After much deliberation, we walked through them. As we exited the ‘horse-barricade’, Joe noticed one of the horses making a quick ‘canter’ (I think that’s a fast walk) towards us, followed by others. Joe called “run” so we did. Although this may have set off the other horses we weren’t going to hand about. The horses went down off the wall to meet with the others, and before we knew it, we were running for our lives from a group of nine horses running for us below the seawall at full-pelt! We managed to stay in front of them due to having the higher, quicker, route, reaching the fence and gate in time. We then looked upon the horses from the other side, and fed them dry grass, realizing that perhaps all the horses thought when they ran after us was that we were the farmers with food for them.

OXY Rd.

We eventually reached the north of the Occidental site, seen previously here http://beyondthepoint.co.uk/2011/07/18/western-canvey…of-the-old-tip/. We were greeted with the ‘Danger Keep Out’ sign featured on this site, and one of the main refinery roads. We paid a visit to the flood barrier/emergency bridge, noting that the seawall along it is the same as Canvey’s old seawall before 1970/80. The barrier would also be used as an emergency bridge off of Canvey, in the case of a flood, as we first thought. We are now presuming that it was only an emergency bridge to be used by workers or near residents in case of a disaster at the Occidental refinery, and they would have to evacuate to Pitsea via this bridge. We believe this firstly because the emergency bridge going off of Canvey has rocks lining the marsh near it identical to the rocks, buried with the concrete, in the area shown in our previous post at the top of this paragraph. Another reason is that the only road going to the emergency bridge was built by Occidental and starts as an extension of Northwick Road. The next reason is that the road is of course now part of the abandoned Occidental site, meaning it is severely overgrown, and it would be a huge struggle to get a car or van down the road. This suggests the road once would be used as an emergency bridge, but nowadays has been left to fall into disrepair as it no longer has anyone to use it (being the Occidental workers). A final point which probably confirms this is that the Occidental road signs here say ‘RVP’ meaning ‘RendezVous Point’ in case of emergency.

We then proceeded to the Occidental site via a break in the fence, although we didn’t want to get to the fence via this route due to the field of cows and bulls staring us head on – now they are more dangerous than horses! Instead we fled to the seawall, and walked along it to the third more secret Occidental Jetty (the main one being the mile-long oil pumping one, the second being the ‘construction jetty’ with a WW2 boat at it’s side). This jetty is made mainly of a wooden frame although contains metal fastenings and concrete beams for support at attachment to the shores. We know this is Occidental due to the several trademark ‘Danger Keep Out’ signs lining the fence blocking easy access. About one third of this wooden structure has been either demolished, burnt, and rotted, probably a mixture of all three.

We then entered the Occidental site and sat and ate lunch on ‘the ramp’ with soup and tea from our new Thermos flasks, which do the job well for exploring. Next we headed for the square area of the Occidental refinery once containing the chimney and large sheet-metal ‘hangar’ like buildings. Now all the buildings are gone, along with the chimney which was demolished by Fred Dibnah and his crew in 1997. All that remains of the buildings are concrete stumps with wires, in which the walls of the bulidngs would have been fastened and secured down to. All that remains of the chimney is simply just a small tarmac-like circle similar to those of the bases of the oil drums, except smaller, which goes a few feet down into the ground. Upon searching through one of the building sites, we found many piles of bricks and concrete which came from the fallen chimney. I’m assuming Fred and his crew dumped them there. We also spotted a white builders helmet, which upon closer inspection said ‘Rudders Demolition’, meaning it must have belonged to Fred Dibnah, or his crew, which is more likely. We also saw concrete columns adjacent to the chimney, being the remains of it’s control area.

The Chimney Control Structure

An alien seating area for discussion!

The chimney base

The chimney, or all that's left of it, with a helmet belonging to Dibnah's helpers. Note the bricks are produced by 'Coal*something* Allanite

We finally took a peek at big ‘OJ’ (the Occidental Jetty) and headed down the bridle way of the Roscommon Way extension, towards the WW2 pillbox. On the wire mesh covering the pillbox entrance we placed a pro-looking homemade historical information sign with cable-ties, in order to remind those curious of their local past.

The jetty back in 1977 (not really, but I wish!)

The pillbox with our sign

Keep a look out for a BTP Documentary on BTP TV on this trip!

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