Basildon

Basildon is a tale of two halves.  From its early rural origins it has grown and developed into a large urban population of well over 120,000.  Unlike most places, however, it has been designed from start to finish, because Basildon is a ‘New Town’ and only came about in the 1950s There have been settlements in the area since earliest times.  A large collection of late Bronze Age metalwork, discovered by builders, is believed to date back to 800-700 BC.  The area has a more recent history as having been settled by East Enders who moved out from London from the 1930s to the 1950s.  They were able to purchase a small plot of land and build their own bungalows, though there were no mains services or even roads.  These were the ‘plotlands’, whose residents made up a community of their own despite appalling conditions.  The nearby Langdon Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve of 400 acres are on the site of the old plotlands, with one plot remaining as a reminder of old times.

 

In the late 1940s, the need for new housing to replace the bombed-out areas of London led to the creation of the New Towns.  Basildon became one of eight in south-east England in 1949.  The tiny village, situated near the site of the present Holy Cross Church, was amalgamated with the nearby established areas of Laindon and Pitsea.  The Government appointed Basildon Development Corporation to oversee the formation of the New Town, and over the years the character of the original rural area has been completely transformed.  Modern Basildon can boast one of the largest pedestrianised town centres in the country, with its contemporary Eastgate indoor shopping mall and an impressive Heritage Trail around the town centre, highlighting figurative and abstract mosaics, water features and sculptures.

 

For journeys further afield, the visitor would do well to book a taxi or minibus with a reputable firm like Sky Transfers to see the various attractions on offer.  There is the fashionable Festival Leisure Park, with its cinema, bowling alleys, clubs and numerous restaurants serving food to suit all tastes and cultures, or, for the more active, Basildon Sporting Village in Cranes Farm Road.  Barleylands is a popular family attraction – a children’s farm park with animals and adventures, and a large craft village, with over 50 studios, galleries, shops and workshops.  A Farmers’ Market is held there twice a month.

 

Despite its urban sprawl, Basildon boasts more parks and open spaces than any other town in Essex.  The Wat Tyler Country Park at Pitsea (named after the leader of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt) has 120 acres of meadows, grassland and woodland, with historic buildings which have been brought in from around the area to provide a setting for community events like the Basildon Festival, and the RSPB Visitor Centre and Discovery Zone highlight the local birdlife.  By contrast, the little Noak Bridge Nature Reserve is only 20 acres, but they are rich in amphibians and reptiles

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