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Lily Pond drone image nov 2019.jpg

Dagnam Park Ponds

The Cow Pond
(formerly known as the Perch Pond

This photo by Peter Adams in 1978 is not only interesting in that it shows the dead Giant Redwood or Wellingtonia scientifically known as Sequoiadendron giganteum on the edge of the cow pond it also shows several huge dead English elms in the distance. One to the left of the Redwood, which was close to the old enormous, propped, Holm Oak. And to the right of the Redwood can be seen a tall bare elm stump which was near the lily pond, along the track, further still to the right is the last standing elm of three which housed the old rookery

The pictures above show Jane Monksfield's father swimming in the pond in about 1958, give or take a few years. Interesting to note the amount of trees around the pond. I swam in the pond in the early 60's and it looked much the same.

The trees are all gone now including the huge Wellingtonia on the far right of the first picture, which remains as a dead stump. Coming from built up areas of run down London, Dagnam Park was heaven to young people able to get out into the fresh air and fields of the Essex countryside for the first time.

 Jane's Father may be the first person to appear topless on the Friends website  The next picture was taken in the early seventies by me and shows the pond with farmer Quilter's beef cattle in the background, (long before BSE) Followed by several from Dave Gilbert also probably early 70s.              Del Smith.

Lily Pond

Lily Pond

The Lily pond in one form or other has existed for over 500 years. It probably started life as the southern end of a moat which surrounded the earlier Dagnams which was demolished in about 1660. At that point it seems the defensive moat was mostly filled in retaining the southern end as an ornamental pond. When Richard Neave pulled down the 1660 house in the 1770's the new mansion also retained the pond within its gardens. Humphry Repton may have worked on it in the early 1800s but apart from those minor alterations and of course changes in the surrounding vegetation, the pond is much as it was. The pond is closely bordered in places by alders, oaks, hawthorns, a single holm oak in poor condition and a fine Bay Laurel. At one time several huge English Elms towered over the pond but old age and dutch elm disease completed their demise in the 1970s.

The aquatics include flowering rush, yellow flag and of course the lilies, both yellow and white but the yellows dominate. The pond is currently managed and fished by the Brookside Angling Club....

Del Smith

Lily Pond in front of Dagnams Mansion rear

about 1911 - Picture found by Jo Gregory

Dagnams 1911 by Towers.jpg

The two pictures below by Don Tait capture the essence of the Lily Pond beautifully. Spring 2014.

Below photo taken from the north west in 2003.

Below attractive drone image of the Lily pond in November 2019 by Tim Doman

Below aerial photo from about 1999. Note the encroachment of trees and shrubs in the sixty years since the gardens were last tended

Below the Lily Pond in about 1965 by Dave Sampson

Lily Pond memories, Del Smith.

As boys the Lily Pond was always a pond where we would fish for Carp or Rudd. In fact we sometimes referred to it as the Carp Pond.
That is except for a short period in about 1959/60 when there was a time when it became our punting lake. This followed the demise of the walled garden and stables when it dawned on us that all the old doors from the stables and outbuildings, etc, could be detached and dragged across to the Lily Pond and then used as makeshift rafts. To anyone watching the hordes of children hauling the huge doors towards the Lily Pond it must have looked a bit like the slaves of Egypt building the pyramids as we all joined in and struggled, heaved and dragged the doors the 50 or 60 yards to the Lily pond.
Anyhow these huge heavy old doors probably made of Oak and clad with heavy iron hinges, bolts and latches were eventually dragged to the lily pond and launched. I have vivid memories of punting around the pond perched on a stack of 2 or 3 of these doors as they slowly parted company and slipped away from beneath us, and at the same time we were sinking. I remember on one occasion making it back to the bank with water up to my waist with the raft invisible two feet below the waterline.
And I couldn't swim. But thankfully nobody died.
Needless to say these doors eventually became waterlogged and sank, they are probably still there.

A little later on, maybe 1961 or 1962 a few of us devised our own plan to restock the Lily pond with fish. I think my mate Johnny Honeyman was the instigator of this project. We had discovered that a small pond, not far away, contained a large number of easily caught, albeit very small fish. It was opposite Queen Mary's College on the Coxtie Green Rd.
So after school one evening three of us cycled over with large plastic carrier bags and filled them to the brim with fish and water. We then cycled back with the bags on our handle bars towards the Lily Pond. Sadly the bags were so full that we sensed the fish were dying and in fact one bag burst near to the Wrightsbridge Rd and we had to stop and gather up all the flip flapping fish in the road and squeeze then into the remaining intact bags which made the suffocation problem even worse.
We were panicking but eventually we got back to the Lily Pond and turned out the fish into the lake, many were dead or dying, at least to our eyes, and indeed I remember many were floating on the surface. I don't know how many survived but we intended no harm and maybe the offspring are still there today.
It had been our intention at the start of this juvenile project to introduce fish into all the Manor's ponds, but after this initial, disastrous attempt we never tried again.

Green Pond

Green Pond

by Sue O'Brian                                                                                                       by Dave Sampson

by Don Tait, Feb 2012

The Green Pond in winter 1974. The fallen and by now sinking tree trunk in the foreground was a vantage point for our fishing in the fifties. Del Smith

Green Pond memories, Del Smith

In 1950 Harold Hill was the outback, populated from the early fifties onwards by young inner London families with children. I was one of those scruffy kids, born in 1948 and arriving in Harold Hill in 1951. I first discovered the Manor in 1953/4, albeit at that age under supervision. To me it was a wild and exciting place, it was also enormously enticing.

I lived in the Brosely Rd flats and my first school was Dycorts infants. Every day my mum would struggle with my little brother in his push chair and me straggling along behind, up Dagnam Park Drive before she eventually dropped me off in Sedgefield Crescent. At 3.30 she would return to collect me, come rain or shine she was always there. In the early days I was always relieved and reassured to see her. But as my confidence grew I wasn't so keen on this arrangement because some of my mates were allowed to do the journey back and forth unchaperoned.
After much badgering mum finally relented and allowed me to make the journey alone, on one condition "that I didn't take the shortcut through the woods" I "give her" my solemn word of honour and needless to say within a few days the pledge was forgotten and I almost always went to and from school via Hatters Wood entering in Sedgefield Crescent at the moat, passing the Green Pond and exiting in Whitchurch Rd or using the reverse route in the mornings. There were occasional exceptions, when it was very muddy, I knew mum would inspect my shoes and ask "have you been in the woods?" if I had "no mum" would be my best po-faced and dishonest reply. She probably always knew, but just to play safe on very wet days I would often walk along the boring pavements, prodding spiders in the privet hedges and occasionally knocking on a random street door and running for it. I was also prone to kick anything left lying around in the street. Strangely there wasn't much to kick around in those days, not much traffic so dead hedgehogs were rare, certainly no tin cans or plastic containers. There were more glass bottles though, mainly milk bottles, but rather than kick them around it was much more fun to put them up as targets and assault them with our catapults.
I remember this could be quite time consuming, firstly our accuracy was suspect and what's more we could never find a suitable supply of ammo. Smooth deliciously round shiny pebbles about an inch in diameter were perfect but rare. What was more if you took too long looking for ammo the chances increased that one of your competitors would hit the bottle first. So ammo selection would get less and less discriminatory as time went by, eventually large awkward shaped flints or lumps of concrete or in desperation even crumbling clay pellets would be launched at the hapless milk bottles. Occasionally this inappropriately sized ammo would crunch up against your thumb upon release; it was these, the most memorable moments that taught us to swear. Swearing was our forte we did it all the time, every other word or more, just as long as no adults were nearby. As if by magic we would always know if an adult was in earshot. The system wasn't infallible, if all else failed we fell back on " no I said shucks" The target practise sessions almost always ended in the bottle remaining intact and the boldest kid getting bored and taking hold of the bottle and smashing it single handed against some concrete somewhere. So much for the catapult.
On reflection we spent a lot of time on various weapons, catapults, spears, daggers, bows, darts, etc. But all of these weapons were totally ineffective against the so called vermin, (Starlings, Rats, Squirrels, and Magpies) All of these animals sidestepped our efforts. But their knowing smiles never stopped us trying and try was all we ever did.

As I grew a little older I was charged with the duty of escorting my little brother to and from school. I immediately initiated him into the brotherhood and swore him to silence, for what it was worth. From then on we both pursued journeys via Hatters Wood along with a whole host of tiny liars trudging through the leaves, splashing in the puddles and throwing stones or acorns at anything that moved.
In the spring we would sometimes pick the Bluebells but as often as not, in passing, we would mow down the swarms with sticks as if we had scythes. I don't know why we did this, but the woodland floor was as blue as blue could be and as far as the eye could see "there's millions of em" It was a contrary blue mist, placid and calming.

In the spring we would hunt out bird's nests to steal the eggs for our collections and in the autumn we would go a little out of our way and collect conkers. We were all in a world of our own, I don't know how we ever remembered we had to get to school by ten to nine, some of us never made it, but I usually did, and there were only a few occasions when I lost my little brother.

There was an occasion when a man who lived in Sedgefield Crescent, a postman I think, hanged himself from a tree near the moat, news spread through the woodland community of small folk and we all went to stare. But we couldn't tell anyone because we were not meant to be there.
Hoping to be horrified for a second time I returned to check the grisly sight in the morning, but sadly he was gone, we guessed some grown-ups had taken him away. It never occurred to me that he may have been someone's father, someone's husband. To an eight year old it was fascinating, frightening, scary, puzzling, a curiosity, but not really that sad. Today I can't comprehend my reaction. To this day despite deaths of close relatives he is the only corpse I have ever seen.

As I got older during school holidays I would virtually live over the manor, I can remember asking my mum to get me up early to "go over the manor" and go over the manor we did. Every day. In the early days she would occasionally make me a packed lunch but this was a hopeless attempt to keep me nourished, because by 10 o clock I had either eaten it or swapped it for a birds egg or even a couple of fags, which I would puff away at in an attempt to raise my status. "Let's have your dog end" the junior members would say and the favoured juniors would be passed the stinking, smouldering butt. From that day on they would owe you.

Since this memoir was meant to be of the Green Pond, I'll come back to it. The Green Pond was where young children did their fishing. No rods or reels required, just a bamboo cane or a stick with a bit of cotton tied on the end. A wriggling worm would then be tied on the end of the cotton and then dangled in the water. On the Green Pond we caught Sticklebacks, the three spined variety, there were large numbers of them all around the margins. The males, we called them red throats were quite spectacular and particularly prized. We would drag them out of the water hanging on to the worm and store them in jam jars. At the end of the session they were usually returned to the water. But on one occasion I took half a dozen home and persuaded my mum to let me keep them in the bath "just for a little while" Amazingly she agreed as long as I kept the bath clean, I agreed and for many weeks that's where they stayed. Bath nights in those days were only weekly. In our house that was on Sunday night, ready for school. So on bath night I used to catch the fish and put them in the sink while the whole family had their baths, often using each other's hot water. After the bathing I put them back in the bath. My mum nagged me continuously to get rid of them and I kept saying I would, but I didn't. Eventually on one particularly sad day I came home to find them gone. "where's my fish" I shrieked, "down the toilet" she said, I ranted and raved and then sulked for days, eventually I got over it.

Tennis Court Pond

Tennis Court Pond

Below the Tennis Court Pond in 1919. Recently named because it was once close to the long gone, council maintained tennis courts, back in the days when the park had a full time park keeper. The tennis courts are now under a car park (2019) but the pond is easily located. It is periodically "desilted". There have been times in the past when there was very little standing water. The photo below was taken in spring after it was partially cleared of leaf litter, etc, probably early 2000s.

Only a small pond but rich in wildlife, surrounded by Pussy Willow which is striking in March/April. The breeding ground for many insects including several species of Dragonflies, in late summer its main attraction is the Flowering Rush. The pink flowers are magnificent, the pond is a stronghold for this plant but it does survive in small numbers and only sporadically in the other ponds of the park. Migrating birds also depend on the insect life and shelter of this pond with it's marginal vegetation. Stronghold of the park's great crested newts.

''The Three Ponds''

One of "The three ponds"

These ponds probably suffer the least disturbance in the park and they are very important botanically and entomologically. They have good populations of Reedmace, also known as Bulrush, Branched Bur-Reed, Yellow Iris and Gypsywort, you will also find Fine Leaved Water Dropwort and Water Forget-me-not. They have recently been cleaned and hopefully the rare insects that live here will continue to thrive. One rare fly lives in the flower heads of Lesser Bulrush (Photograph is of Greater Bulrush which is similar) The fly, Typhomyza bifasciata is only known from two other Essex sites. Great crested newts also breed here

Yellow Flag and Great Reedmace or Common Bulrush photos Patrick and Mary Smith

The Three Ponds
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