ON WALTHAMSTOW MARSHES are two plaques marking the first powered flight in Britain. They were, however, slipping from public view.
A reader told Loving Dalston that brambles and other undergrowth were overtaking the approach to the memorials to Alliott Verdon Roe (1877-1958), making it impossible for anyone to get close enough to read the words. A reader told Loving Dalston that brambles and other undergrowth were overtaking the approach to the memorials to Alliott Verdon Roe (1877-1958), making it impossible for anyone to get close enough to read the words.
In a season of rain and sunshine, this was understandable. But the editor decided that the imminence of the 13 July anniversary of the, uhm, groundbreaking flight, all 30m of it, meant that the plaques should quickly be made easily readable to passers-by. A quick quiz of walkers revealed that most had not noticed the plaques, let alone read them.
Loving Dalston pressed the council and the authority for action and this week park ranger Eamonn Lawlor phoned the editor to say a path would be cut through the undergrowth to allow close-up viewing.
Particular care had to be taken with undergrowth trimming, he said, because the marshes are a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
On the east side is a locked gate, which, he explained, was used to keep enclosed the cattle that graze on the marsh.
To think, it was a mere 107 years ago that the intrepid Roe took off in the flimsy-looking structure he had built in two hired railway arches on the marshes. What progress in the following century: another Englishman has just returned from soaring through outer space.
Nine years after the triplane skimmed briefly over the marshes, Roe bought S. E. Saunders to form Saunders-Roe Aviation, which later made the hovercraft that carried passengers between Kent and northern France.
Sadly, the flying-saucer lookalikes never caught the public imagination, losing out to more conventional forms of cross-Channel transport. A great English creation became little more than a museum piece.
Hamish Scott 040616
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