Quite a big oops in fact - to the point it made it to the national news - which, to be fair, probably just wanted a change of pace whinging and whining about politicians...
Today, I had the grand plan of taking the kids up to Langdon Hills. I considered going this morning, but Molly was being collected by her Dad, so we waited till she had been collected. Dom is at his Dads, so that just left Jaysen & Tam. By about half one, we toddled off...
Halfway to the forest, the bus went through a big patch of smoke. "Hmmm, big fire somewhere..." I said to the kids in passing, and thought no more of it. A few minutes later, we saw the source - up on the hill in the actual "Langdon Hills"
I wasn't sure if it was a proper fire or someone burning wood or something similar, but the closer we got, the bigger the plume of smoke. Definitely not good. The bus slowed, we looked out the front, and saw the nice police lady closing the road...
With a mile or so still to go, we jumped off and decided to walk. We could only get so far until we saw it was the Triangle Shops on fire.
And I mean on fire. Flames in the air, thick black smoke blowing everywhere, fire engines, police cars - the only saving grace was the fact there were no ambulances... No Ambulances = No Injuries.
As we got closer, the police waved us away - the smoke was nasty, and there was a LOT of firemen running around. Engines from Basildon were present, as well as Grays and Rayleigh - six in all, plus a ladder with a water jet attached too. Police all over the place, dog units, blockades, the whole shebang.
We weren't allowed to walk up the road to where we wanted to go, so had to find our way through the housing estate. We kinda sorta meandered and eventually found our way through to the top of the estate. Looking back, it was pretty chaotic. The smoke had flames leaping in it, fire engines were moving all around trying to reposition themselves...
The picture really doesn't do it justice, but you get the idea.
And so we plodded on - we wanted a walk around the forest and have a trudge around, but the flames were on our mind the whole time... After getting to the top of the hill at The Crown, we had another look back - we were further away but higher up, but none the less...
The smoke was thick and heavy and stayed really low - I've since seen the Fire Brigade issue warnings to the residents nearby to keep their doors and windows closed due to the nature of the smoke.
From that point on, we were in the forest, so could see nothing... After an hour or so, we could hear several dull thumps that sounded like something going bang. Here and there, we could see through the gaps in the forest, and see the smoke billowing for a goodly distance.
After plodding through muddy forest paths, chilling on the swings, and having a good time out in the fresh air, we decided it was time to head home. However, it occurred to us that thanks to the road closure, there would be no buses up there. Which meant walking back down the hills, back past the fire, and all the way back into Laindon.
However, this wouldn't be a story if it were that easy. No no...
We went down the hills and back to where we needed to go. Yep, the road was still closed. AND the footpaths around them. The only other option was to go miles out of our way. Literally, miles.
So we tried a side road, and a side road and - oops, we came out behind the fire.
The shops were gone... Some had burned right through, most were unidentifiable as their original purpose, and firemen had hoses running everywhere - including the crane-hose-ladder thing.
Despite our wrong turn, we tried to head around and past to get towards Laindon... But we could go no further. So we had to back up again, and try going around, but the estate is like a mazey-warren, and unlike most men, I asked someone going by if they knew an alternative route.
"You'll have to go through the nature reserve"
Great... While I have no issue with forests in the day or night, I am knackered, exhausted and in agony. The kids are knackered too - we're all out of shape thanks to a lazy few weeks, but we were stuck on the wrong side of a massive accident.
So, without any real option (aside from walk miles, or wait for the road blocks to be lifted) we head back up the hills and into the woods...
Another three quarters of an hour of plodding and trudging through soggy woods, we managed to through to Great Berry (another housing estate), and we had to stop for me to catch my breath and push past the pain... Laindon might as well have been on the other side of the world as I was exhausted.
Thankfully, my brain pointed out we were on the other side of the railway lines - and that was my old stomping ground! Pushing on again, we made it to the bridge and crossed the road on the other side - just in time for our bus to appear!
Hurrah and Huzzah! After struggling to walk, I was able to collapse and sit.
Once home, I had a look online to see what happened, and it sounds like pretty scary stuff - some sort of electrical fault in a Chinese takeaway, and Whoosh! Timber Frame stores didn't stand a chance...
So aside from that, it was a lovely day. You can read the proper news HERE (Local News) and HERE (National News!)
Footnote: My phone battery died after taking that last photo, so no GPS. Yes, I suck. If anyone wants to get a proper GPS machine for my birthday, start saving!