I created the Hornchurch Map a couple of years back but I have only just decided to write a post about it. Illustrating the map was a bittersweet process for me as this is where I grew up. Although I call Hornchurch 'home,' it was a difficult part of my life.
Safely tucked away at the end of the District line, we moved to Hornchuch in 1984 when I was nine. We had grown out of the maisonette that I'd grown up in and although I loved that maisonette, I couldn't wait to live in a proper house where I could go upstairs to bed, not just any bed, but a bed in my own room, I had always shared with my older brother.
The house came complete with central heating, wall to wall carpet, a very long garden with scope for mischief at the bottom, a yellow rose tree for mum and an apple tree for dad. Mum, delighted with her first full size freezer began to buy big tubs of ice cream, wafer cones and ice magic chocolate sauce. Dad drew designs for the garden, a patio with matching garden furniture so as we could sit there, admire the garden and eat said ice creams. We were all very happy in our new home and I settled in and made new friends.
Unfortunately, a year later just before Christmas 1985 we lost mum. Life was very difficult growing up without her. There was little help for bereaved children back in the 1980's. Life carried on, but it was hard to navigate.
Dad used to remind me, Hornchurch used to be a quaint rural village, but grew into a town with the arrival of the District line giving direct access to London. This gave commuters affordable living in a peaceful town with countryside on their doorsteps and Southend Pier up the road.
After school, college and an apprenticeship in graphic design, I myself eventually became a commuter, leaving the leafy town to travel the trains and buses into London, glancing up from my books to watch the suburban towns drift into inner city streets and finally the slow arrival into the grandeur of Liverpool Street.
I didn't realise, but this journey would end up taking me further and further away from home. As roots in Hornchurch disappeared, I didn't see the point in staying, so I carried on travelling from London, to Devon, to Brighton, to Hertfordshire and finally to Oxfordshire where I live now. I'll always think of Hornchurch as home even though I wouldn't move back. Sometimes we need to move away from places to make a fresh start.
Home is a place that we all grow away from eventually, sometimes too quickly and sometimes before we are ready. A place that we cannot go back to, but will always be part of who we are.
View our illustrated map of Hornchurch