Yesterday the Chairman of Rochford District Council, Cllr Robin Dray unveiled new commemoration of HMS Beagle at RSPB Wallasea Island. 2020 represents the 200th year of the launch of HMS Beagle – one of the most famous ships in history. HMS Beagle is synonymous with discovery in the fields of science, meteorology and even space exploration. But not a lot of people know that after a naval career of 25 years mapping the worlds’ coastlines, she spent the next 25 years – the rest of her working life as a Coastguard Watch Vessel in the Rochford district.
Following a grant from Rochford District Council the RSPB has used the funding to create the “Beagle Trail” – a signposted walk which takes visitors from the car park to the sea wall where a viewing platform, overlooking the place where HMS Beagle was moored, has been constructed. This is a raised area on the south seawall which is surfaced with benches and an interpretation board. The Beagle Trail passes by three lagoons named Darwin, FitzRoy and Stokes named to commemorate two captains of HMS Beagle, Robert Fitzroy and John Lort Stokes and the Beagle’s most famous passenger, Charles Darwin and where a bench and a second interpretation board has been installed. New signage has been installed for visitors to be able to locate the Beagle Trail and car parking has been improved.
HMS Beagle was only 90 feet long which, is approximately the same size as the observation platform, showing how cramped it would have been for the 70 crew members living aboard.
A QR code can be found on the interpretation boards which take you directly to a computer generated image (CGI) of HMS Beagle (which can also be viewedfrom the comfort of your own home at www.discover2020.co.uk)
This has been made possible by support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, to create a high-end CGI experience to show how HMS Beagle would have looked both in her prime and also when she was in the River Roach at Paglesham.
Cllr Robin Dray said: “These interpretation boards not only tell the history of Rochford District and its relation to the HMS Beagle but share the hard work the RSPB have achieved to cultivate these lagoons which are now attracting a wide range of birds and other wildlife.
“With half term upon us, it’s a great time to take a walk with your family bubble and observe the natural habitats of the wildlife.
“Viewing HMS Beagle using computer-generated imagery (CGI) is really impressive and standing at the observation platform with the CGI really brings home how she would have looked during her time on the River Roach.”
Rachel Fancy from RSPB said: “These interpretation boards show the work our volunteers have done bringing nature back to this area. Now is a perfect time to visit to see the flocks of waders and wildfowl arrive.”
HMS Beagle’s linkage to the Rochford district has also been formally acknowledged by Historic England listing as a scheduled monument the mud dock in Paglesham where the ship is believed to have been broken up.
Find the full Historic England List entry here: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1467785