Another Kentish Outing

Earlier in the week we visited Monks Hill Farm located a mile or so inland from Seasalter on the Graveney Marshes. Well worth visiting as it has a dramatic 360° panoramic view of North Kent’s marshland and the fruit growing region around Faversham.

The extraordinary view across the Thames Estuary towards Essex and the Isle of Sheppy provides those armed with binoculars the ever growing expanse of wind farms clustered around. I have always sought a good lookout spot and this recently opened school farm boasts not only a coffee shop but suitable bench tables to spread out charts and the like.

Shipping movements could be viewed as the port of London and the Medway still attracts vessels of every type. The giant Thames Gateway deep sea container port is certainly coming along as Europe’s largest logistic park takes shape. However, this is too far upstream to view but be warned as the A13/M25 and Dartford is going to be hit by the growth of container traffic.

Reading ‘Shipping Today and Yesterday’, a glossary monthy (£3.85) reports that the latest 18,27U TEU Triple E container ship has been launched. This Maersk owned colossus is now the world’s largest ship – recent press photos of the massive DP World Container port illustrates the massive container marshalling facilities for both road and rail dispatch – now taking shape – one of my previous blogs described the arrival from China of four of the massive cranes.

Foodies could well enjoy a visit to Macknade’s emporium on the old A2 Canterbury Rd out of Faversham – much prefer it to Harrods or Fortnum’s. When hungry in Faversham a creekside converted mill/ warehouse provides a delicious maritime viewing point as well – loacted to close to the Shepard Neame Brewery in a little back streetin the once industrial part of town.

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The Start of a Global Voyage some 40 Years Ago

My previous blogs have described how redevelopment has taken off with high rise buildings becoming the ‘norm’. Looking back to the Greenwich we first knew when the Isle of Dogs was a vast waterway system which the Kent family loved to explore. How different it is to describe the vast tracks of quayside devoid of cranes, ships, barges, vast empty warehouses and broken up residential streets which were once buzzing with humanity. A vivid memory of a special occasion comes to mind – which conveys an image of yesteryear – The reports of a global adventure starting from the Isle of Dogs with the blessing of the Duke of Edinburgh bidding them bon voyage wasn’t all plain sailing. Vital equipment had gone missing somewhere in Docklands (not musical) and the ‘Benjamin Bowring’ had to ship back into her base berth. Intrigued by this news, the family set out in our Morris Traveler on a ship hunt and only found a distraught Trinity House pilot. This smoothly uniformed gentleman asked if we could help him find his ship – so off we all went attempting to keep Dickens our spotty dalmation under control , his malting white fur was already firmly attached to his immaculate maritime turn out. So we chugged over bridges, locks and railway lines till at last we found this bright red vessel with an anxious crew waiting to off again. The jolly pilot was sure that  I would enjoy the first leg of this global outing following the prime meridian across the oceans and continents. The family was reassured that I would be dropped off with the pilot at Gravesend where a sea pilot took over – so as guest to this temporary skipper I was shown the ropes to how a global adventure should begin!! The compass was swung just off Crossness – a brief whiff of the adjacent sewage farms kept us on the move – the Dartford tunnel main air vents were pointed out as was Greenhithe riverside port – the home of Everards coastal shipping – this was before the QEII bridge spanned the tideway. Power stations marked the way downstream dominating the occasional lighthouse beacon and buoys marking the once busy channels that once sign posted the way to the greatest port in the world. The young bearded crew, led by a New Zealander admiral were getting everything shipshape prior to the pilot change over at Gravesend echoing many a previous historic adventure – as arranged my anxious family waved welcome from the Victorian Pier, Dickens going daft as usual singing in time to the beat of his wagging tail.

Trinity House who have provided pilot, lighthouses and lightships for centuries in the Vic are looking forward to their 500th anniversary of their foundation next year. An annual inspection of these are undertaken and it is a great honour to be mooted to join the Elder Bretheren of Trinity House to undertake this very special occasion. Tom Bowring, a well respected ship owner in the city was thrilled to accept his invitation – a neighbour and fellow dog owner, he shared his joy with me – he alas knew he was not long for this world – but his enthusiasm of going to sea again could not be put off in spite of his illness. Tom’s American wife knew that to fly the family flag on his garden flagstaff was most significant – as when lowered to half mast we all knew that the inevitable has taken place – Amen

Launching of ‘Daffodil’ in Faversham Creek

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After four years of construction our neighbours at Oare completed the overall fit out of the Dutch work boat – Daffodil. The 7 ton lifeboat type vessel had been found in Faversham Creek and bought by Peter Philips as a retirement project – the Hinterland of Faversham Iron Wharf is choc a block with craft of all types awaiting refurbishment. Alan Reekie and his wife set up the ideal yard for both amateur and professional shop repair enterprises. The mobile crane plays an essential role with other useful bits and bobs to hand including two lighters converted into floating docks, one of which was being used by the ‘rival’, a Dutch barge which was having it’s bi annual scrape and paint. We had previously enjoyed a voyage up the Thames to Pangbourne from her winter moorings at Surrey Docks – 80 miles in all a journey we will never forget.

Immediately up stream in this tidal creek, Daffodil had just been ‘launched’ and we were both invited to wish her well. It was a thrill to see her settling into her muddy berth while last minute essential adjustment had to be undertaken before her next day short voyage into the adjacent creek of Oare – where the final fit out was going to be undertaken at the end of the creek wharf which was overlooked by the Philips and our own end of terrace cottage.

On a beautiful summers evening other folk came down to look over their new floating home and to wish them well. Peter, an engineer, had been working as a boiler repairer on a series of ancient steam locomotives – such as famous as the Flying Scotsman – knowledge of various engines took him to many corners of Europe and even to Rotherhide where he installed a replica chimney at Brunel Engine House – we hardly recognised him besuited, as the Duke of Wellington was going to cut the ribbon which would restart the pump – we wish them well – bon voyage indeed.

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About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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