Thames Mud and More

Writing Riverwatch is really a joy, as one reports back with one’s most recent happenings – which include observations on the river, its estuary and, of course, the weather.   I was woken this sunny Saturday morning by the scrunch of rowing crew launching their fragile craft into the tideway, having manhandled them out of the adjacent boat house, through the drawdock, across the firm, pebbled foreshore and, as a team of eight, twist their craft over their heads to gently take the water, adjust their blades and off they go.

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(click on pictures to enlarge)

Likewise, we had a mission too!  Down the A2/M2 to Faversham and on to Oare to check the cottage prior to the expected winter onslaught.

Down on the creek, craft were being prepared too – some lifted out by crane to stand cheek to cheek in their allocated places in the boatyard.  Sails having been hoisted and shaken out prior to stowage, the surprisingly hot sunshine and the light breeze did the trick, and lifted our end of season sadness too!

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But back through the orchards with amazingly coloured fruit awaiting to be lifted by the cider makers, the very narrow lane twists and turns between the marshy boundaries giving grazing cattle and sheep a merry dance.

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We pass by Luddenham’s natural burial ground (for those who wish to end their days in a basket-like coffin) before tackling the local farm butcher for an oxtail and the usual cheerful banter about the next door church being open – it’s never shut, you know!  How right he be!  The 850-year-old church parked in the farm yard was amazingly spacious and empty – except for a suspended summary of hymns and psalms hoisted high on an elaborate pulley system well out of reach.  We signed in the book as requested and took an informative folder listing other Kentish historic churches at risk (www.visitchurches.org.uk/donate).

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Just across the marshes and along the Swale, other isolated churches tell the tale of nearby Teynham, through the hop fields of yesteryear, perched upon a hillock. The last of the North Downs provides spectacular panoramic views across Sheppey too.

The creek side pub, now blessed with a packed marina, offers ‘mates and skippers’ special breakfast before one!’.   This once humble pub supplied both brick makers and bargees an essential watering hole for this labour-intensive industry.

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Spritsail powered barges delivered London’s rubbish to this once isolated wharf, also creek side mud excavated by man and boy, loaded into the barge and then off-loaded again as close to the kilns as possible.  Labour-intensive work indeed.   Fleets of Thames Sailing Barges plied to and from the capital.

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Next time you travel towards London Bridge Station, start counting the bricks that made this elevated railway – claimed to be the longest brick structure in the land – a sobering thought indeed.  Bricklayers Arms tells the Bermondsey saga, contrasting with the fast-track construction of the Shard.  Now that’s another tall storey of superberlies too!!

About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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