Living on the river can be alarming!!

News of the impending storm and extra high tides raging down the East Coast certainly put the wind up us.  The midday tide was a warning of what was to come, so we battened down the hatches and prepared for the worst even though we live upstream from the Barrier.  Towels and mops to the ready if our extra flood shutter fails to do its job.  Anxious moments as dusk fell and the glamour of reflected light from Canary Wharf which gets even brighter when Father Thames is at its highest – sneaky glances didn’t help at bed time – but the sound and rattle of the wind and the thrashing of the waves increased the anxiety level even more.

Thames  Barrier up

The consequence of the barrier closure came into full effect, and the next I knew the forecasted peak of the tide had passed.  Concern for our creek side friends down in Kent put us on our guard for the next couple of high tides especially when, back on the Thames, river traffic resumed and the threat of ship wash – especially from the fast ferries – as usual caused us concern.   A friendly call from the Environment Agency enquired whether we had any water ingress, which I gladly confirmed in the negative.

Much relieved, I got on with my Trinity House drawings, ready for a New Year exhibition at Tony Othen’s Greenwich Gallery – still motivated from all the remarkable celebrations on the river for the Jubilee and the Olympics, I was desperately in need of a theme for the forthcoming exhibition which would stir me into activity.

Earlier in the year I had re-explored Trinity Buoy Wharf over in Leamouth just opposite the O2 to review the splendid lightships being spruced up as well as the actual lighthouse which had been used for instructional purposes.  In summer, I visited Harwich & Falmouth to inspect lighthouses, lighthouse tenders, a pilot vessel and a brand new ‘buoy’ wharf which is producing the latest GPS navigational aids.  This helped me to plan a variety of maritime history drawings celebrating the foundation of Trinity House in close by Deptford Strond.  A visit to the Master Shipwright House geared me up to produce promotional views of Convoys Wharf potential which I had promised to enthusiasts who visualise reopening a historic dockyard which would create a new build of the ‘Lenox’..

Alert in town

Back away from my dream world, the reality of a Trinity House lighthouse tender actually passing by made me leap for my sketch book as ‘Alert’ cruised past on her way back to her home port at Harwich.  The lovely lady at Trinity House reported that she was up on a regular visit to check out buoyage and lights on the tidal Thames.

The reality of much of my research is based on Richard Woodman’s hand book Keepers of the Sea on Trinity House history and activities was further advanced by their splendid volume Light upon the Waters – a History of Trinity House 1514-2014 written by Andrew Adams and Richard Woodman (www.trinityhouse.co.uk).

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About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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