Up the Creek and back again
Why not follow my example and take the DLR from Greenwich up to Lewisham and spy on Deptford’s historic tidal creek. This mile-long waterway is flushed clean by two tides a day and provided a significant link into the Port of London towards the open sea. Surprisingly this tenuous link still survives with a daily sand ballast service to Brewery Wharf from Gravesend’s Denton Wharf and from Wivenhoe’s once extensive sand pits where once, as an eleven year old, I pedalled my brand new two-wheeler cycle in boyhood races from my Colchester home.
Almost on every tide I glimpse one of Priors’ ageing coasters pass by my Greenwich studio as they offload their bright golden yellow sand into the concrete works at nearby Brewery Wharf, sited by Creek Road bridge, now dominated by the imposing New Capital Quay Residential Development, where yesterday evening I spoke to a gathering at the ‘Sail Loft’ – the newly opened Fuller pub (a shame that I’m on the wagon!!) – a perfect place for the first social gathering of the newly formed New Capital Quay Residents Association. A full house in the first floor meeting room overlooking the Thames with perhaps the best river outlook of any pub!!
There I tried to make a verbal and graphic presentation utilising photos and drawings of yesteryear in an attempt to interest the newcomers to my riparian enthusiasm about the tideway and the obscure mysteries of Deptford Creek. One of my previous bright ideas was to install the new Royal Row Barge in a safe mooring alongside Dowells Wharf and Creek Road Bridge, which could be an additional attraction to Maritime Greenwich. ‘Gloriana’ could be rowed from a floating dock to any Thames event and/or displayed in the security of a Thames Lighter, many of which were built here and maintained at Pope & Bonds’ yard immediately next door on the site of an ancient horse ferry. Alas, this germ of an idea didn’t find favour, but Kingston on Thames gained royal assent. By a weird coincidence, as I write, a tug towing ‘Gloriana’ passes by on her way up to the capital having wintered at Denton Wharf near Gravesend.
Thus I have second thoughts in reviewing suitable craft to grace this unique opportunity. Believe it or not, Trinity House was founded on these banks and no doubt built vessels on their slipway here. The East India Company built their first trading ships and the General Steam maintained their coastal fleet and the wonderful paddle steamers which shipped Londoners to seaside resorts in Kent and Essex – surely the tale could be told.
I am told that the Creek will soon be busy with barge traffic as Deptford is earmarked as a pumping station to speed London sewerage to Crossness, the treatment terminal of the massive tunnel which is under construction beneath Father Thames, and delivery of the infrastructure will be by tug-drawn barges. Interesting new purpose-built vessels already come and go with the additional help of the twice a day tidal system.
The tidal Thames Tunnel is well explained on their blog and we customers will pay the majority on our water rates – another good reason to keep our eye on their intentions.
The more I think about Dowells Wharf’s maritime possibilities, I think a lightship would look really splendid – just like the one alongside Trinity Buoy Wharf at Leamouth. Back in my home town at Colchester’s port at Hythe the Sea Scouts (or was it the Sea Cadets?) adapted a lightship as an HQ. At the Port of Harwich a Trinity House lightship lies alongside the historic Penny Pier in quite an exposed situation, but is open to the public in the high season.