Time and Tide

The full force of February’s storm Doris clipped London town but provided a fascinating spectacle for us as wind over tide provided a sea-like surprise for us at Greenwich Reach.  The short seas provided a real challenge for a trio of dare devils as they hung on tight to their airfilled bouncy rib, leaping from wave to wave.  They certainly enjoyed their exhilarating ride up and down the tideway.  The wind was so gusty that all the lofty construction cranes abandoned work to avoid wind damage over in Canary Wharf and at the numerous oncoming schemes on Greenwich Peninsula.  Sailormen, however, still went about their business in spite of their craft being submerged from time to time by the waves and the flying spume.

Similar weather conditions brought back vivid memories of crewing sailboats large and small – Thames Sailing Barges, and especially Robert Thorling’s ‘Joyce’ – a Drascombe lugger which he dearly loved.  Alas his stroke some 19 years ago well and truly grounded him but didn’t stop him having a pint in Royal Hill’s ‘Tolly’;  also being a welcome member of the GYC and the Whitstable YC which he still loved to pop in to.

Their brilliant retirement move to their Seasalter new home gave Robert extraordinary panoramic views up the Swale and across the Thames Estuary.  There he died in his sleep.  The adjacent WW2 mess hall of an ‘ack-ack’ battery provided a magic venue for his wake.  Sara and family devised a joyous celebration of his life which still brings a tear to my eye.

Strangely the Kent family had a beach hut of similar vintage for many years at West Mersea, surely just in view across the estuary and the extensive Maplin Sands as described and illustrated in Archie White’s ‘Tideways and Byeways in Essex and Suffolk’ back in 1979, which I have adapted to illustrate this piece.  Our Mersea hut also played a role in WW2 as a similar, new battery necessitated its removal to Colchester.  It then became an IARP control post at Colchester’s Royal Grammar School close to our family home, where John Kent – my dad – played an active role also as an air raid warden, becoming a keen member of the ATC while mum ran the canteen.

‘Berwyn’ returned after the hostilities to dear old Mersea on the mud!  (That’s where I met Archie White who convinced me that, armed with a pen and brush, one could provide a living.)  Also a good base for teenage activities – including sailing – which has rubbed off on my son Ben and Emma down at St. Mawes.  All four of my grandchildren are following in my muddy steps!!

You can see from the book jacket below that Archie White set the pace for my ‘River Watch’.  Thanks to Sara Thorling for editing the many articles which appeared in the Blackheath Guide for many years, also to Tony and Helen Othen who translate my input into this blog with similar kind encouragement over the last three years.

About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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