Friday 1 July 2016

Old Father Thames from a different perspective - 1st July 2016

Today I had the opportunity to take a trip with the PLA on the Thames ostensibly to take pictures of the Essex foreshore on behalf of Thurrock Council... All rather odd but if it furthers good relations between the RSPB, the council and the PLA that it is all to the good.
It was a wet start to the day and my early start to avoid the traffic may have been successful but it precluded the nice pre-jaunt amble I was hoping to achieve and so an exciting couple of hours were spent in the salubrious quarters of both the ASDA and MacD’s in Tilbury with a fine adult Med Gull as my sole consolation!  Living it up...

I met Caroline and we headed off to the quay to board our vessel. I was expecting a sizeable craft for some reason but it was not to be but at least it had a cabin, toilet and most importantly a kettle.  Our Thurrock contact cheerfully sent us on our way with a vague idea of what he thought the council wanted us to do.

My picture taking for the morning was slightly curtailed by leaving my camera in the car which left Caroline to merrily snap away while I got to use my bins and phone. We motored down river, passing close to the south bank and our reserves at Shorne, Cliffe and Northward Hill before veering across the river to begin the job almost at the mouth of Holehaven Creek which bisects our Bowers and West Canvey reserves.

Birdwise it was actually very quiet with Oystercatchers being the only waders and a few Common Terns milling around. Harbour and Grey Seals were seen and a raft of 394 Shelduck were strewn along the East Tilbury section. Two broods of the latter were also seen.

However it was the ships, cranes, jetties, graffiti and vistas that made the trip as we headed back up river, past our embarkation point at the old Cruise Terminal and Gravesend Ferry and then up as far as our beloved visitors centre.

Coryton refinery was looking a little sorry for itself but the adjacent DP World port with its colossal cranes was breathtaking at close quarters as it loaded up the immense Hamburg Sud – ‘Cap San Artemissio’. I remember seeing some of these cranes heading up the Channel somewhere off Dungeness from the top of the hill at Port Lympne a couple of years back as they slowly arrived on their barge all the way from China. The last three only arrived a few weeks back and there were workman working precariously way up high.

‘Cap San Artemissio’

The new cranes at DP World

We passed the visitor centre for TTNP at Mucking where it sits somewhat incongruously on what looks like (but largely isn’t) active landfill. Van Heyningen and Haward Architects designed this great building after completing ours at Rainham – I would love to have that ramp up onto the roof!

Coal House and Tilbury Forts kept their sentinel watch of the busy waterways and Tilbury Docks was equally busy including the 'Federal Yukon' bulk carrier that looked a bit like some of the cars I saw in ASDA car park this morning with a little bit of paint damage down one side that could do with a bit of a touch up!

Coalhouse Fort & Tilbury Power Station

Tilbury Fort

Tilbury Power Station

The cranes for extracting the coal from vessels for Tilbury Power Station

Tilbury Docks

Tilbury Docks

The 'Federal Yukon' - So how did the other party fare Sir?

The 'Princess Pocahontas' headed out of Gravesend as we headed across to drop one of the crew off at the PLA office (and fill up the kettle) and the imposing Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara over topped the town – must visit one day – it is meant to be spectacular. 

'Princess Pocahontas'

Gravesend skyline

The Twin Sisters pylons looped their cables high across the river and back on the Essex side we made our way past Stone Ness and West Thurrock Marshes and its mini red lighthouse with the swathe of concrete riverwall still emblazoned with the spray can talents of the last three decades. Most were indecipherable from our range other that the very simple ‘You are my Angel’ but as riverside street art goes it has always been colourful and eyecatching and actually not out of place either.  Procter and Gamble loomed by and the interestingly named ‘Britannia Beaver’ was part of a stream of ships moored up as we approached the amazingly curvy QEII Bridge.

The Essex Sister

Stone Point & the QEII Bridge

'Nordic Hanne'

Approaching the QEII Bridge

QEII Bridge

The ummm.... 'Britannia Beaver'

Going under the bridge that I cross every day was a little odd and although very tall it actually looked very insubstantial from underneath. 

Littlebrook Power Station towered up on the Kent side and then we were passing Purfleet and the Royal Hotel before a rousing reception of mass waving from everyone in our very own visitor centre which I have to admit looked fantastic from this vantage point. 


'Bro Nuuk'


RSPB Rainham Marshes - home...

We swung back across the Thames towards the Darent Barrier.  ‘Bob’ the bull Grey Seal was mid channel and two Harbour Seals were at the inlet mouth but there were no waders on the tiny bit of exposed mud. The sound of gunfire and the smell of the sewage works greeted our south shore arrival as we retraced our route back to the ferry jetty passing the 'Andrea' and  ‘Beaver’ heading back out and the ‘Wide Bravo’ just being towed into Tilbury.

Littlebrook Power Station

'Wide Bravo'


The crew safely deposited us back on time and we bid our farewells after an enlightening few hours seeing Old father Thames from an entirely new perspective.

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