24/08/2012

Riverside walk raises the spirits

Posted in Heritage, Local History, River Thames, Tilbury Fort tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:45 pm by henrysgauntlet

This week Henry felt in need of some fresh air, so went for a walk along the river bank from the World’s End pub almost to the power station.  It was lovely down there, but hardly anything moving on the river.   In Henry’s other recent forays to Tilbury the river has been very busy indeed, but on this day it was slack water, with the tide just beginning to run in by the time he got back to the World’s End.

As ever, Henry was struck by what a place of contrasts it is.   First the river, its vessels and the people who work them, all of immense interest and attraction to those whose blood contains  a measure of salt. 

Then Tilbury Power Station with its wharf and an attendant ship.  Some of Henry’s friends believe that he is an aficionado of power stations. 

Then the wonderful Tilbury Fort, nearly 500 years old, under the expert care of English Heritage:  the layout of the defensive position which can be only partly appreciated on foot, but which, from above, shows the geometric star-shaped bastion with its double moat;  the second world war guns mounted on the seaward rampart, of several different varieties some of them more likely to have been on a warship, and looming over the seawall footpath;  and the magnificent water gate and gatehouse, a gem of Charles II restoration architecture.   

Then some nondescript fields with a few cows and horses chewing at the meagre grass of the marshes.

And finally, the landscape spoilt by the many modern commercial and industrial sheds and warehouses.   They form part of the regeneration of Tilbury, and are necessary to the economy of the area, but it is a pity that they could not have been more hidden.   As it is they form a quite out of character backdrop to the Fort.

The situation is saved by a couple of features only partly visible from this end, but which complete the sweep of the circuit.   There is the bridge leading down to Tilbury Landing Stage, which that day was packed with cars.   Some had people just enjoying the good weather, and others belonged to passengers who had taken the ferry which buzzes busily back and forth to Gravesend.   And then the 1930s passenger terminal, dating from a time when the great liners used the port, right up to the ‘fifties and ‘sixties when the Orient Line ships took their load as emigrants from the old country to Australia.   The building does not show its age, and now has a second life as a Cruise Terminal.   

A good outing, which raised Henry’s spirits and made him realize yet again how pleased he is that he lives near a river, and not just any river but the mighty Thames.

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