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The Thames has always been a river of dreams. In centuries past sailors and explorers, merchants and adventurers, have all journeyed down the river from London to seek their fortunes or their destiny, while others from afar have sailed up the river on an analogous quest or enterprise. For all of them the low Essex shore was always their first and last glimpse of England.
Up until the middle of the last century British ships sailing out of the Port of London dominated the trade routes of the world. The Cunard Queens ruled the Atlantic. Royal Mail Traces carried passengers to Brazil and South America, with a few of their ships pushing up the Amazon so far as Iquitos. P&O and Orient traces serviced Hong Kong and Japan and Australia. The new Zealand Shipping Line sailed to Australia and New Zealand. The liners of Union Castle circumnavigated Africa. All those once familiar names have disappeared now, and trendy container ships and plush cruise ships have changed virtually the entire previous passenger-cargo traces that when flew the Red Duster into every ocean of the world.
Times have changed, but there is still an endless variety of shipping utilizing the Thames, and as you start to move the Essex shore the river is now overshadowed by the magnificent, Queen Elizabeth eleven Dartford Suspension Bridge, which was opened in 1991. Cars flow continuously overhead on the congested arc of the M 25, and four concrete towers with their spider-web tracery of cables soar into the sky.
Nonetheless, the remainder of the lengthy, flat Essex shoreline, which many a younger sailor used to observe with both the slight tang of speedy homesickness, or the buoyant elation of homecoming, is still just about unchanged. Most sailors had their minds mounted on the extra exotic places at the far finish of every voyage, however they have been lacking one thing, for there is way to be explored and loved alongside the Essex facet of the great river.
Cruise ships still come as much as Tilbury, the place the old passenger liners used to select up and disembark passengers earlier than making the final lap as much as KG5 or Victoria docks, however Tilbury has expanded and is now the principal container port for the Port of London. It’s also the positioning of the massive, star-shaped, moated and earth-walled fort that’s the best preserved of all the fortifications that have been as soon as strung out alongside each river banks to guard London’s most weak gateway.
There was a blockhouse right here on the time of the Spanish Armada, and the current Tilbury Fort was built to substitute it in the late seventeenth Century. It was usually garrisoned via the Napoleonic wars and by way of the primary World Warfare. There has at all times been the potential risk of an enemy fleet, our mercantile rivals the Spanish, the Dutch, the French, and finally the Germans.
The large artillery pieces still point out from the east and west gun traces along the embankment and the day I strolled there a Royal Navy destroyer and an old, purple-sailed Thames sailing barge have been both transferring up the river. The Navy ship gleamed grey and sleek in the sunshine, brisk and direct about her business, while the barge tacked slowly and lazily, a nostalgia image of a bygone age.
Observe the river and you will come to Canvey Island, which is related to the mainland by the bridge at South Benfleet. The island was once a lonely wasteland of mudflats and tidal inlets, until the land was reclaimed and protected by a series of embankments and drainage dykes built by a Dutch Engineer in 1623.
Despite this the island is still susceptible to exceptional tidal flooding. In 1953 the horrible mixture of North Sea storms and Spring tide surge that devastated the entire of the japanese counties coastline swamped Canvey and drowned 58 folks. However, that hasn’t stopped it from filling up with summer cottages and camper sites. Small pleasure craft abound, as it is especially widespread with the boating fraternity.
Canvey is now also the site of a huge petroleum refining industry, a gigantic conglomeration of massed storage tanks and writhing pipelines, like the silver steel entrails of some distorted industrial monster laid bare.
Among the best views of the entire island is from the ruins of Hadleigh Castle, which overlook the vast sweep of the estuary. Hadleigh Castle was built in the 11th Century to guard the mouth of the Thames and for centuries its great stone towers and walls stood equal to the task. Sadly, as we speak solely the south east tower remains almost intact, with just a few crumbling partitions marking the remainder of the site, and the split wall of the north east tower standing like some great shattered tooth.
A couple of miles further down the river is Old Leigh, as soon as a small fishing neighborhood overlooking a small marshy inlet, the village has now been virtually swallowed up by the expansion of sprawling Southend. Nonetheless, the flavor of Old Leigh is still there, with its cobbled high street and rows of fisherman’s cottages and a handful of fishing boats moored up among the pleasure craft at its old wharves.
There’s an previous black clapboard sail maker’s loft at Victoria Wharf, which is now a primary Support Post manned by the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade, and the scene here seemed to sum up Old Leigh. A small pleasure yacht was moored at the quay and nearby was a small sandy seaside the place households performed and sunbathed.
Not far away was the Essex Yacht Membership, the place scores of younger individuals have been bobbing around in bright-sailed small boats, or wrestling with them up and down the slipways on either side of the Bembridge, an ex-cruising pilot cutter that now serves as the clubhouse. Membership racing occasions are monitored from the previous wood bridge the place there are superb sea views over the bows.
During the Georgian period the south end of Prittlewell was becoming a small, fashionable seaside resort for the well to do. It was a spot of sedate seaside huts the place ladies in knee and elbow size bathing fits discreetly emerged to paddle their toes. From there it expanded quickly.
With the coming of the railway in 1856 Southend was only an hour away from the capital and promptly became the favorite holiday resort for the East End of London. The town is virtually divided by the far protruding pier, with on both facet the amusement arcades, quick rides and the youngsters’s paradise of Journey Island. Right here and to the left of the pier is the wild, brash and noisy face of Southend, the middle of all the vivid lights, fish and chip shops and fun. Go to the suitable and you’ll find the extra genteel features, with all of the peace and wonder of its many manicured lawns and cliff top flower gardens.
Go up from the promenade and walk along the Royal Terrace, the place the Royal Resort was inbuilt 1791 to commemorate a go to by Princess Caroline, the spouse of the then Prince of Wales. Her go to helped to determine much more firmly the fashionable reputation of Southend. The terrace was restored in 1978, and in summer there is usually a massed array of glorious, colored hanging baskets decorating the modern lodge fronts.
Further along the white statue of Queen Victoria, flanked by palm trees, overlooks rich purple and yellow rose beds. Beside her there is an elegant Victorian bandstand where waltzing couples glide gracefully on sunny afternoons. Reverse is Prittlewell Square, Southend’s oldest surviving park, with its high splashing central fountain framed in white wrought iron entrance gates. All over the place there are sumptuous flower beds.
In Priory Park stands the outdated Prittlewell Priory which was as soon as a Cluniac monastery and is now a museum. Beside it stands the strong gray Crow Stone, which as soon as stood on the seaside at Chalkwell to mark the eastern extent of London’s jurisdiction.
Down on the Western Esplanade is where the annual London to Southend Classic Car Rally finishes, usually with three hundred or more vintage vehicles assembled there on the big day. That is simply one in every of the massive annual events in this pleasure-geared seaside resort, ranging from the Old Leigh Regatta and the Thames Sailing Barge Match, both held out on the river, to the high-flying Air Show in the skies above.
If you can’t face an hour’s brisk stroll a full measurement prepare now takes you out to the far end of the pier, which was almost always my last glimpse and first sight of the mouth of the Thames. The pier was built in 1889, and has survived seven boat crashes and three fires. One and a third miles long, it is the longest pier on this planet.
Rows of fishermen solid their lines over the rails, hoping to haul a fats bass or mullet up on to the deck boards, and there is a pier head viewing tower with wide-ranging views. From here navy stone island t shirt anything from a cockle boat to an oil tanker may hover into view.
Shoeburyness occupies the last elbow of land earlier than the shoreline turns away to the north. Till the center of the 18th Century it was a smuggler’s haven of misty marshes and hidden creeks. Then came the Royal Artillery Garrison and school of Gunnery and the village began to grow. Between the wars its safe bathing beaches made it another holiday spot.
Plans have been put forward for one more future barrier right here to span the total mouth of the Thames. London and the marshlands of Essex have at all times been weak to flooding, due to the slow increase of river and sea levels over the centuries, and now that rate of increase is accelerating as a consequence of World warming.
The Thames Barrier excessive up the river at Greenwich which was formally opened in 1984 is now not considered ample protection for the nation’s capital. More flood and storm tides of the 1953 variety are predicted as a high probability, and the continuing battle towards the hungry sea will proceed. If the proposed barrier is constructed will probably be a massive structure stretching far into the marshes on either side which will change the shore and skyline for ever.
However, for the moment the Thames has reached the chilly North Sea with out additional Stone Island Uk hindrance. Having began far inland within the Cotswolds, passing through the nice coronary heart of London, and caressing the winding Essex shore, the river nonetheless flows by in all its many moods, timeless and steady, on its romantic technique to the far, large world.