Leaving Gravesend the PS Waverley makes it’s way up river towards London. The first place we pass is Tilbury Docks, on the north bank, now the principal port for London. It was opened in 1886 when there was a need for a deep-water access port nearer to the river mouth than the existing docks in East and South London. During the 20th century it continued to expand. In 1967 a container port was added and in 1978 a new deep-water berth was added. It now covers 850 acres and is an import station for paper and wood, grain, construction and building materials. It addition to standard docking and containers, it also has a facility for handling roll-on, roll-off cargoes for onward shipment by road.
Tilbury also operated as London’s passenger shipping terminal until the 1960s. For many people Tilbury was their point of emigration to Australia under an assisted passage scheme established and operated by the Australian Government. I remember when I was a young boy travelling down to Tilbury to see two of my Aunts and Uncles and their families leaving for Australia. Tilbury was also a port of entry for many immigrants to the UK. The passenger landing stage was reopened as the London Cruise Terminal in 1995.
On the southern bank we pass Swanscombe Marshes, an area now threatened by commercial development which will destroy another stretch of this already fast vanishing natural habitat, as it has in so many places along the estuary.
As we look up river we can see in the distance the Dartford Bridge which carries part of the London Orbital motorway
On the south bank we pass Greenhithe. Once the site of the Nautical Officer Training College, it is probably best known today as the location of Bluewater, one of the Uk’s largest out of town shopping malls, which has been built within a disused quarry.
Passing on we arrive at the Dartford Bridge. The London orbital motorway is used by some organisations as an easily recognised boundary for London, even though some of the Land within it falls outside of the control of the London authorities.