All aboard the Waverley (4): Up to Woolwich

Posted: November 1, 2016 in History, London, UK
Tags: , , , ,

 

QEII bridge at Dartford

QEII bridge at Dartford

As we proceed under Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford, two strange chimney-like structures are visible on each bank. These are the vents from the Dartford Tunnel. In fact there are 2 tunnels. The first was built in 1963 and carried two-way traffic. A second was added in 1980 with each tunnel now carrying one direction flow. With the addition of the Bridge in 1991, both tunnels now carry northbound traffic with the south-bound using the bridge.

Vents from Dartford Tunells

Vents from Dartford Tunnels

On the north bank we pass the RSPB nature reserve at Rainham Marshes, one of the few protected stretches of estuarine marsh left.

RSPB reserve centre at Rainham Marshes

RSPB reserve centre at Rainham Marshes

On the south bank is the Dartford Creek-tidal barrier which prevents flood waters entering the rivers that feed into the creek and flooding towns such as Dartford

The Dartford Creek Tidal Barrier

The Dartford Creek Tidal Barrier

We pass the dock of the two boats, Thames Clearwater I and II . These are used to aerate the river if oxygen levels fall below a set level in order to try to prevent any loss of marine wildlife.

Thames Clearwater I and II

Thames Clearwater I and II

Another long-standing feature of the river is the Woolwich Free Ferry. This carries vehicles and foot passengers from Woolwich town centre on the south bank to North Woolwich across the river. This has been the site of a passenger ferry since the 15th century, although  the vehicle ferry dates from 1889. The current boats are now over 50 years old and there has been an on-going discussion in London about what will be done to replace them. The current schemes seem to be a bridge downstream and another tunnel upstream as these are seen as more efficient ways of moving traffic than ferries. There are often long queues of traffic waiting to board the ferry and particularly on the southern side this can back -up onto nearby main roads.

Woolwich Free Ferry

Woolwich Free Ferry

Berthed near here is a boat far from home, the Royal Iris. Built in 1951 for the Mersey Ferry, she became famous for the parties held on her in the 1960s with bands such as the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Searchers and Elvis Costello performing onboard. Withdrawn from service in 1991 she was used as a floating nightclub but has now been berthed on the River Thames. Efforts to return this iconic Liverpool boat to it’s hometown have foundered on the cost of making her seaworthy for the voyage.

Royal Iris

Royal Iris

Beyond Woolwich, we approach the Thames Barrier. Built in 1984 to prevent the flooding of London on high tides. The gates in normal use lie along the riverbed, enabling unhindered passage to shipping but when required they can be raised into place to prevent surge tides reaching the capital.

Thames Barrier

Thames Barrier

 

Comments
  1. Keith Cutting says:

    Very informative Peter. Travelling the Thames is an education all of its own!

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