Liquid History, Maritime And Canal Heritage














"Bringing Seamanship to the Creeks from the River and the Estuary "   


This flag represents  the letter "P" from the international maritime signal-flag series.
It is known at sea as the "Blue Peter"('PETER' being the [old] phonetic for "P").

"Blue Peter" was flown from the rigging of a ship in port which was Ready to Sail.
and it's original purpose was as the signal to get the sailors back on board!

Quote from the Steeleye Span folksong "Rounding the Horn" concerning the "Amphitrite":

' Blue Peter at her foremast head for she was outward bound '.

This flag was used
as their symbol by the maintenance team of the Kenya Jacaranda,
which motley crew was affectionately known as the "Chain Gang" .

It was their collective duty to ensure that Kenya Jacaranda was maintained
in a permanent state of readiness for her primary function:
ie. training [disadvantaged] young people to crew a converted Brixham trawler
in the Thames Estuary, the Channel and The North Sea. 

HOME: Friends of Dartford Creek

This project is "Work in Progress", subject to infrequent and unconstant revision. 

Everything in it is open to public scrutiny and comment. 

To dispute or discuss any aspect contact:-  e-mail ..

 All comment is welcome and will be dealt with, to ensure the article is absolutely accurate. 

EDIT ONGOING.  2017-08-21   ... latest edit: Fri 4/9/2020

Where a word or phrase is underlined in the text and coloured grey,  a "hyperlink" is indicated.

Clicking on a "hyperlink" causes a new page to be opened on your browser

where an explanation or expansion may be provided by an independent source. 

The Dartford Creek Project.  

During 2014, a forward looking Kentish Man realised that Dartford Creek, (which at one time,had been a vibrant port) was now completely derelict and unusable as a marine asset. Neglect, mismanagement, opportunism and inertia had all played their part over many years, but essentially the challenge seen by the visionary was a total lack of accessibility to boats from the sea to the ruined lock and no accessibility from the land side for small craft even down to kayaks.

The whole of the west-side waterfront from Mill Pond Road to Steam Crane Wharf
had been sold off and sealed off in successive deals over the preceding forty or more years and the danger was that something similar would happen on the eastern bank.  The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 had been ignored or flouted.  Access to public footways and rights of way (see Definitive Map) supposed to have been protected under that legislation was tenuous or blocked off on the west bank south of Ben Dunn Bridge.  On the eastern bank the right of way DB06  (part of The Darent Valley Path) was effectively impassible at times due to the intrusion of brambles, nettles and even dog-roses for which neglect Dartford Borough Council and Kent County Council would have been collectively responsible and the Environment Agency might be passively implicated.  The actual track across the marshes in 2016 is down to a width of less than 18"

The River Darent itself ... (or at least the tidal section between the railway station and the A206) ... has been allowed to silt up to such an extent that the creek, once able to float 50tonne barges of over three foot draught inside the lock, has been reduced to a mere trickle.  The water is frequently less than 6" deep in a meandering centre littered with debris and has built up mud banks over almost 80% of the original port area to heights varying from 0.5m to 1.5m.  A cill fitted in the top end of the old lock to maintain a minimum of 24" (0.6m) draught at all times, is being circumvented by easily repairable leaks so that even a shallow draft boat can not stay afloat when the tide is out.  By July of 2016 the cill itself was leaking between the beams and mud was building up behind it to such an extent that the tidal outfall had chosen to escape via the (rotten) ruckings.

Literature in Dartford Library shows that water was siphoned off upstream for years and sold.

There is still a shortfall of supply in the Creek which could be neutralised by sealing the cill.  

The Kentish Man decided that things should be made to happen. He set up "Friends of Dartford and Crayford Creek" late in 2014. This was a [Facebook] group on social media which attracted the attention of other like-minded people and "interested parties".  By mid-July of 2015, a canal boatthe first in over forty years, had moored up on bollards literally excavated from the overgrown quayside.  Its skipper had joined the "Friends" as an active volunteer and his boat was designed to deal with tides and the sea as well as the uncharted Creek.  He was also experienced on the ways of the wily Estuary, which transpired to be useful when it came to getting into the Creek from the Thames.  The Creek dries out completely at low tide and is effectively unnavigable by even a rib until the Tilbury Tide Gauge reads 5m or better.

As of 2020,  gives regular updates of Tilbury tides and also ongoing Thurrock weather!

The creek had been visited irregularly over the years by boats scuttling in on a rising tide and escaping on the fall, usually skippered and crewed by intrepid canal boaters, often under the umbrella of the Inland Waterways Association,  in search of a new challenge ... or making a stand for maintaining a right and ability to navigate a 'forgotten' waterway.  They were the 'ships which passed in the night' but to the great credit of the IWA the visits were made.

What was needed by the "Friends" to top up the IWA activity was for a boat to stay overnight and this happened (for the first time since the port was abandoned) on the 15th April 2015, when a 36' Springer narrowboat, skippered by an experienced blue-water sailor, and crewed in by a team of brave narrowboat owners from London's waterways, entered the lock at 5.30pm and tied up to wait for the tide to rise sufficiently to cross the cill about an hour later.  The Rubicon had been crossed. 

The crew returned to London on the next train, but the Springer and its skipper stayed for over a week before returning to London's waterways.

 London Boaters involved in that escapade were eager to discover Dartford's potential as a port of call or a destination.
  It was not lost on them that Dartford is end of the line for their Oyster Cards, the station is a five-minute walk from the creek and 25mins from London bridge .  The Springer skipper returned in June and, on a suitably high tide,  perched the ten-tonne narrowboat on a mudbank just inside the lock. From this vantage the skipper spent weeks studying tides and river conditions, surveying and assessing the potential of the Creek as a marine facility.  Enterprising volunteers from within the "Friends" progressively dug out the lock side and the quay above it, excavating bollards, pushing back forty years of dereliction and making a usable quayside of over 200'.  They even managed to move a yawning lock gate to increase the "gap" to some 20' towards the end of that fateful  Summer. The group then eagerly awaited the arrival of a boat of such girth. That happened too but is part of the future story.

The fear being that such width (pro rata) would have air draught challenges and be too tall to pass under Bob Dunn Bridge

Links were  forged, casually, informally and ongoing, with Port of London AuthorityThe Environment AgencyDartford Borough Council,  ( Dartford Museum) among others. Local MPs and Councillors were approached ...  as part of the group's avowed mission to .....  "see boats back on this navigable part of Britain's Inland Waterways and celebrate the Darent and Cray's rich nautical heritage". .. Network Rail engineers opened up Crayford Creek's head of navigation over which the railway line passes. The "Jolly Farmer" wharf  had been closed to boats by a grove of alder getting out of hand over decades.  Early in 2016, trees which prevented boats from reaching the head of navigation were cleared and "Pentargon"  tied up there in May 2016.  A Gravesend RNLI crew patrolling Crayford Creek for the first time ever passed under the railway and met "Pentargon's" skipper, quietly gauging "The Jolly Farmer" wharf and figuring how to moor in a creek which dries out between tides, but has a minimum tidal lift of 2.5m. It totally lacks facilities other than proximity to the 428 bus stop.

EDITING ONGOING. 2017-09-04 latest edit 4/9/2020 
News flash:

On Thursday 17th Apr 2018, Thames Barge, DECIMA, passed through the Lock to moor alongside  ... The story has yet to be written. Suffice to say Dartford volunteers took all winter to dig out the top gates and winch them back and two lengthsmen took considerably longer to reclaim the land side from forty years of neglect. 

History and Operation of Flash Lock

Dartford Creek Flash Lock adjacent to Steam Crane Wharf

Check Dartford Reference Library  LSR 386.30942 

WILSON D.G. The Thames, record of a working waterway Batsford, 1987 

Pentargon Springer

"Pentargon" is a narrowboat, which has plied the waterways of SE England for almost five years
as a "constant cruiser".

wned and skippered by Pogue Muhone her personal story, and that of her skipper, are told elsewhere.

Hotlinks give access to certain activities secreted in various nooks and crannies on the World Wide Web.

In April 2015, Pentargon left it's then environs of the Lea and Stort Navigation (Broxbourne to be exact!) to visit Kent, via an exit at Bow Lock to the Thames Estuary and onwards to Dartford Creek. She  became the first boat in over forty years to
stay overnight in the derelicted, abandoned "Port of Dartford". Pogue kept her there for ten nights on her first recce (to figure how the tides and river worked and how to secure mooring) before taking Pentargon back to London and up the Lea and Stort to Harlow. In June, she left Harlow to return to Dartford, taking some ten days to complete a journey which could be done at ease by car in about two hours, down the M11 and M25 to the QE2 Bridge before swinging onto University way and Central Avenue.

On her first descent, Pentargon had carried four experienced narrowboat skippers on the tidal leg from Bow Lock to Steam Crane Wharf. Pogue himself is an experienced tidal sailor and familiarised Paul, Martin and Jonathan with the ways of the wily estuary enroute, thereby entering them in a VERY small list of canalboat skippers who have ever descended the tidal Thames and the even smaller number who have traversed the waters of Dartford and Crayford Creek. The short run from the flood barrier to Steam Crane Wharf qualified them for immediate membership of "Dartford Creek Navigators". The crew took the next train back to London but Pogue and Pentargon stayed for ten days before being returned (with Martin as 1st Mate) to the more familiar waters of the Lee and Stort. On her next descent , with another two experienced canalboat skippers crewing, Pogue landed Pentargon at Steam Crane Wharf in late May for what turned out to be a three-month sojourn.

The main purpose of this very long stay was to complete a a comprehensive survey of tides, waterflow, flora and fauna, opportunities, challenges and all aspects of using Dartford Creek and it's associated tributary, Crayford Creek, for boating and waterborne activities and to interact with the people of Dartford in 'reclaiming' their neglected and forgotten river from the possible future ravages of developers and from nature itself.


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