"Bringing Seamanship to the Creeks from the River and the Estuary "
|HOME: BLUE PETER
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)
Literature in Dartford Library shows that water was siphoned off upstream for years and sold. 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 boat, the 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
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.
There is still a shortfall of supply in the Creek which could be neutralised by sealing the cill.
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
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
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 Authority, The Environment Agency, Dartford 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" is a narrowboat, which has plied the waterways of SE England for almost five years 2012/2016
as a "constant cruiser".
Owned 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.
The membership facility does not exist