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Tour 2006

Index

4 - Dartford Creek, inc upper river and Cray Arm. Gravesend Basin.

The first creek tackled was the most difficult to reach, the River Darent and Cray, which once formed the Dartford and Crayford Navigation. This was planned to coincide with the early April Spring tide, as we would need the tidal range! Near the end of Dartford Creek, just before the paper mills is a derelict lock. Up until the mid 1980’s this was functional, but with no commercial traffic after that date the gates were chained back and the pound above to the paper mills was allowed to be tidal.
A stop plank dam had been installed at the head of the lock to attempt to retain some water in this muddy creek, further impending navigation. Just before the present head of navigation, a dropped road bridge was an intact but inoperative lift footbridge. A reccy was taken to check this bridge height at a tide level where it was just possible to get over the disused lock dam (this has a tide gauge giving the draught over the stop planks). The result was that it looked like it would be possible to make a very quick trip under and quickly back from the footbridge!
As was our usual plan we chose a morning tide that was just before high Springs (the theory being that if you got stuck the next tide would be higher to float you off). Departure was from Brentford at high water, the plan being to run down on the ebb, all the way through London to the QE2 Bridge and mill about (there would not be any serious commercial craft activity at low water) then beach Earnest at the entrance to Dartford Creek and run up on the first of the flood.
This worked out OK, a quick detour was made at Limehouse, we went back to the lock entrance to pick up Martin Ludgate and Steve Haywood, who were itching to become Honorary TNC Members (actually they probably wanted to save themselves the bother of going to Dartford Creek!) It was interesting to note that the 58ft 6ins Earnest just managed to wind in the entrance to the new Limehouse Lock; a 60ft narrowboat would not have managed it and would have had an “interesting” reverse out into the strong ebb tide.
We got down to Dartford around 10:30, a 4.5 hour leisurely trip down. After milling about the tide eventually changed and we beached Earnest in the silt at the entrance to Dartford Creek. Around 13:30 we started the gentle passage up Dartford Creek, stopping many times on the silty bottom. Come 14:45 we had managed to wind in the paper mill drain outfall just below Dartford Lock and managed to reverse into the chamber. The official S.P.C.C. guide then tells you to high tail it back down Dartford Creek, with a quick detour up the Cray Arm (River Cray), then back up the Thames using as much of the remaining flood as possible.
TNC were made of sterner stuff and we hang around in the lock chamber until there was just enough water over the cill dam to enable passage. It was a quick reverse up to the first unexpected obstacle. This was a removed lift bridge narrows, passage was barred by a piece of side fendering that was only hanging on by one upstream bolt, the incoming tide having pushed it across as a barrier! After much to-ing and fro-ing, use of poles and boat hooks we got past this obstruction and just managed a quick passage under the disused swing footbridge.
In the excitement poor old Peter Wright had got left behind, at least we had some good from the land shots of the proceedings. After picking Peter up we then went full steam back down Dartford Creek, already looking rather different now nearly full of water. The new by-pass bridge as predicted posed no problem (about 2ft clearance).
We quickly traversed the Cray arm but had to mess around with trees that had grown up covering the entrance to the basin. We did a very quick photo call here, we managed an easy wind, as it was approaching high water.
After a hasty passage past the trees (there was no time for a chainsaw tidy!) it was hell for leather to gain the last of the flood tide. Dartford Creek now looked completely different, the spring tide had spread over the sides of the muddy ditch we had entered by making it look much more attractive.
It was difficult to find the entrance channel at the mouth with the Thames, we just steered the approximate route we had taken on the way in. With the flood tide easing off we managed to get to around Ford’s at Dagenham before the ebb tide started. It was now a real slog, especially through the restriction where the Woolwich ferries cross, but surprisingly not through the Thames Flood Barrier. We had booked a late 20:00 arrival at Limehouse, but due to our delay in getting to the head of navigation of Dartford Creek we arrived back some 20 minutes late.


Beached on the spit at the entrance to Dartford Creek, waiting for the flood tide.


As soon as there is enough water we enter Dartford Creek and follow the flood tide up.


Looking back at the entrance to Dartford Creek.


The Environment Agency flood barrier at the entrance to Dartford Creek.


We make pass under the EA flood barrier. Dartford Creek.


Dartford Creek, somewhat early on the flood tide.


Dartford Creek.


Dartford Creek (River Darent). The Cray Arm of the Dartford and Crayford Navigation (River Cray) comes in from the right.


The new A206 Bob Dunn Way Bridge.


A206 Bob Dunn Way Bridge.


The A206 Bob Dunn Way Bridge at low water.


Portable air draught marker under A206 Bob Dunn Way Bridge. From an explo day out.


Martin Ludgate and Steve Haywood finally make it as TNC Honorary Members.


Dartford Creek at low water - lovely!


The Arjo Wiggins paper mills dominate the end of Dartford Creek.


Paper mills beside Dartford Creek.


Paper mills by Dartford Creek. From an explo day out.


Dartford Lock at low water, Dartford Creek. From an explo day out.


Dartford Lock and the "winding point" at low water, Dartford Creek. From an explo day out.


The "winding point" at low water, Dartford Creek. From an explo day out.


We reach Dartford Lock.


Winding.


After winding we reverse back into the gateless lock. looking back downstream.


After winding we reverse back into the gateless lock.


Moored up in the gateless lock.


Moored up in the gateless lock. We wait for the flood tide to fill up the river behind the leaky stop plank dam. Dartford Lock, Dartford Creek.


Moored up in the gateless lock. We wait for the flood tide to fill up the river behind the leaky stop plank dam. Dartford Lock, Dartford Creek.


Looking up from the disused Dartford Lock at low water. From an explo day out.


Moored up in the gateless lock. We wait for the flood tide to fill up the river behind the leaky stop plank dam. Dartford Lock, Dartford Creek.


Waiting in Dartford Lock.


Waiting in Dartford Lock - nearly there!


The disused lift bridge narrows at low water. From an explo day out.


Upper Dartford Creek at low water. From an explo day out.


Dartford Lock at low water. From an explo day out.


Dartford Lock at low water. From an explo day out.


Dartford Lock at low water. From an explo day out.


Dartford Lock at low water. From an explo day out.


Dartford Lock at low water. From an explo day out.


Dartford Lock at low water. From an explo day out.


Dartford Lock at low water. From an explo day out.


Dartford Lock at low water. Notice the depth gauge for water level over the impounding cill. From an explo day out.


The impounding cill gauge on Dartford Lock.


Dartford Lock.


Looking up from Dartford Lock.


We pass over the cill dam and reverse up the upper river. Dartford Creek.


We meet an obstruction in the old lift bridge narrows. This old bump bar had pivoted from the upstream end and was a bugger to get out of the way. Upper River. Dartford Creek.


Once through the old lift bridge narrows the old wooden bump bar is forced back by the flood tide.


With just enough headroom we attempt to navigate under the disused lift footbridge, just downstream of the fixed bridge...


The disused foot lift bridge at low water. From an explo day out.


The disused foot lift bridge at low water. From an explo day out.


The disused foot lift bridge at low water. From an explo day out.


We just make it under the disused foot lift bridge. Upper River, Dartford Creek.


Beyond the disused foot lift bridge is a fixed low bridge. Upper River. Dartford Creek.


The fixed low bridge at low water. Upper River. Dartford Creek.


After our passage under the disused lift foot bridge we go full tilt to enable a quick trip up the Cray Arm before high water.


Coming back down the Upper River. Dartford Creek.


Upper River at low water. Dartford Creek.


We nudge the wooden bump bar out of the way. Upper River. Dartford Creek.


Upper River at high water. Dartford Creek.


Upper River at high water. Dartford Creek.


Dartford Lock at high water. Dartford Creek.


We now steam downstream against the last of the flood tide. Dartford Creek.


Looking back at Dartford Lock.


Looking back, showing our wake against the last of the high springs flood tide.


Just enough clearance under the A206 Bob Dunn Way Bridge. Dartford Creek.


The Cray Arm. From an explo day out.


The Cray Arm. From an explo day out.


Powering up the Cray Arm. Dartford and Crayford Navigations.


Powering up the Cray Arm. Dartford and Crayford Navigations.


The Cray Arm. From an explo day out.


The Cray Arm. From an explo day out.


The Cray Arm. Junction with the two basins. From an explo day out.


The Cray Arm. We are about to enter the main northern basin, through the fallen tree to the right! Dartford and Crayford Navigations.


The Cray Arm. The main northern basin. Dartford and Crayford Navigations.


The Cray Arm. The main northern basin. Dartford and Crayford Navigations.


The Cray Arm. The main northern basin. After a quick wind we retreat downstream. Dartford and Crayford Navigations.


The Cray Arm, the southern basin arm that we did not visit. From an explo day out.


The Cray Arm, the southern basin arm that we did not visit. From an explo day out.


The Cray Arm, the southern basin arm that we did not visit. From an explo day out.


The Cray Arm, the southern basin arm that we did not visit. From an explo day out.


Powering down lower Dartford Creek as the flood tide dies away


Retreating down Dartford Creek.


Retreating down Dartford Creek.


Retreating down Dartford Creek with somewhat more water than when we entered!


Retreating down Dartford Creek.


Retreating down Dartford Creek. About to pass out under the EA flood barrier.


Retreating down Dartford Creek.


Once out in the Thames it is hell for leather to get as far as possible before the ebb tide starts.


By the time we reach the Woolwich Ferry the ebb has started and we dice with in impatient Woolwich Ferry.


View of the River Thames from Gravesend.


The entrance lock into Gravesend Basin, the upstream end of the moribund Thames and Medway Canal.


Swing bridge over the entrance lock into Gravesend Basin.


Looking out from Gravesend Basin entrance lock.


The Thames and Medway Canal used to exit the basin through this narrows. In the re-development of the basin it is proposed to reinstate this connection with a short section of the canal.


The old entrance narrows. Gravesend Basin.


Gravesend Basin.


Entrance Lock. Gravesend Basin.


Slipway. Gravesend Basin.


Looking out across the River Thames from Gravesend Basin.


The entrance to Gravesend Basin from the River Thames.

The Tour Continues...


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