Monday, 17 May 2021

Thames Path: Erith to Dartford Creek

 Erith station was just a few minutes walk from Erith Riverside where I finished my last walk along the Thames path. I am following the Thames downstream from the Thames Barrier. Today I have travelled by train to Erith so I don't have to retrace my steps back to the car. I have an ordnance survey map of the area so should be able to sort out how to get home after a few miles walking. This area is totally new to me so I am looking forward to hopefully finding places of interest. Once back on the path I saw Erith Pier. 

This is the first time I have seen a pier like this on a river. This type of long pier is common by the seaside but not riversides.

It was quite wide and had a number of benches situated at intervals. The original  135m wooden pier was built here in 1842 and was followed two years later with a Pier hotel offering people an overnight stop outside the city. Then in 1845 Erith opened its pleasure gardens to include lots of Victorian entertainments such as a maze, archery, green bowling amidst pleasant surroundings. There were also steamer ships that stopped at the pier each day to collect office workers and take them into the City of London. For seven years this was the way gentlemen would travel into London but then the railway arrived in Erith, a much quicker way to commute to work.

Then in 1865 the Outlet Works opened at Crossness disgorging 70 million gallons of raw sewage into the river at high tide Not something you want to smell as it passes beneath your hotel room! It didn't take long for the newly found leisure activities to fail and in 1865 the pier, hotel and gardens were sold at auction. An increase in industries along the Thames at Erith thrived. The long pier was now used to unload cargo ships as it provided access to a deep water wharf. Cargoes such as coal, seeds for the nearby oil mills and paper for the newspaper industry were all unloaded here until the 1950s

In 1957, new deep water facilities were required and a new concrete 360m pier was built allowing access to larger ships The Pier hotel which had been used as offices was demolished to make way for warehouses. Erith's industry declined during the 60s and 70s and the pier abandoned. It was only in 1999 when the supermarket chain 'Morrisons' built on  the site that the pier was made a public amenity. Now it is popular with anglers, bird spotters and walkers.

Looking back at the pier from the Thames Path.

For a while it was very pleasant walking along the path but then it became very industrial and I had to come away from the river and walk along a very busy and dirty road.

I eventually saw the sign taking me back to the river along this narrow road.

At the end of the road was this disgraceful illegal dumping of rubbish. What is even more frustrating is that I had walked past waste disposal units that were open to the public.

A gateway led me onto this stony path down to the river.
On my left I could see Erith Yacht Club, founded in 1900. 

This part of Crayford Marsh is known locally as the 'Saltings' and contains one of the last significant pieces of saltmarsh along the inner Thames Estuary. Erith saltings is a unique habitat with a special character and history. However, the area is currently under threat from rising sea levels. The saltings have been eroding as a result to changes to the tides and waves which have become stronger as more water comes in and out of the estuary on every tide. The estuary is unable to expand because of tidal defences. 

I followed the river round past the waste and scrap metal sites which were very noisy but that didn't seem to disturb the birds feeding at the edge of the river.

I now had a clear view  of the  QE2 bridge (Dartford crossing) - the last bridge over the Thames. 

Before reaching the bridge I had to go inland quite a way to get across the Darent River, one of the tributaries of the Thames. Where the River Darent joins the River Thames it is known as Dartford Creek. This tidal river, with its tributary the River Cray, provided a trading link between the Thames, Dartford and Crayford from Medieval times. Through the 19th century barges travelled along the Creek to Dartford's paper mills.

The Creek is lined with reeds and in summer is populated by warblers.

This is Dartford Creek Tidal Barrier. Constructed in the 1970s, as part of London's flood defences, the barrier is lowered at times of high tide in the River Thames to prevent flooding upstream of Dartford and Crayford.

 I decided I would end my walk inland and find my way to Slade Green station where I could get a train home. I didn't see anyone on my walk today maybe because it is midweek. I was ok with that except for the last footpath between the hawthorn hedges which seemed to go on and on. As there were no signposts I wasn't too sure I was on the right path although I had checked it out on a map. Just felt a little uneasy for a while.

An information board by the end of the path told me this was Howbury Moat and the Tithe Barn. The moated structure here was owned by the half-brother of William the Conqueror in the 11th century and was inhabited until 1935. The Tithe Barn dates from the 1600s.

The station was just a short walk from here. Next time I will get a train to Dartford station which is on the other side of the Darent river and then see if I can get back to the Thames Path from there and continue my journey towards the sea,

Sharing with Our World Tuesday


  1. Amazing you did that walk without seeing a single other person. The history of the Erith dock area was really interesting. It looks so barren; hard but intriguing to imagine it with all the amenities and activity it once had. I think we need some of those tidal barriers in South Carolina with all the flooding that happens here. I’m unclear about how they work though. Happy to see you are out discovering new things in your area once again!

  2. Oh wow, what an adventure you had especially after getting into the industrial areas. I used to get myself in situations like that when I'd fly to a strange town for business and after hours without a car I would go on foot to find geocaches sometimes several miles away. Never quite knew what I was getting myself into but I made it back. I kind of liked the feeling of being lost and nobody knowing where I was. My wife doesn't share my enthusiasm for enjoying that feeling.

  3. As I was reading the question came to mind if you had seen anyone else on the path. You answered that. It doesn't seem like an area that would attract many walkers. Can't wait for next installment.

  4. It looks to be mostly a very open area. Estuaries are so important to our environment and there will be a lot of change from rising sea levels.

  5. Industry amid natural wonders can create a toxic mix when carelessly executed. You found beauty on this adventure but also, at times, the abandonment of human responsibility.

  6. it's amazing to me that no one was on the pier enjoying the river

  7. It seems rather strange that no one else was out walking but then these are strange times we live in. I do wish people would respect their environment more and not dump rubbish like they do. I can understand you sometimes feeling uneasy walking alone in these (see above).

  8. You are brave to walk through your uneasiness -- and actually not to be uneasy until just then if I am to be honest (that dump site and just the lack of people all kind of shiver-inducing). But the first part of the walk -- the interesting pier, the shorebirds, and then seeing that last bridge in the distance, that was nice! And as always thank you for sharing the research into the history of the area.

  9. What interesting history. I enjoyed seeing most of it, but I too was dismayed by all the trash. You sure did a good job chronicling and passing along all that history. Thank you!

  10. Gorgeous place to walk and lovely photography ~ Happy Week to you ~ Xo

    Living moment by moment,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  11. oh yuck about the raw sewerage, I bet it smelled awful at the time, I hope they have it sorted now.

  12. Such a shame part of the walk was on an industrial estate. I would rather extend my walk a bit and go around it, but I do understand it is not always possible. But the green bits sure do look lovely.
    I prefer walking on weekdays because of that reason: no other people or very few. It just makes it a bit more special.

  13. Hello Marie from a first time visitor who came here from Marcia’s blog. I enjoyed going along on your walk and appreciated the commentary as well. The garbage dumping was unfortunate and sadly people can be so disgraceful to nature. Despite the industrial areas, you did find some scenic spots. I too might have felt a bit uneasy on that final footpath with no one else around, and glad the journey ended safely.
    By the way, please do feel free to drop into our blog site for a visit anytime as the door is also open and comments always welcomed, read and appreciated.

  14. There are some wonderful books being published about these kinds of places - Edgelands as one of the better ones call them. They have a fantastically different feel to them.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  15. Erith Pier is very interesting. I'm amazed that it remains in such good condition given that some of the river water may be saline? We have three seaside piers at Blackpool, 10 miles from here but they don't look anything like your industrial one.

  16. Very interesting walk! Except of course the part where you had to walk on the street and past garbage bins which I suppose ensured you were not lost in history!

  17. such great places to explore. Would love to walk on the pier. And to check out the Dartford Creek Tidal Barrier.

  18. That is a long pier for a river. Guess people dumping their garbage is a universal problem.


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