Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Tilbury Gravesend Passenger Ferry

Not many people know about this ferry service, down-river from central London, crossing the Thames at what is a surprisingly narrow stretch of the river. Kent and Essex councils both have some information about the service, which apparently was suspended for some time when the boat was out of action. Worth checking it's running if you plan to take it!

It's run by the Lower Thames and Medway Passenger Boat Company. Supposedly there's a shuttle bus from Tilbury train station down the the docks but I wouldn't count on it - not only is there no information at the train station when you arrive, there's nothing at the actual docks!

Could be waiting a loooong time

I nearly gave up, but one of the people lingering about that I spoke to told me that there was a ferry, and it would just pull up at the other end of the floating dock carpark area. Whilst I waited I chatted with another cyclist who was equally in the dark as to whether the boat even existed - he had also taken the train down from London.

It's quite a pretty spot if the weather is good. Nearby are the large container docks which make Tilbury the primary cargo ship unloading point for London. It's all fairly industrial, but quiet at the weekend.

After not too long, a small boat came across from Gravesend, pointing into the current and dodging a large container boat heading out into the estuary.

On board, I handed over 2UKP70 for the one-way crossing. The sum of the passengers was the other cyclist, a foreign couple, and myself. Must be subsidised by the councils I suppose, but then as I bought my ticket he did flick through a large wad of notes to give me my change.

Price list

The Duchess Ferry

The short crossing complete, I headed off along my favourite canal towpath towards the Medway, pausing only for a small blackberry feast!

The Rest of the Ride

Mid-Kent Canal towpath

A Beritable Feast!

Over and into Strood, passing the nuclear sub (as you do):

Nuclear Russian Sub near Rochester Castle

On the other side, I follow the coast around past Chatham.

The Historic Dockyard at Chatham
The Docks at Chatham have a personal significance for me - this is where my Grandfather Cliff was stationed during WW2, though he actually only every went there once - to be discharged after the end of the war!

There's supposed to be a Nelson Brewery ("England expects... every man to drink our beer"!) somewhere inside, but I'm damned if I can find it (I've looked twice now)!

Not really fancying cycling in the dark for the last stretch, I planned to hop on the train. Tough, there aren't any. Engineering works, yet again!

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