From the Bata Factory you take the Princess Margaret Road to Coalhouse Fort. I love the name of the road as it adds to the 1950s feel of the place. Coalhouse Fort is at the end of the road, set in parklands on the bank of the Thames.
Waiting for a new purpose. That’s what struck me when I saw it. Built 1861-74 partly under the direction of General Gordon it is on the site of an older fort. It became England’s first line of defence against the French ironclads. The French launched the first steam propelled ironclad war ship the Gloire in 1859. The fort was to counter the threat of invasion and remained occupied until after the Second World War. It was sold to Thurrock Council in 1962.
On the day I visited the fort was closed but you can walk around the perimeter and through the parkland. The fort has limited opening days and you can find details on the Coalhouse Fort Project. It is physically more imposing than its neighbour Tilbury Fort but in much worse state of repair. In the grounds there are remnants of the Second World war including an elaborate Pill Box and an old radar tower designed to look like a water tower to fool the enemy.
The parkland offers a combination of saltmarsh and grassland. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The paths are well laid out and will take you to the edge of the river. Notices by Ranger Ray Reeves warn you not to stray from the paths. It is one of those places that allows a big sky vista. There are good views over to Thames Gateway.
It’s got a lot to offer. Striking parkland, river views, interesting wildlife, children’s play area and historic interest – it’s just a pity it isn’t open more frequently. Perhaps a new purpose would assist this.