The Rivers Darent and Thames from Slade Green to Erith.

Howbury Jacobean Barn

Howbury Jacobean Barn

This may not be a picturesque part of the Thames flood plain but it’s like a walk through time. At Slade Green station I picked up the London Loop path. It starts at the aptly named Moat Lane. On the left hand side of the path you pass Howbury Moated Grange. It could easily be overlooked. This was once the home of an official of the courts of Henry V and VI. There has been a house on this site since the Domesday Book. The last house was rebuilt in the 17th Century but was damaged in the 2nd World War and only the outer wall and moat remain; it is a listed ancient monument. Close to it is Howbury Jacobean Barn which is partly obscured by a more modern building. You can walk down the farm track to get a better view. The queen post roof is particularly fine as is the English bond brickwork. This path takes you along the River Darent and on to the Thames.

Howbury Moated Grange

Howbury Moated Grange

Until 1902 three hospital ships were moored at this point, Long Reach. The ships were The Atlas, an old man-of-war, a frigate Endymion and a Channel steamer Castalia. From 1884 all detected smallpox cases in London were sent to these ships. To the East is the Queen Elizabeth ll bridge and to the west is the Darent Flood Barrier, turn West.

Dartford Flood Barrier

Dartford Flood Barrier

This part of the Thames is a brownfield site with lots of scrap yards and light industry. Its nostalgically arresting. The sounds of guard dogs, welding and metal clattering is evocative of a time when Britain made things. There are few places that you can come across a tethered working horse on the Thames pathway. Scattered amongst the yards is an anti-aircraft battery and pillboxes. A reminder of the strategic importance of this area and that Erith was so badly bombed in the Second World War.

Thames at Long Reach

Thames at Long Reach

There is a turn in the river and dramatically the picture changes. You encounter, on the far bank of the river, the new riverside developments and lots of expensive looking yachts which belong to Erith Yacht Club. Potentially, this is a vision that will be repeated all along the Thames and its estuary. What a duller place it will be.

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