From Tilbury to East Tilbury on the Thames Estuary Path

I walked from Tilbury to East Tilbury on the Thames Estuary Path, a distance of 7 miles, carrying my camera, tripod and the day's food and water. My stamina was tested, but I could not otherwise have accessed the fantastic industrial structures on the water side of the seawall. 

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I came upon the Deep Water Drilling Ship SERTAO, docked in front of the partially demolished Tilbury Power Station. Despite my preference for the use of renewable energy sources, I can't help responding to the colour and form of this fossil-fuel behemoth.

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I am drawn to “viewfinders in the landscape” – elements of built structures that I can use to set off, frame, define or interact with the remnants of more natural terrains. But the entire Estuary landscape – even its seemingly 'natural' features – has been channeled and shaped by maritime, industrial and military interventions for centuries.   

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Multiple elements comprise the flood defenses in the Thames Estuary. There are engineered Barriers – the massive Thames Barrier in Woolwich and smaller moveable barriers on the River Roding (Barking Barrier), River Darent (Dartford Barrier) and in the tidal creeks around Canvey Island (Fobbing Horse, East Haven and Benfleet Barriers). 

In places, there is a high seawall which blocks the view of the Estuary. If you are on the water side of the seawall you are invisible from the land side. These sections of the seawalls are inviting locations for graffiti.

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Supplementing the cement sea wall, grassy berms and partially paved inclines leading to the water's edge also form part of the Estuary’s flood defenses. In the event of a North Sea storm surge and in the face of rising sea levels, will existent flood defenses be sufficient to protect Estuary communities and remaining wetland habitats?

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This Radar Tower at Coalhouse Point was used to defend the Thames during World War II. It was constructed on the site of a 15-cannon military blockhouse built in the 16th century. The blockhouse is now flooded due to erosion of the river bank. This information is from the handy phone app for the Thames Estuary Path.