Tuesday, July 7, 2020

July OMG : Plus Quilt

Hi everyone! Two months, two little quilts. Let's try to kick it up a notch. 

Over 20 years ago -- you know, when I quilted -- I bought a bunch of wintry / snowflakey fabric with the idea that I would make a quilt. And then, as so often happens with me, it just went into my stash. 

I want a simple project for my first big quilt in a long time, so found a handsome pattern on For the Love of George

Things seem crazier than usual right now -- not sure why, but maybe it's just summer. So my tiny little One Monthly Goal is to cut out the fabric. As it's a simple strip-cut pattern, I should be able to get that done! As a stretch goal, let's see if I can lay out the random(ish) blocks. 

The One Monthly Goal link-up is organized by Elm Street Quilts with the idea that we can just focus on one task and make progress. You can see all the new July projects -- or add your own -- on the Goal Setting page. (You can also see how people did in June on the Finish Party page!)

Travel Tuesday : the Thames Path day 17 - Dartford to Gravesend

Walked June 15, 2002

Today was a relatively short -- and uninspiring -- walk from Dartford, up along the Darent to the Thames then along the river (most of the way anyway) to Gravesend.

I took the train to Dartford and found the other side of the Darent River in town. I noticed that the river was foamy, and  passed a factory ("mill") emitting a frothy green goo directly into the river.

Huge clouds of wobbling, billowing foam gathered at the outfall, and occasionally a large clump would be caught by the wind and lifted in the air a few yards downstream.

Further along I negotiated an underpass filled with a 6-inch-deep mixture of manure and mud by balancing on a narrow concrete wall. All was peaceful for a while -- concrete bunkers, remnants of WW2, now manned only by some very antsy cows, the river doubling back on itself, songbirds and rustling reeds by the river. 

Then another sound -- the whine of the motorcycle. To my surprise, a large motorcross course stretched off to my right, with dozens of riders flying over jumps, bouncing over hoop-de-dos, and wiping out on hairpin turns. I suppose a distant arsh is a good place for that sort of thing -- with the exception of the handful of caravans inhabited by people living off the grid -- no neighbors to complain about the noise. 

Motorcycles have become something of a recurring theme on my walk, as -- with the single exception of plastic soda bottles -- burnt-out motorcycles are the most prevalent item left along the path or in the shallows of the river. I had been keeping an unofficial tally of ruined bikes from the source to this point in the back of mynotebook and can report to you that I have seen 27 dead motorcycles. At one memorable point, I saw three motorcycles in varying states of decay, all in the same small stretch of river. I felt like I had stumbled across the fabled motorcycle graveyard...

But these motorcycles were very much alive, and being ridden by a wide variety of people, from a 20-something woman, her hair falling out of her helmet as she took a break and waved at me; to a young boy on a small bike, looking like a proud papa. Later I would see four young boys clad only in shorts and flip flops who zoomed up to me on 2 rattling motorcycles. I chatted with them for a few minutes; they told me they come out here every weekend to ride. They could practice on hills and on loose dirt, and it was the perfect place to learn. They seldom saw walkers, and viewed me with some interest. Walking to Gravesend? That seemed very far. They offered me a go on one of the bikes, but, mindful of my operating-room-nurse-mother's request that I never ride without a helmet, I politely declined, and the raced off along the seawall. 

I arrived back at the flood barrier (albeit on the other side of the Darent) to continue my Thames walk. 

I soon became aware of another establishment well-suited for the empty marshes: a rifle range. As I walked along the seawall  I was very happy to see that a higher, secondary earthen wall stood between me and the rifle range. The pop-pop-pop of gunfire was unnerving as I wondered which direction they were firing. I wondered how think of an earth wall it would take to stop a bullet. I wondered if I'd hear the fateful bullet come whizzing toward me. I also wondered if I, Matrix-like, would somehow be able to avoid it. (Doubtful.)

I continued down the seawall, each gunshot making me wince, though I reasoned that, whether or not they were concerned about striking the occasional walker on the footpath, there were presumably stritch laws against shooting at shipping on the river. 
A few hundred yards along and I could finally relax, and that "duck-in-a-shooting-gallery" feeling disappeared. Looking upstream on the Thames estuary:

There are plenty of pleasant sights along the estuary, though this surprisingly non-smelly sewage works was not one of them. Did I mention that the estuary is the largest nature preserve in Britain? 

I passed underneath the soaring Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, the above-ground part of the Dartford Crossing (two tunnels go under the river). Sadly, there's no pedestrian option here, though I assume there are buses. 

I was able to keep to the river most of the way, with only an occasional jog inland to go around some old factory or  shiny new ASDA.

Looking downstream near Stone Marshes (note: that's what my notes say; but I don't see that name on a map!)

I know I stepped off the path to the river bed, thinking it would be stony and solid. Nope. I nearly lost a shoe in the mud! See this sign on the disused jetty? They're not kidding! 

I walked out on the jetty; here's a view upstream toward the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. I can't tell you how much I wish this bridge had a pedestrian lane!

One inland jaunt took me down the old High Street in Greenhithe, with its two pubs and some old shops converted to housing. At the end of the High Street I came out into a small riverside garden and noticed that, for the first time, the air smelled of the sea. The salt and seaweed smell reminded me of home, where I'd be returning in just over two weeks. 

The path then led out onto the Swanscombe Marshes, lush and green and pleasant. I was getting a little antsy as, according to my map, the only footpath cut inland across the neighboring salt marshes, and I didn't want to miss a turn and end up boxed in with a chainlink fence ahead of me. I somehow managed to pick the correct path when faced with a variety of dirt roads in the marsh and found my way. Again I was amazed by the level of detail in the Ordinance Survey maps and could predict exactly where I needed to be by the power line pylons, the tiny canals, and the occasional small shed, all marked on the maps. 

Funny estuary art, at Swanscombe Marsh:

Once across the marsh, an industrial estate (including a warehouse for "Land of Leather" ... sadly a furniture company...) came between me and the river and I was forced to turn up the A226 into Rosherville. I was looking for a footpath headed back toward the river and got lucky on my first try. It led me down a narrow, rubble-lined path  opening out onto a wider paved path that ran through a large factory of sorts. Everything was coated with a thick, grey durst, and I later discovered that it was a cement plant called Blue Circle Cement works.

Past a few large buildings and the main office I saw a sculpture that looked quite a bit like a seated Frank Lloyd Wright garden sprite. It turned out to be a handsome, art deco Britannia atop a memorial to the men of Bevans -- the cement works founded by Thomas Bevan on this site -- who died in the Great War.  As the Historic England site notes, it's appropriate that a war memorial honoring the employees of a cement works is made of cement. I should also point out that amid the dust, the memorial was very clean, so was clearly being looked after. 

Thomas Bevan founded a cement works here in the late 19th century, when I walked it was the Blue Circle Cement works. Staring and aerial views in Google Maps, it seems like the cement works has been demolished, though the war memorial, being protected, is still there.

Then inland again, and around some large buildings, but then back out to the river for my first glimpse of Gravesend. I passed the old gates to the now disappeared Rosherville Pier, built in the 19th century to receive ferries from London full of visitors to the nearby Rosherville Gardens. The pier was used as a mine-spotting platform during WW2, watching for parachute mines dropped by the Germans. 

Once in Gravesend I passed the old ferry dock, once home to the much missed Gravesend-Tilbury foot and bicycle ferry. Taken out of service in 2001, there was no way for pedestrians to cross the river unless they retreated all the way to Woolwich. I'm happy to see that in 2020 the ferry is back in service.

But I had to look across the river sadly to Tilbury Fort -- surprised at how low-lying and unimpressive it looked -- and recited one of history's great political speeches to myself. 

The speech, of course, was Queen Elizabeth's famous Tilbury address, when she appeared, armoured, on horseback, in front of her troops readying themselves to defend against the invasion of the Spanish Armada. 
I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too...
establishing herself both as a warrior queen and an object of desire to her subjects. Genius.

An annual pageant is held each year on the anniversary of the Tilbury speech, complete with Gloriana Triumphant rallying the troops. 

Leaving the river to get to the town center, I passed the Princess Pocahontas Memorial in the churchyard of St. George's Gravesend. disney fans (with the exception of the 47 who saw Pocahontas II) may be surprised to learn that the Native American woman doesn't end up living happily ever after with Captain John Smith, but instead marries John Rolfe and then journeying to England where she became a celebrity and even met James I. Preparing for a return to Virginia, Pocahontas became ill and died of unknown causes in Gravesend and was buried with great ceremony in 1617. 110 years later the church burned down, but was rebuild in 1732. The statue here is actually a replica of one standing in Virginia, depicting Pocahontas in a flared, knee-length buckskin gown... surely more an expression of 1950s American views of Native Americans than anything based in fact.

I spent the day walking rather than watching the Ireland - Spain game in the World Cup. As the first game in the knockout, one team would go through to the quarter finals and the other would go home. As I walked through Swanscombe, I heard a woman say, "Oh no! They've scored!"

Without thinking I blurted out, "Ireland or Spain???" in a voice evidently loud enough for her to hear through the window. "Spain" she said, and then there was a weird silence as she probably realized that I wasn't the person she thought she'd been talking to. This weighed on me a bit for the remainder of the walk, but on the outskirts of Gravesend I heard a noisy whoop and another woman shouting, "C'mon Ireland, just one more!" 

I figured that Ireland was down 1-2 and needed another goal to draw even. A few more minutes later (when, given the time, I assumed the match was over) I walked into a pub to find that it was still underway, but but in "Golden Goal" overtime. (Isn't "Golden Goal" so much nicer than "Sudden Death"?)

Two scoreless 15-minute overtimes later and it came to the cruelest of sporting moments, the penalty shootout. 

It seems the easiest thing in the world -- one on one with the goalkeeper, banging the ball in the back of the net. The shooter has the great advantage, only rarely is a ball blocked. I had once, long ago, won a packet of cigarettes -- a handsome price I then bestowed on some surprised viewers -- at a town fair somewhere in Turkey for putting 3 penalties past a keeper. I think I got lucky on the first two -- the keeper was so amused at being faced by a woman he barely moved at my first strike. I guess he thought I had just been a fluke on my first one when I beat him with my second shot. My third -- the one for the prize -- I managed to sneak by him by somehow putting the ball in the top right corner. A true lucky shot for me. Of course, the Turkish men watching this all unfold heaped scorn on the keeper for being beaten BY A WOMAN. They also congratulated my then boyfriend for having such a useful "wife". 

I watched the torment -- in, in, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, in, in, in -- in a small pub in Gravesend, moaning and shouting with the rest of the clientele. When the game was finally over, and Spain had won on penalties 3-2, I felt drained and tired and ready to go home. 

Up next : Gravesend to Allhallows-on-Sea

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Travel Tuesday : the Thames Path, day 16 - Thames Barrier to Dartford Creek Barrier

Walked June 10, 2002

I felt pretty nervous before this stretch of my walk. I was going to be walking without a guidebook, with just a map and some hopefully decent (existing?) signage. 

I wasn't even going to walk ... I got up and put on my gym clothes, and then opened the curtains to find a bright blue sky in Fulham. Given the wet, stormy forecast for the weekend, I decided to seize the day. I bustled round, throwing stuff in my rucksack while listening to the radio. Got the news I had been listening for... France lost to Denmark 201 in their final World Cup game. Une trag├ędie nationale.

I headed out to the Thames Barrier again, via tube and then bus. I walked back from the road to the barrier to ty to figure out the pathmarker signs. After much wandering around, I reluctantly accepted that I needed to go back up the Green Chain walk and up to the road where I had gotten off the bus. I got a sick, scared feeling, compounded by the fact that the skies were suddenly filled with black clouds and an icy breeze started to blow. I actually toyed with the idea of just going back to the road and getting on a bus headed back to the Dome. Perhaps a stop at the eco-friendly Sainsburys that looked like where the Teletubbies live (now, apparently the eco-friendly store has been demolished...).

As I trudged up the path I went around a corner and saw a flash of red: a fox stood in the path only a few feet away and we both froze. I imagine we both looked like cartoon characters, rearing back, eyes popped out of our heads. The fox recovered first and leapt into the high grass, disappearing in an instant. 

I took this as a good sign, and went on with my walk. Arriving back at the road, I saw the Thames Path Extension marker about 10 feet from the bus stop where I had alighted. Grumble grumble. But as the rain held off, I went on my way.

As I meandered along a busy road and past a roundabout, I noticed that the arrows on the fingerposts had been replaced with ships. Perhaps an admission that oaks are few and far between on this stretch of the river. Then again, masted sailing vessels are pretty rare here too.  

Wandering through a housing estate (left, left, right, right, left, right, left, right) I finally regained the river in Charlton.

A few hundred yards along I came to an elaborate, modern footbridge -- named "Linkbridge 2000" according to its sign -- which crossed not a stream or a canal but a brick and concrete wall. Why they couldn't just put a doorway through the brick wall I can't say... At least it's a handsome and interesting structure.

Shortly thereafter the path was signed away from the river -- but the fingerpost was somewhat ambiguous. did it really want me to go through the old housing estate? Or did it want me to go to the main road? Given my horror of doubling back, I decided to go to the main road where I knew I could get through. Oh, me of little faith. But, umm, I did get to experience a main road in downtown Woolwich:

As traffic sped past me, I notice a path --- so close, yet so far -- on the other side of a fence. Sure, it wound through an old brownfield site full of litter, but it was a bit more peaceful.

I made my way to the tiny Woolwich ferry -- that yellow tower is the MIDDLE of the boat. This is the only vehicle ferry on the Thames, and I'm sad I didn't realize that pedestrians could use it too! While writing this up for the blog I found a fascinating article about the ferry from Reuters | The Wider Image with glorious photos and some good history. (There has been a river crossing here since Saxon times!)

The good thing is that I was able to rejoin the path at the loading dock. I suddenly realized just where Luton Airport is when I saw this plane landing!

These little ferries cross the river constantly throughout the day -- cheaper than a bridge, eh? Coming as I do from Seattle, where some of our ferries are large enough to span the Thames at Woolwich, I found these fat little ones sweetly amusing. They load and unload pretty quickly at either end, though the process took longer than the short trip across the river. The two boats -- the James Newman and the Ernest Bevin on my day; the third, John Burns, must have had the day off -- changed places in about 10 minutes.

I also regret that I hadn't realized there was a TUNNEL under the Thames at Woolwich. I never saw this handsome entrance, even:

Image from thames-path.org.uk

Note that the fingerposts are legion! I would love to take a little round trip of the ferry and bath through the foot tunnel. Next time, next time...

The fingerposts on my walk had been messed with and turned the wrong way, but the path continued along the river until it reached the former Royal Woolwich Arsenal:

The old Royal Woolwich Arsenal was in the process of being turned into yuppie housing.... still, if it preserves part of the building, then it's a good thing.

Tilfen, the folks doing conversion, built a fine new stretch of path: 

Soon the path became more rural along Galleons Reach--built on a former landfill. It reminded me of a conversation I had in a pub a few days before, where I was informed that the only new greenspace anymore was old landfills, now grassed over. You get it where you can, I suppose.


I could see the Barking Barrier in the distance:

Walking along Barking Reach I passed this WW2 pillbox guarding the Thames: 

And I had a good view of the Barking Barrier across the river:

On a strange little viewing platform in Barking Reach, one suspects opened with much fanfare by a local politician, I looked downstream:

I was a bit nervous, as my map indicated that I would have to make a lengthy detour around the new sewage works at crossness. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the "Crossness Path" was open -- a stretch of river front that had been closed to the public for some 150 years and reopened in 2000. First up was one of my favorite buildings in the world: Bazalgette's Crossness Pumping Station, which still houses its mighty beam engines. I'm thrilled to discover that it's now a museum, and has a beautiful website full of interior and exterior images: http://www.crossness.org.uk/

It's not as elaborate externally as its glorious counterpoint at Abbey Mills, its handsome brickwork and gothic touches elevate the structure from its onerous task. (Note: I wrote this in 2002. I was a bit more sonorous then!) Seriously, it's gorgeous inside: 

photo by Peter Scrimshaw, from crossness.org.uk
Bazalgette, I should note, was the savior of London when he designed the London sewers. He's a marvellous engineer. 

As I walked past the enormous tanks of sewage, I thanked my lucky stars that a fresh breeze was blowing in off the river and that, obviously, sewage treatment technology had improved so much that even these gazillion-gallon tanks emitted no odors. 

The wind changed suddenly, blowing full force over the tanks and into my nostrils. It was like the worst outhouse I'd ever smelled -- and then made more intense. I felt like a stablehand in the Augean stables, or as if I had my head inside a sewer; the stench made me retch and it was only my empty stomach that kept me from actually vomiting. 

Unsurprisingly, the path ahead was completely deserted so no one got to witness my mad dash to get away from the tanks, hands clapped over my face while I breathed shallowly through my mouth. I was only about 100 yards away from the end of the tanks, but it seemed like miles. Finally, the tanks just behind me, the wind changed back and I could slacken my pace. 

I looked up and noticed a strange, metal-clad building -- all swoops and curves, like a more restrained Guggenheim Bilbao. Later I learned that it was the new sludge-powered sewage treatment plant. I like that they built a stylish modern building rather than just an ugly box.

Sludge power! 

From there the path wandered pas more industrial land -- vast warehouses, rusting metal sheds, gravel conveyors (who knew there was such a big market for gravel?), mysterious tanks and silos. Across the river I could see the massive Ford Motor Factory, and the ferries that cross the river with its workforce:

As I approached Erith everything was super industrial. I like the built environment -- even factories -- but it's pretty clear why I was the only person on the path here.

I could also see an enormous landfill across the river in Coldharbour -- mainly evident by the swarms of seagulls following the dumptrucks. Part of it still looked -- at that distance, anyway -- like a field of flowers... an illusion aided, I'm sure, by the millions of brightly colored plastic shopping bags waving in the breeze.

This sign, near Erith, made me chuckle. If the razor wire isn't enough to keep out trespassers, perhaps this friendly sign will help... 

I the path essentially disappeared here, so I had to turn away from the river and into the streets. This did take me to the pretty Erith Riverside Gardens, so it wasn't so bad:

I also spotted the White Hart, Erith, where I decided it was time to take a break... just in time to catch the end of the Ireland game. Ireland made it to the knockout rounds, having just defeated Saudi Arabia 3-0. In my hopeful mood, I noted that an England - Ireland final was still possible. (Sigh.)

The crowd in the pub was happy and chatty, and being the only female in the place I attracted a lot of attention. "Come watch the footie, darling" and so on. But I sat, wrote, sipped a pint, and then moved on.

My notes refer to this as the "deep water jetty, Erith", but I think it's Erith Pier. Which may be a new name for the older structure? 

I walked out on to it and could see Queen Elizabeth II Bridge far in the distance:

I also saw some graffiti written by one Hanna Downey. "Ben Smith is a gay wanker." Perhaps this is the result of a lover's quarrel, because Hanna also <3s Damien M. 

Looking back along the pier toward Erith:

I left the town of Erith and returned to a nice path through Crayford Ness:

Before long I reached the end of the Thames Path Extension:

I continued along the Cray Riverway to the mouth of the Darent River, seeing QE2 bridge in the distance. 

I turned up the muddy Darent at low tide, walking toward the Darent Flood Barrier.

You'd think this would make a good spot for a footbriddge... but really the Darent Flood Barrier (also known as the Dartford Creek Barrier) doesn't have one. From the side it's just a giant wall, blocking my path. At the time I wrote that a footbridge was envisioned in 2005 or so. An article from Remote London from 2019 says that there's still no pedestrian access, but "Instead, the river path heads inland, along the Darent and Cray rivers. This creates a lengthy, but interesting detour for walkers of the Thames Path." 

So I walked up the Darent, feeling a million miles away from London. Here's a look back:

according to RemoteLondon.com
The Darent here is one of the last remaining natural tidal creeks in London. Silting and reduced flow mean that very few boats now disturb the wildlife, but this was once an important trade artery for industry, with river traffic recorded as far back as pre-Roman times.
I passed these sweet and friendly horses on Dartford Marshes:

And an old moated building on Howbury Farm:

I love how England is dotted with ancient structures. In writing up this post I did a little research; this medieval site is listed as a "scheduled monument" and contains a moated structure, walls, and inside a ruined house known as Howbury, dati.g from the 16th or 17th century.

Here's the site as seen on Google Maps:

I'd walked 11-ish miles, so decided to call it a day, walking up "Moat Lane" (hee hee) to Slade Green station and heading home. 

Next up: Darent to Gravesend