Thames Estuary Maunsell Forts

Part 1 - The Journey Out

The excursion took place on a RHIB (Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat) that has been especially designed to take visitors out to see the sights along the north Kent coast. The boat was operated by Bayblast who specialise in this kind of excursion (note: Bayblast's website no longer appears to be on-line so the company may no longer be trading). Our excursion was to start at Herne Bay.

Looking out to sea, the recently built Kentish Flats wind farm is unavoidable. If you look really carefully, right on the horizon, you can just about see a cluster of dark objects - this is in fact Shivering Sands fort, one of the locations that we were about to go out to visit.

The first thing we were to see on our journey was the end of Herne Bay pier. When originally built, Herne Bay Pier (one of three built for the town) was the second longest pier in the country, measuring 1147m in length, with South End on Sea being the only longer pier in the country. It was designed with both promenading and also to allow steamers to dock for passenger services.

It closed and reopened at various times during its life but the final blow came when the pier from the pavilion built at its shore end was closed as it was deemed to be in an increasingly dangerous state. The remaining length was demolished in 1979, but curiously the very end of the pier was left intact. Today, the structure is dangerous to board, but nevertheless remains, never to be connected to land again.

Being so close to shore, it is a popular location for small boats and jet skis to visit.

Once we were out of the harbour area, where there were many small boats and jet skiers, we powered up to our maximum speed of 25 knots (according to the GPS). For about 20 minutes, we skimmed over the sea, which was incredibly calm. In fact, I've never been on a boat when the sea is this calm! As we traveled along, we skirted around the Kentish Flats wind farm, the largest wind farm in the UK.

The Thames estuary is a very busy shipping lane and during our journey, several container ships and ferries intersected our path. As we travelled over their wake, the boat momentarily left the water only to come crashing down the other side of the wave - the only waves we were to experience diring the entire trip!

As there was a haze on the horizon, Knock John fort wasn't visible for a while but then, appearing like a pagoda designed during the industrial revolution, it appeared on the horizon and slowly loomed into view.

On to Part 2 - Knock John Fort

Back to index


The images on this page at the published resolution are © 2006 Hywel Williams. You may re-use any of these images for non-commercial use as long as I'm credited the copyright.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.