Thames Path: Thames Barrier to Crayford Ness


The official Thames Path ended at the Thames Barrier, which is where we finished a recent walk. However, there's an 'extension' - it's not an official national trail and it has a different logo, but basically, the path continues to be signposted up to Crayford Ness, where the River Darent blocks further progress.

So what could be nicer for an Easter Monday walk?

Dad came with us - there's something wrong with his foot and he wanted to go see a demonstration of some kind later on, so he brought his folding bike instead of actually walking, and left us part way through.

The surprising theme of this walk is that we managed to find many industrial operations that are actually still functional. I think this is the only part of the Thames Path where that's true.

Note: I took a large number of pictures and selected a really small proportion, so there are lots of things mentioned in the text this time that don't have a picture.


From the station there's a fairly long boring walk along the main road, because we first needed to get back to where the path was, then that path also follows the main road for a little while until it can return to the river. However, it didn't seem as long (to me at least) as it had done in the dark.

Wide selection of birds.
1/350 at f8, 17mm, ISO200 51°29′28″N 0°2′25″E
Industrial units. Can't find out what it used to be before, but it had a really big chimney.
1/500 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′36″N 0°2′56″E

On reaching the river we passed a pair of interesting old docks (now blocked up) that looked kind of like swimming pools. Very odd. (But I didn't like my pictures of this, so no picture.)

Instead, here's a random slipway in the sun.
1/750 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′39″N 0°3′32″E

Woolwich Ferry

By a strange historical quirk, Woolwich has a free passenger ferry. There are two ferry boats; they swap sides across the river all day, carrying road traffic and pedestrians, for free.

We didn't need to be on the other side of the river, but given the chance of a free ferry ride (well, two free ferry rides), it seemed churlish to pass it up.

Waiting for the ferry.
1/180 at f13, 21mm, ISO200 51°29′42″N 0°3′41″E
On the ferry, looking toward the exit.
1/350 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′48″N 0°3′49″E

On the other side, there used to be a railway museum in a disused station building, which we thought we'd have a look at. The building's still there but it's boarded up. Next, there's a foot tunnel under the Thames (apparently built because workers got fined if they were late to work because fog delayed the ferry). This is still there but it's boarded up. Hopefully not a pattern: unlike the museum, there are vague signs that the foot tunnel might reopen some year.

Rust and graffiti on metal siding to disused ferry pier.
1/180 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′55″N 0°3′48″E
Northern ferry pier approach.
1/750 at f8, 21mm, ISO200 51°29′51″N 0°3′36″E
Part of mechanism that lowers ferry ramps.
1/60 at f8, 22mm, ISO400 51°29′52″N 0°3′39″E

Thames Path to Erith

After the return ferry trip we continued eastward on the path, which remained riverside. The first part was by the massive Woolwich Arsenal site, which has been converted into housing.

One of the jetties for the Arsenal. (Flats beyond are on opposite bank, not really on the pier.)
1/500 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′47″N 0°4′37″E
Another ex-Arsenal jetty a short distance further on, complete with red sign.
1/500 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′52″N 0°4′48″E
Bicycle in mud, and family portrait. Dad is in the middle and I'm on the right holding onto my sunhat. Don't quite understand how I took the picture from there but I guess there's photographic evidence that it did happen that way...
1/180 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′52″N 0°4′49″E
Tripcock Ness light. (Named after some kind of regulation about what ships did with their anchors. Also called Margaret Ness, maybe for people who found the first name too embarrassing?)
1/750 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′31″N 0°5′32″E
North bank: Barking Creek flood barrier.
1/1000 at f8, 116mm, ISO200 51°30′32″N 0°5′41″E
North bank: sewage treatment works outfall.
1/750 at f8, 250mm, ISO200 51°30′32″N 0°5′44″E
North bank: waste/recycling plant wharf. Graffiti by sailors.
1/1000 at f8, 250mm, ISO200 51°30′34″N 0°5′58″E
Crazy water structure below (taken through bars); probably overflow for Thamesmere Lake.
1/20 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′34″N 0°6′30″E
Middle of river: Barking Power Station coolant outfall.
1/750 at f8, 171mm, ISO200 51°30′47″N 0°7′45″E
North bank: Barking Power Station coolant intake (there, that's a complete set).
1/1000 at f8, 250mm, ISO200 51°30′40″N 0°8′0″E
North bank: Ford Dagenham plant (now only produces diesel engines), Cobelfret road freight ferry to Zeebrugge.
1/1000 at f8, 214mm, ISO200 51°30′22″N 0°8′52″E

Later on we passed a massive sewage farm and a similarly massive new waste incinerator next to it. Good times.

Jetty for old Ford plant passenger ferry. Background right is a modern (working!) jetty with big red-orange cranes receiving waste for the incinerator plant (behind camera).
1/750 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′22″N 0°9′10″E
Big concrete support pillar, from whatever was here before the incinerator. (Featuring Mum.)
1/750 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′21″N 0°9′14″E

I think it's about here that Dad left us, cycling to the nearest station.

Metal thing. I guess it used to be a sign for shipping.
1/500 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′13″N 0°9′56″E
Erith beach... okay, not really, just the walkway passing the first of several aggregates yards.
1/1000 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′3″N 0°10′7″E
Disused jetty. Lettering on the sign is great - looks like it's printed in Helvetica Knackered™.
1/1000 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′0″N 0°10′11″E
Side of a lorry.
1/250 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′54″N 0°10′15″E

Nearing Erith, we passed a large complex which, I think, used to be the British Oil and Cake Mills. (Not that kind of cake.) (Insert meme here.) It's apparently the largest rapeseed oil plant in the UK and is still working, but is now owned by evil agriconglomerate Archer Daniels Midland. That makes it, I suppose, the American Oil and Cake Mills, although it just says ADM on the side.

Approaching the site.
1/1000 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′41″N 0°10′18″E
Hump as path goes over jetty entrance.
1/350 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′38″N 0°10′18″E
Large silo.
1/180 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′35″N 0°10′18″E
More silos.
1/1000 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′32″N 0°10′19″E

That was followed by a large new Conway asphalt plant. According to some information on the internet they were considering using river transport, and there does seem to have been some recent activity on their jetty.

Cranes. Tiger-stripe railings.
1/500 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′28″N 0°10′19″E
The new plant.
1/500 at f8, 21mm, ISO200 51°29′25″N 0°10′20″E


Walkway and building shadows on Thames mud.
1/350 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′1″N 0°10′40″E

Erith town itself appears to be a bit of a hole. The historic town walk sign indicates a fancy-looking pub building which is now, of course, boarded up, and a range of 'used to be' places.

We did find an open café, which was appreciated. Afterward, somebody stopped us to ask the way to McDonalds. That's how good it gets.

Only surviving part of Erith fire station (well, it extends about fifty centimetres outside the frame, but that's it). I like the fact that it's now a fire assembly point.
1/1500 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°28′50″N 0°10′42″E

To be fair, it does have a large surviving jetty from Erith Deep Wharf which is actually maintained so that you can walk all the way out on it (we did). To be less fair, this is because the rest of the wharf site is now a Morrisons.

Out to Crayford Ness

Leaving Erith, we passed another boarded-up pub, car breakers, and a paper recycling plant. So things were looking up.

The path goes along the access road to the yacht club (yes, really) and then runs along the flood-protection causeway all the way to where the River Darent joins the Thames at Crayford Ness. In that area there's a small industrial estate.

Spinning radar. Kind of looks like there should be a light on top but I can't see one.
1/750 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°28′56″N 0°12′39″E
Scrap yard bordered by wall of containers. Darent flood barrier in background.
1/350 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°28′52″N 0°12′53″E

Crayford Ness is the really-real end of the path, unless you fancy a swim. Having reached it we continued along the Darent, aiming for the railway station at Slade Green.

Sign used to say that light flashes when the flood barrier is closed; weirdly, there was a flashing red light, even though the barrier is open.
1/750 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°28′32″N 0°12′41″E

By the path to Slade Green, the OS map marked a 'Moat'. Usually when they do that kind of thing in their historic font it is rubbish, like half a ditch that hasn't seen water for the last eight hundred years. This time...

An actual moat.
1/250 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°28′3″N 0°11′53″E

So that was a nice end to the walk. We reached Slade Green station shortly after and got a train back.

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.