Dovercourt’s historic lighthouses

Dove2

The twin lighthouses at Dovercourt have been a fixture on the landscape since the 1860s.  Iron-framed, they sit 200m apart, linked by a stone causeway that extends out into Dovercourt Bay.  As you can see from the photograph above, this is completely covered at high tide.

Dove4

The differing heights of the two lighthouses are significant, allowing the lights to be aligned as ships approach.  The inner lighthouse stands 15m high, while the smaller one is about 4m lower.  Commissioned by Trinity House in 1862, they replaced the two redundant lighthouses in Harwich, a short way along the coast, which had become unreliable due to migrating sand bars in the Stour Estuary.  For more on Harwich, see my earlier blog post here:

https://juliamhammond.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/harwich-the-town-that-rocked/

Dove1

With the installation of marker buoys indicating the approach to Harwich harbour, the Dovercourt lighthouses became obselete, like the Harwich ones before them.  In 1917, they were decommissioned, falling into a state of disrepair before being renovated in the 1980s.

Dove5

The beach today is one of just five in Essex that has been awarded the coveted Blue Flag in recognition of the cleanliness of both the beach and the water.  Off season, the beach is dog friendly, and with Felixstowe’s dock cranes framing the horizon, it’s a pleasant place to let them run.  If you’re planning to take your pooch, make sure you clean up after them to keep the beach in pristine condition.

Advertisements

LV18, Harwich

In Harwich, there is one vessel on the quayside that you just can’t ignore, not least because of its scarlet livery.  Built in 1958, LV18 was Trinity House’s last manned light vessel before it was retired from service in 1994.  But as with the Harbour Ferry, this was a boat that wasn’t going to go quietly, thanks to one man – the ebullient and utterly charming Tony O’Neil.  He bought the vessel for a nominal £1 and the Pharos Trust was set up to oversee its restoration.  It opened in 2011 as Harwich’s quirkiest visitor attraction.

GA12

A musician by trade, Tony has a passion for radio. Visitors to the ship can see some of his extensive collection of antique and vintage radios on board, but with an estimated 1600 in his collection, some remain in storage in the hold.  That passion for radio also manifests itself in broadcasting.  Tony once worked for Radio Caroline and his enthusiasm for pirate radio is undimmed.  The likes of John Peel, Tony Blackburn, Emperor Rosko and Johnnie Walker all broadcast from radio ships anchored just outside UK territorial waters and the tenders that facilitated their commute came from Harwich.

The Barge Graveyard at Maldon

Maldon’s Promenade Park is a popular recreational spot, but tucked away at its easternmost point is a less visited spot.  Known locally as the Barge Graveyard, it’s the final resting place for the old wooden sailing barges that have come to the end of their useful life.  Left to the elements, the tide breaks them down and slowly they rot away to nothing.

DSC_0013

There’s no information or signage on site that offers clues to the provenance of the barges, though the Citizan website has this to say:

“Lying in the Graveyard are the remains of Thames sailing barges British Lion, Vicunia, Pretoria, Mamgu; a lighter; an Admiralty launch, a fishing vessel built in either Scandinavia or Belgium as well as several other vessels.”

DSC_0027

The Visit Maldon District website has a little more detail about when some of the barges were built.  The British Lion was built in 1879, whereas the Vicunia was a much later vessel, dating from 1912.  To put these dates into context, the use of the Thames Barge for commercial purposes peaked around 1914 before going into decline.  Once, transporting goods such as straw, horse feed, bricks and cement to London would have been done by water, with the flat bottoms of the barges perfectly designed to navigate the shallow waters of this marshy coastline.  But then along came faster transport by rail and road and the barges were consigned to history.

DSC_0017 1

The Visit Maldon District website also explains that some of the boats were partially broken up before being brought to Maldon.  The Pretoria is one such vessel, broken up downriver, with the bottom lying here at the Graveyard.  It was commonplace to break up the barges for scrap and salvage before dumping what was worthless in the mud.

DSC_0029

To get a sense of what some of the boats might once have looked like, it’s an easy stroll along the Chelmer to Hythe Quay.  It’s now the main location where you’ll see such barges in Essex.  Kitty, Hydrogen and Lady Jean are among the active barges based at Maldon.  For a full list, visit the Sailing Barge Research website:

http://www.sailingbargeresearch.org.uk/pages/active_barges_page_1.htm

Topsail Charters offer trips out; periodically these are day sails that teach you a little of the history, bird life and landscape through which you’re travelling.  It’s also possible to follow by barge on race days; Maldon next hosts a barge race in mid-June 2017.  You can find the full public trips schedule here:

http://www.top-sail.co.uk/cruises/day-trips-programme/

DSC_0031 (2)

Those vessels that aren’t quite finished also open periodically for tours.  s.b. Pudge, s.b. Centaur and Steam Tug Brent welcome visitors on 30th April and 1st May 2017.  Entry is free but donations are gratefully received.