Coldharbour concrete (and a Thames tragedy)

Here is a picture of the concrete barges by Coldharbour Point in Havering on the River Thames. It was taken a couple of weeks ago using a mobile phone camera while I was cycling between Greenwich on the river’s south bank to the Rainham Marshes bird sanctuary in Essex.

This Sunday I shall be leading a group ride along this route for Greenwich Cyclists. If you are willing and able to join us, we depart at 11:00 from Cutty Sark Gardens by Greenwich Pier, SE10. The total distance covered will be around 80 kilometres, and will include a river crossing both ways using the Woolwich Ferry.

The cycle route takes us down large stretches of riverside paths, south and north, through industrial estates and Thames Gateway developments, and along the Rainham Marsh to Purfleet, complete with blackberry bushes heavy with fruit at this time of year. Some main road riding is unavoidable, but nothing particularly difficult. The route to Rainham includes an interesting mix of urban, industrial and green environments, and would be appreciated by anyone with an interest in the industrial heritage of the River Thames, and the regeneration of the region.

I mention the Woolwich Ferry, which has been in the news this week, though for a very sad reason. Apprentice ferryman Ben Woollacott, 19, died on Wednesday morning after falling into the river and being struck by a propeller. Ben came from a long line of Thames boatmen, and was learning his trade on the Woolwich Ferry. He died tragically doing a job for which he reportedly had a passion, and was in his blood through the generations.

Cyclists make frequent use of the Woolwich Ferry, and in doing so have contact with ferry workers who are professional and friendly, and have cyclists’ interests to heart. The Woolwich ferrymen and women are good people, and we feel for them with the loss of their young colleague. And we feel especially for Ben’s family, as they come to terms with the untimely death of one of their own.

Long may the Woollacott family continue in the tradition of the Thames boatmen.