Skip to main content

On the Beach in East Tilbury, Essex

A view up the "beach" at East Tilbury, near to Coalhouse Fort.
The best thing about road cycling as a pastime is that you can literally put a pin into a map and cycle to most places - within obvious limitations

I had little else to do on warm but hazy Saturday 17th May and so I decided I was going to ride to a 'beach' somewhere towards the Thames estuary. It was a month or two after returning from Uganda and I hadn't done any 'big rides' since riding overnight from Walthamstow to Warwick in March.

The conditions were: as I was riding alone, I needed ready access to a station should I have a breakdown; there had to be something of at least mediocre interest at my destination; and that I should be able to cycle there primarily on B roads.

Sasha, the radar station and the marshy foreshore in East Tilbury.
As things turned out, with the magic of Strava and Garmin, I ended up in East Tilbury, Essex. Granted, the village is pretty with a few pubs, and plenty of clapboard buildings, but the highlight was Coalhouse Fort and an old radar installation down on the shoreline.

The fort, in its current incarnation, was built as paranoia over a potential invasion from the French was reaching new levels in the government. It also played a role during both World Wars before closing in the 1950s. Now it is run by volunteers and sits at the end of a surprisingly pretty riverside path which heads towards Grays.

One word of warning though. As I was down on the beach with Sasha, my Specialized Allez, watching a large ship go by, I thought all was calm. Around two minutes later, however, the bow-wave from the ship finally reached the shore, and the water quickly became ferocious. Fortunately, only one water bottle was lost in the watery escapade.

For more about Coalhouse Fort visit: http://www.coalhousefort.co.uk/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Atay Maghrebi: To Essaouira and the Atlantic

Leaving Marrakech, the landscape stays flat, except for a few distant outcrops of rock. The sensation of the inhospitality of the environment creeps up on you as the olive groves become fewer and further between and rough scrub runs away to the base of distant hills.
Eventually, the landscape starts to undulate as you pass through small towns like Sid L’Mokhtar, and, after two hours, Morocco simply runs out of land as the coach starts to plummet down to the Atlantic coastline and the peeling whitewash of Essaouira’s medina.

The morning started with the obligatory slices of sweet cake dipped into apricot jam, with a side of yoghurt and coffee. I had a chat with Merissa who was already awake and wearing sunglasses like she was nursing a hangover.
I packed up my bags and meandered my way out of the medina towards Bab Laksour to get a taxi.
Having learned the lesson last year that taxi metres are always mysteriously broken in Marrakech, I readied myself for a battle with the driver who…

Atay Maghrebi: Out of the Dark and into Jemaa El-Fnaa

The night time offers a wealth of opportunity and intrigue in almost any country, but when I'm somewhere where my understanding of the language extends to just a handful of phrases and disconnected words, I find it all the more enthralling. Marrakech genuinely quickens the pulse and widens the eyes by night, with the famous Jemaa El-Fnaa as its wildly arrhythmic beating heart.

After a day of perfectly idle wandering and preparing for my journey to Essaouira, I sat up on the roof terrace, ordered atay, read the ending of Alex Garland’s The Beach and waited for sunset.

During this time, a Dutch woman and a Belgian man sat near to me and started to talk about a range of subjects. Most of their discussion was centred around the regular banalities of two travellers who don’t know each other well and clearly don’t have a great deal in common.
Shortly before sunset, the Belgian man caught my attention as he started to regale his newfound friend with quotes from the Quran taken both ou…

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English.
From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together).
She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing.
In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the widow’s nephew, bound for Mogadishu – still called