Thursday, February 17, 2011

this is a gateway

A few pictures from a brief trip out to the strange ship container and big shed landscape of West Thurrock.

Actually, this first photograph is of Rainham marshes and an oddly elegant, timber clad water tower sitting on the edge of a large pile of landfill. The top of the ladder offers a view of the Thames. Below it is a rusty metal box that presumably arrived at some point by barge and never left.

Another box but a very large and very blue one. The graduated fill effect of the bands of colour make it dissolve rather beautifully into the murky blue sky.

Lurking nearby behind a hedge was another extraordinary object, one that might have just landed, a few spurts of steam still escaping from its exhaust pipes. 

On closer inspection it turned out that it had come to ground in an old church yard and was a big, hissing chemical plant for Proctor and Gamble. If only the Lloyd's building emitted real steam too.....

The churchyard belongs to St Clement's and is maintained by Proctor & Gamble as a nature reserve. Hugh Grant fans might recognise the church as the location for the funeral scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral. 

Unable to find footpaths 142 - 169, we followed number 141 to the Thames...

....where this fearsome creature stood idly by. It is intended to scoop coal off barges on the river but can also be used to defend London from an attack of giant reptilian creatures. 

 To the east, the Thames stretches out past Thurrock itself and on to the container port at Tilbury, one of the three largest in the UK. Tilbury is the gateway to the UK for products not people, although it is also home to something called the London Cruise Terminal. A LOT of stuff comes in here: you can read some mind boggling statistics about exactly how much and what here.

Everything about the river is vast at this point; an unremittingly sombre landscape of sheds, ships, pylons, grain chutes and roll-on roll-off container trucks that operates outside of the public gaze. The logistics of how our culture feeds and supports itself is of very little interest to us it seems. It is allowed to exist in an autonomous space, completely unrepresented in mainstream culture.


Caio Fern said...

really great post !

Anonymous said...

Amazing place! Visited a while back as part of an assignment to retrace part of a Sinclair walk (Blood and Oil). If you get a chance go further up the estuary to Shoeburyness for even more watery strangeness.

Charles Holland said...

Thanks Caio

Laura, I read and really enjoyed your post before. Is the pic at the top of your blogpost the P&G chemical plant!?

Sarah Allan said...

Ahh, thank you for being coincidently relevant and also poetic. I'm trying to finish a rather tricky essay on national infrastructure policy. Have you read about the massive container port that is going to be built in Thurrock? London Gateway...a Gateway in a Gateway!

I can recommend an early morning train journey to Southend for further Thames Estuary forays - seeing the sun rise over the mud flats of Leigh on Sea is a joy to behold.