Thames Estuary

Thames Estuary

The Thames Estuary is the area in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.

It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary [ [ Countryside Agency definition of the Greater Thames Estuary] ] , although physically the head of ‘’Sea Reach‘’, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary. The eastern boundary, as suggested in a Hydrological Survey of 1882-9, is a line drawn from North Foreland in Kent via the "Kentish Knock lighthouse" to Harwich in Essex. It is to here that the typical estuarine sandbanks extend [ [ Part of the Admiralty chart showing the sandbanks] ] . The estuary has the world's second largest tidal movement, where the water can rise by 4 metres moving at a speed of 8 miles per hour.

The estuary is one of the largest of 170 such inlets on the coast of Great Britain. It constitutes a major shipping route, with thousands of movements each year including large oil tankers, container ships, bulk carriers and roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ferries entering the estuary for the Port of London and the Medway Ports of Sheerness, Chatham and Thamesport.

The Thames sailing barge worked in this area, designed to be suitable for the shallow waters in the smaller ports. One of the largest wind farms in the UK has been developed in the estuary, located 8.5km north of Herne Bay. The farm contains 30 wind turbines generating a total of 82.4MW of electricity. The much larger London Array of up to 1GW capacity is also planned.

The Greater Thames Estuary

The appellation Greater Thames Estuary [ [ The Thames Estuary Partnership] ] applies to the coast and the low-lying lands bordering the estuary itself. These are characterised by the presence of salt marshes, mudflats and open beaches: in particular the North Kent Marshes and the Essex Marshes. Rising sea levels in places may make it necessary to flood some of that land to take the pressure off the defences. Man-made embankments are backed by reclaimed wetland grazing areas; there are many smaller estuaries, including the Rivers Colne, Blackwater and Crouch; and there are small villages concerned with a coastal economy (fishing, boat-building, and yachting) [ [ English Nature and the Greater Thames Estuary] ] . The Isle of Sheppey, Foulness Island and Mersea Island are part of the coastline

Where higher land reaches the coast there are some larger settlements, such as Clacton-on-Sea (to the north in Essex), Herne Bay in Kent, and the Southend-on-Sea area within the narrower part of the estuary

The Thames Estuary is part of Thames Gateway, designated as one of the principal development areas in Southern England.

This area has had several proposed sites for the building of a new airport to supplement, or even to replace Heathrow. In the 1960s Maplin Sands was a contender; in 2002 it was to be at Cliffe, Kent. The new airport would be built on a man-made island in the estuary north of Minster-in-Sheppey [ [ The Thames Estuary Airport Ltd] ] There is also some discussion about the need for a Lower Thames Crossing in order to alleviate traffic congestion at Dartford.

Cultural references

Joseph Conrad's (1906) contains a memorable description of the area as seen from the Thames. It is also described in the first pages of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, as both the launching place of England's great ships of exploration and colonization and, in ancient times, the site of colonization of the British Isles by the Roman Empire.

The form of speech of many of the people of the area, principally the accents of those from Kent and Essex, is often known as Estuary English.


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  • Estuary English — noun A form of English influenced by Cockney, spoken in the Thames Estuary and surrounding areas • • • Main Entry: ↑estuary * * * ˌEstuary ˈEnglish [Estuary English] noun uncountable …   Useful english dictionary

  • Estuary English — is the name for a variety of informal and allegedly classless English spoken in the area of the Thames Estuary, i.e. London and parts of the Home Counties (notably Essex). The term was coined in 1984 by a London scholar named David Rosewarne. As… …   Modern English usage

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  • Thames sailing barge — A Thames sailing barge was a type of commercial sailing boat common on the River Thames in London in the 19th century. The flat bottomed barges were perfectly adapted to the Thames Estuary, with its shallow waters and narrow rivers. The barges… …   Wikipedia

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  • Estuary English —    Identified by D.Rosewarne in The Times Educational Supplement of 19 October 1984, Estuary English is the variety of English between Cockney and Southern Standard. It is spoken, particularly by young people, in areas around the Thames estuary… …   Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture

  • Estuary English — /ˈɛstʃəri ˌɪŋglɪʃ/ (say eschuhree .ingglish) noun English as it is pronounced in south eastern England, with some features formerly stigmatised but increasingly accepted as standard. Also, Estuary. {from Thames Estuary; coined by linguist David… …   Australian English dictionary